The goal of the commercial space industry is to provide fast and affordable access to space. This industry, highly regulated due to the complex nature of its products, presents unique challenges for engineers and companies. New opportunities in the industry open doors for options in product design and the influence of nimble design firms that can help rapidly remove the barriers between man and space.
Aerospace is moving away from large, sophisticated, radiation-hardened satellites in favor of smaller, more economical solutions such as CubeSats. Commercial businesses entering the industry, such as Syncroness, Planetlabs, Bigelow Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, as well as universities, all have better cost positions and fewer bureaucratic layers than the government and are spearheading this shift.
Another trend is the implementation of Agile development, which Syncroness has expanded upon for integrated aerospace programs. This approach is especially beneficial to aerospace due to the sensitivity to timing and cost. Rapid Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) loops help converge on granting consumers rapid, affordable access to space. Agile project management helps to achieve aggressive timelines with the requisite level of quality and safety contained in the process.
A third industry trend is the increasing use of additive manufacturing to provide 3D printed rapid prototypes to reduce weight and volume, or a myriad of other design considerations that are substantially aided by a physical model.
The multi-million dollars required for development, launch and operational cost for even the most economical satellites demands success on the first try. Quality and validation leave a very thin margin for error in product development. Meeting project schedules and budgets while completing the required documentation challenges the product development team. It is critical for the development team to own the entire process, which must include:
- Procurement and Assembly
- Early prototypes
- Qualification Models
- Flight Models
- Subsystem Testing
- Confidence Testing
- Qualification Testing
- Acceptance Testing
- System Integration and Testing
The unique environment and mission of the aerospace industry require specific product testing. Radiation, vibration, and shock during launch load conditions and extreme thermal and pressure changes are examples of these conditions. Environmental testing (vibration, shock, EMI/EMC), thermal environment and cycle testing, radiation, and launch condition analyses validate product performance against these factors. Additionally, it is essential to minimize mass, volume, and power consumption.
Advantages of Using an External Partner
Syncroness manages product development from concept to launch, applying Agile development principles and continually communicating with customers to address development challenges wholly and immediately. This approach protects the schedule and ensures product quality.
One of the main challenges our customers face is the difficulty their internal product development team has in meeting project schedules. Employing Syncroness as an external development partner temporarily increases the size of development personnel without adding overhead, and we bring AS9100 certified expertise and industry best practices to the project to deliver the highest value possible.
Along with AS9100 certification and Agile project management, an external design partner provides an unbiased assessment of the technology. Broad expertise in the subject area affords the customer access to potentially unfamiliar trends, information, and technology.
Additionally, Syncroness has a clear-cut IP position: our customers own all IP generated during the project. This position removes conflicts of interest over idea protection/disclosure during the design process.
Syncroness hardware was on a recent launch on an experimental satellite as a demonstrator for future U.S. military missions. We designed and tested the complete subsystem from concept to delivering flight model units in just seven months. Syncroness also recently designed a subsystem for a next-generation satellite system, a project during which we were brought in late and asked to meet a very aggressive schedule. In both projects, our Agile approach, with frequent customer touchpoints and constant communication, delivered a qualified, high-quality product that also met the schedule. This strategy allowed the customer’s internal team to focus on their core tasks and ensured the subsystems had low technical risk following the project completion.
We provide numerical analysis early in the design process, improving the accuracy and utility of initial prototypes. Coupled with our demonstrated value of hands-on building and testing throughout the Engineering, Qualification, and Flight Model phases, this detailed analysis dramatically reduces the development cycle time.
Syncroness balances the speed of New-Space with the rigor of traditional aerospace. Our Quality Management System certifications ensure we deliver high quality, reliable products, and our engineering team is committed to avoiding shortcuts while meeting the schedule (which is of particular importance to New-Space customers). Instead, we employ rapid development techniques developed from the medical, industrial, and consumer products industries, allowing us to work faster and more efficiently than our customers’ internal teams. Though some aerospace companies are reluctant to bring in an external partner, Syncroness has demonstrated the immediate benefit of leveraging an AS9100 certified, expert partner whose Agile approach propels our customers toward the enduring goal of taking people to space.
- Todd J. Mosher, James Kolozs, and Erica Wilder. “Agile Hardware Development Approaches Applied to Space Hardware,” 2018 AIAA SPACE and Astronautics Forum and Exposition, AIAA SPACE Forum, (AIAA 2018-5233).