February 5th, Afternoon
The use of selected Electrical, Electronic, and Electromechanical (EEE) commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components in smallsat applications and corresponding COTS ground systems is slowly expanding – maybe too slowly – and not free of myths. It is imperative to be aware of the pitfalls posed by these myths to reach a decision whether to use COTS parts in a specific application. While the significant factors are different on the satellite vs the ground system, both come with trade-offs and benefits that need to be considered.
A space-qualified component, even in military specification terms is not necessarily suitable for use in space applications, unless it meets the intended application requirements. The benefits of using selected COTS components are obvious: advanced technologies, higher integration, proven performance, better size, weight, and power consumption achievements etc. On the ground, the trade-offs tend to be whether to make or buy a COTS capability. Cost is a key factor, but often the future costs of upgrading and maintaining the system are ignored. Outdated standards, innovation-repressing culture, and bureaucracy (e.g., requirements for too much documentation and paperwork) are just a few factors that slow industry development. Redundancy, if found necessary, is a good practical solution for lowering the probability of system failures. However, it has its limitations and is not as necessary in ground based COTS systems.