Requirement engineering - Scanway

Requirement engineering

What is the requirement engineering and why is it a so important element of space projects?
Mikołaj Podgórski

COO Scanway

What if…

What if things in space broke down as often as our microwave, washing machine, or robot on a processing line in a factory?

Not-so-good things would happen, and this is best illustrated with a data example. In 2019, approximately 13 million microwaves were sold in the U.S., requiring replacement every 7-10 years on average, and 10 million washing machines replaced every 10 years on average. By analogy, in space: one of the world's industry leaders Satellogic has only sent 21 satellites in its entire history (or as many as), and Maxar has sent 4.

In case of home appliances failure, we lose some money and a lot of comfort. In the case of space products, we lose a huge amount of money and data, in addition to that - non-functioning space objects remain in space (no replacement available) and turn into nothing more than space trash, creating a serious hazard. Seeing the obvious difference in the level of loss, it is worth considering - how to prevent big space problems?

Inżynieria wymagań 3

The hardest part is the launch

The most complicated thing for space hardware is the launch itself. Sending anything even into LEO is associated with years of preparation and huge amounts of money - and that's basically what it is. The second and no less complicated thing is space itself. Gravity, vacuum, temperature, radiation - conditions definitely different from those on Earth. For example, all equipment sent into space should be adapted to work in a temperature range from -100 to 100 degrees Celsius.

Is space the most challenging environment for which humans build machines? No. There are places on Earth where conditions are even less friendly. For example, the ocean floor, where we struggle with pressures that require very advanced engineering solutions. Therefore, what is the most important in space projects is a new, open view. On the project itself, on the requirements, on instrumentation tests, on software, and even on the way of managing the project. Space challenges every obviousness and acting "by heart", regardless of the stage of the project, is usually harmful.

Tests are the most important

Statistically, most failures appear during the first year of equipment presence in space. The causes are varied: electronic, mechanical, soft. About 17% of the causes are failures defined as "unidentified". Since the space industry is not a place to learn from mistakes, the most important part of any space project are (or at least should be) requirements and testing.

The requirements (functional, performance, or design) are largely formed by the conditions in which the device will work. Space itself dictates a lot of them, and we should also add those defined by the nature of the payload. So it is not difficult to imagine a list of requirements for a satellite that is several full pages long - and that is, among other things: a sign of a well-recognized environment and clearly defined requirements. Fortunately, we can count on support in the field of defining and verifying requirements. Our space project will be taken care of by, among other things: external reviewers who will regularly review and redefine the predefined requirements.

But listing requirements is not the key to accomplishing them. They need to be constantly verified - in tests, checks, trials, and inspections. Such "training" not only allows you to note errors and learn as the project progresses - but it also provides a sense of order, eliminates many fears, and allows for comprehensive risk management. Testing is almost the most important part of creating any space project. No matter how many times we test a given element - there will always be not enough. No matter how many scenarios we consider, something may happen that we were not able to predict. The universe still knows how to surprise us, but the most important thing is to surprise us in what we couldn't predict despite our efforts.

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