The Cosmos on a Shoestring

Small Spacecraft for Space and Earth Science

by Liam P. Sarsfield

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Abstract

Small spacecraft have become popular for a number of reasons, most prominently the needs to reduce overall cost, be built more quickly, and spread mission risks. NASA has been challenged with crafting a program that continues to produce meaningful science within the constraints of the available budget. Still, pound for pound, small spacecraft are not precisely inexpensive, given the effects of complexity, launch costs, and a greater degree of risk. Historically, science spacecraft have demonstrated increasing reliability, but this trend might not continue, given the shift to managed risk. There is generally less money available to smaller programs to test spacecraft functions and operational procedures prior to launch. Small spacecraft are also generally less robust. Efforts to reduce failure potentials through the application of more reliable components, better testing, and advanced design techniques should receive greater attention. Despite the risks, however, small spacecraft fulfill important roles in earth science, astrophysics, space physics, and planetary science. NASA's current generation of small spacecraft is capable of impressive levels of performance.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Small Spacecraft in the Civil Space Program

  • Chapter Three

    Meeting National Objectives with Fewer Resources

  • Chapter Four

    Advanced Technology for Small Spacecraft

  • Chapter Five

    Process Improvement and Risk Management

  • Chapter Six

    Evaluating Small Spacecraft Missions

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Spacecraft Cost Comparisons

  • Appendix B

    Failure in Spacecraft Systems

  • Appendix C

    Testing for Reliability in Space Systems

  • Appendix D

    High Reliability Systems

  • Appendix E

    New Approaches to Spacecraft Design

  • Appendix F

    Small Spacecraft World Wide Web Links

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