Mission Assurance Improvement Workshop Aids Space Industry

by Kimberly Locke
posted July 23, 2014

For the past seven years, Aerospace subject matter experts have gathered with industry colleagues from across the nation at the Mission Assurance Improvement Workshop (MAIW) to tackle issues relevant to the space community.

“The MAIW provides a unique forum that allows industry to collaborate, at the technical subject matter expert level, on issues and concerns the space industry is having with respect to mission assurance,” said Russ Averill, general manager, Space-Based Surveillance Division, Space Systems Group. “There is no other forum that provides this level of involvement by so many space industry professionals involved with tackling key issues.”

“The products developed by workshop participants are available not only for their implementation but for all national space contractors and vendors,” said Averill. “Another huge benefit of participating in this workshop is the network of expert resources that attendees have access to long after the workshop is over.”

Russ Averill address the Mission Assurance Improvement Workshop. (Photo: Brian Mack/Orbital Sciences Corp.)

Russ Averill addresses the Mission Assurance Improvement Workshop, which was hosted by Orbital Sciences Corporation. (Photo: Brian Mack/Orbital Sciences Corp.)

A year prior to the workshop, topics with a defined charter and desired deliverable are selected by a steering committee of industry, government, and federally funded research and development members. Core teams of subject matter experts are assembled from across government and industry to develop the draft deliverable, such as a best practice guide, over the course of several months.

The draft products are sent out to additional subject matter experts for wider review prior to the workshop. The teams work through the feedback at the workshop to refine the deliverable products, which are released at the Mission Assurance Summit in the fall.

For this year’s workshop, teams explored the following topics while creating significant related products: Guidelines for Hosted Payload Integration; Root Cause Investigation Best Practices; Risk Identification at Program Inception; Radio Frequency Breakdown Prevention; and Counterfeit Prevention Strategies.

Guidelines for Hosted Payload Integration

Jack Kawamoto, senior project engineer, Acquisition Risk and Reliability Engineering Department, Systems Engineering Division, Engineering and Technology Group (ETG), was one of three co-leading a team that worked on process improvements for the design integration and interface verification as hosted payloads (HPs) are installed on host space vehicles (HSVs).

Kawamoto explained, “When HPs are installed on HSVs with available capacity, a reduced cost for successful HP orbital operation is the usual result.” The “do no harm analysis” was initially included in the team title as an interface failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) is performed to verify that propagating failure modes from the HP do not affect successful operation of the HSV’s primary mission, he said. “In the broader sense, ‘harm’ is the result of any negative effect that can influence successful mission performance and those identified by the analysis are a subset of this broader category,” said Kawamoto.

Unnoticed gaps between the HSV/HP requirements, capabilities, and environments are more frequent in hosted payload projects as the HP and HSV are commonly developed separately, he said. Checklists were created for 14 disciplines (such as attitude control, power, electrical-mechanical design integration, and fault management) to identify and eliminate potential interface incompatibilities. Critical analyses for ensuring interface compatibility and a “test as you fly” verification process are described and included.

“The team benefited from two co-leads from prime contractors who worked on past MAIW projects and were experienced with the integration of HPs into both commercial and government HSVs,” said Kawamoto. Because the team members were divided equally between payload and bus contractors, both viewpoints were presented during the discussions, he added.

Team members brought perspectives from both host and payload as well as from various disciplines, such as systems engineering, product assurance, electrical and mechanical design integration, thermal design and analysis, reliability analysis, and FMEAs, which are reflected in the final product.

Root Cause Investigation Best Practices

Roland Duphily, left, at a working session of the Mission Assurance Improvement Workshop. (Photo: Brian Mack/Orbital Sciences Corp.)

Roland Duphily, left, at a working session of the Mission Assurance Improvement Workshop. (Photo: Brian Mack/Orbital Sciences Corp.)

Roland Duphily, senior engineering specialist, Acquisition Risk and Reliability Engineering, Systems Engineering Division, ETG, led a team that resulted in the creation of the Root Cause Investigation (RCI) Best Practices Guide. This team addressed the Root Cause Analysis (RCA) element of the broader Root Cause and Corrective Action process with a focus on space systems.

The team addressed anomaly or failure investigations that did not establish definitive root cause and resulted in acceptance of a residual risk, which may not have been recognized, a lack of leadership and guidance material on performance of (RCA), and variability in techniques used for executing RCAs that may result in ineffective or inefficient root cause investigations.

The RCI Best Practices Guide, which previously didn’t exist for the national security space community, includes a basis overview for RCAs, definitions and terminology, commonly used techniques, and needed skills/experience; key early actions to take following an anomaly/failure; data/information collection approaches; team facilitation techniques; and RCA pitfalls.

