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Frequency Synthesizer for JPL

Space is a really tough environment. Electronic parts must suffer massive shock and vibration during launch and often see wide temperature swings as satellites are heated by the sun then slip behind the earth into very cold outer space. Most space parts must tolerate a vacuum and heat must be managed carefully. Radiation hardening is critical as a spacecraft is bombarded by a merciless sea of high-energy particles. Parts must be clean and outgassing limited, to ensure that camera lenses are not clouded and there is little tolerance for repairs. Designing and building parts for space requires tenacity and a commitment to process… from managing ESD, testing, and training to handling analyses correctly and efficiently.

Procurement specifications for space are usually written for the requirement at hand. A scientific mission with a tiny budget will rely on the expertise of the manufacturer to assist in defining the technical details of the part and testing. A commercial satellite will have more detailed specification often defined at the satellite level, rather than for the particular assembly required as part of the satellite. Costs can mount as program managers sift through technical data and handle all contingencies. And missing a deadline is not an option.

Standardizing specification around existing MIL standards and specifying hardware already designed for space can reduce costs, improve lead times and overall, improve the quality of life. A paper that I delivered at PTTI in Reston, VA provides more details on the benefits of this approach. Read Paper

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