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Migrating the development of complex aerospace systems towards commercial practices

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3 Author(s)
Kwon, D.W. ; Orbital Sci., Dulles, VA, USA ; McGovern, M.J. ; Caporossi, P.N.

Complex aerospace systems, typically government national security missions, have been plagued with long development cycles and unintended growths in cost and schedule. Over the years, the commercial aerospace community has approached short 24 month development cycles for communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit. This paper addresses how the commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) community converged on “Best Practices.” There are several key topics that are explored. The first is the difference between commercial best practices and MIL standards evolved by inherent differences in the value of additional testing and screening. The second topic explores the commercial approach to program documentation. The commercial community achieves both assured system performance and dramatic cost reduction while approaching documentation differently from government programs. The goal of achieving a military commercial-like pipeline of satellites is feasible by dividing capability among multiple satellites, biasing complexity to the ground segment, and emulating the commercial insurance model. Both commercial and government systems have developmental items; however the approach to integrate development differs for each side. A small amount of development can result in significant performance benefits and still leverage commercial acquisition practices. Commercial SATCOM was a developmental item at one time, and incremental developmental improvements continue. The last major topic deals with the difference between specifications and technical requirements. The commercial SATCOM community avoids up front systems engineering. Since commercial SATCOM companies can generically be described as manufacturers, the programs build to a detailed performance specification and avoid detailed design trades after authorization to proceed. A combination of compromise in the gap between commercial and government practices can yield a migration to a commercial equilib- ium point. This section deals with understanding the procedures for testing in commercial and government systems. By standardizing a large portion of the spacecraft bus and developing testing procedures closer to commercial testing, government systems can and will begin to emulate the commercial COMSAT architectures.

Published in:

Aerospace Conference, 2012 IEEE

Date of Conference:

3-10 March 2012