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Blog – Quality is Not Synonymous with Standards

Everyone in the aerospace industry agrees that quality is critical. And standards are equally important in those situations where they help maintain and ensure satellite quality. But standards should never be a replacement for quality. This is a key area where traditional Big Space differs from Microspace.

It’s easy to fall in love with standards because they make so many aspects of satellite development seemingly easier, such as selection of components and interfacing of equipment. Those are good things – until they replace thinking.

This can become a problem in Big Space where too much focus is placed on abiding by standardized processes and achieving certifications. But this breeds complacency when people don’t question whether something makes sense as long as it meets a set of standards.

This complacency in Big Space helped open the door to Microspace decades ago, where every aspect of satellite development is challenged – or should be. In Microspace, we need to examine quality all the time, assessing whether specific procedures really apply to a particular mission or a given set of objectives. We can’t be lured into a false sense of security by standards that may not result in a higher-quality product.

Another significant downside of blindly adopting standards is they can lead to increased mission cost related to spending too much time on processes that do not necessarily contribute to the overall robustness and reliability of the satellite.

This is not to say that Microspace never adopts standards. We certainly do but only after judiciously evaluating all details of the process to determine there is an actual benefit-to-cost ratio to embracing a given standard. Even then, we must re-evaluate the standardized approach – and each aspect of it – for each individual mission. More likely than not, the standardized procedures will quickly be replaced, or at least evolve into, another process that is more efficient and cost effective.

At SFL, we review and apply industry standards for many mechanical and electrical satellite components, but we never let them stop us from thinking up something newer and better. This is how we have continually enhanced the quality of our satellites for 22 years and 37 successful unique microspace missions.