Risk Identification at Program Inception

Andrew Hsu, senior engineering specialist, Acquisition Risk and Reliability Engineering, Systems Engineering Division, ETG, and Dr. Amy Weir, senior project engineer, Program Executability, Engineering and Integration, Space Systems Group, co-led the team on risk identification at program inception.

According to Hsu, risk management is a robust and well documented process applied in commercial industries and government programs. Risk identification is an important first step in the process, he added. However, many problems encountered by programs were not identified as risks and therefore the methods and tools available to manage those risks were not implemented.

“Unidentified risks will manifest themselves in one of two ways: at best they will contribute to program cost and schedule overruns,” Weir said. “These cost and schedule overruns can be traced to an unrealistic risk profile at program inception. At worst, the unidentified risks will cause critical mission failures that should have been avoided if the failure was identified as a risk early in the program life cycle and was properly managed,” she said.

To help ensure due diligence in identifying potential risks, the team produced a guidance document to assist the space community with recognizing barriers that inhibit effective baseline risk identification. The document also provides recommended actions to help prime and sub-contracting agents, risk process owners, and risk management practitioners more effectively address these barriers. The document includes a method to assess the completeness of risk identification activities.

Radio Frequency Breakdown Prevention

Timothy Graves, senior project engineer, Engineering and Integration, Imagery Programs Division, National Systems Group; Preston Partridge, engineering specialist, Antenna and Phased Array Evaluation, Communications and Cyber Division Operations, ETG; and Aimee Hubble, member of the technical staff, Electric Propulsion and Plasma Science, Technology and Laboratory Operations, ETG, co-led the team examining radio frequency (RF) breakdown.

RF breakdown is an issue that continues to plague civil, commercial, and national security space programs. Electron multipactor discharges or ionization breakdown can severely damage RF systems used for communication, navigation, and other RF/microwave missions, Graves explained.

“The number of component and system failures has increased in recent years due to higher available satellite power that pushes legacy components to unprecedented power levels,” he said. “Many, if not all, of these failures can be traced back to lack of front-end system engineering and application of proper test/analysis methodologies in place for risk mitigation.”

As a product of the workshop, TOR-2014-02137: Standard/Handbook for RF Breakdown Prevention in Spacecraft Components provides a new, rigorous process and engineering standard to be implemented at program inception. “This process is intended to minimize program risk with focus on multipactor breakdown, while also providing a realistic and tailorable solution that can apply to a range of programs and applications,” said Graves.

The document includes the overall process for assessing risk for each RF/microwave component and provides margin requirements as well as minimum requirements for margin verification. It also provides guidance, said Graves, to implement state-of-the-art analysis and test tools as well as recommended methodologies that are necessary to reduce conservatism and unnecessary program costs.

Counterfeit Prevention Strategies

David Meshel, right, at MAIW. (Photo: Brian Mack/Orbital Sciences Corp.)

David Meshel, right, at MAIW. (Photo: Brian Mack/Orbital Sciences Corp.)

David Meshel, senior project leader, System Engineering, Imagery Products Division, National Systems Group, and a subject matter expert (SME) in parts, materials and processes, and mission assurance led the team to develop a document that the contractor community can use as a guide to assist them with implementing a Counterfeit Detection and Avoidance System.

“The guide is in response to the proliferation of counterfeit electric, electronic, electro-mechanical, and electro-optical parts detected within the U.S. government supply chain,” Meshel said. “The volume and sophistication of counterfeit parts is steadily increasing and have been found in almost every sector of the aerospace and defense industry,” he added.

Under the requirements of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Department of Defense’s Defense Acquisition Regulations System (DFARS) rule, any DOD contractor faces strict financial liability for any impact caused by counterfeit parts discovered in the product. Further, DOD contactors must implement “Counterfeit Electronic Parts Detection and Avoidance System,” a guiding approach to meeting these requirements.

The team’s document provides guiding principles and practices that when implemented, could help ensure that the contractor’s counterfeit electronic part avoidance and detection system aligns to, and is compliant with, the 2012 NDAA law and DOD regulations regarding counterfeit protection. This document differentiates from other existing industry standards in a number of ways that include:

• Addressing preventative techniques in design, program management, obsolescence management, and procurement management to raise the potential for part availability at the authorized supplier

• Providing lessons learned, best practices, observations, driving philosophies and case studies from government agencies, contractors and recognized industry SMEs who have been refining counterfeit prevention strategies for years

• Outlining key topics for building an effective training program and containing links to fully developed programs that can be evaluated and tailored for incorporation into a supplier’s training suite