It might sound very ambitious to design technologies that will allow satellites to take care of their end-of-life and to reduce the environmental impact of space missions. But here at Clean Space, we feel that we can be that much ambitious, and our confidence comes in part from something called “system approach”.

System approach is a method to address a technical subject or technology taking into account its impact on the overall system and environment, as well as its applicability to current or future markets or services. System approach avoids burden-shifting, e.g. from one subsystem to another, and makes sure that the developments are consistent with the needs of present and future space systems”, explains Tiago Soares, one of Clean Space’s system engineers.

For the CleanSat project, the system approach has been achieved by the application of Concurrent Engineering practices and methods. A number of concurrent sessions have been organized with the participation of the actors representing all the mission aspects and project phases (design, development and operations), i.e. TEC specialists, both system engineers and technology experts, Large System Integrators (LSI’s), Suppliers, Users.


Passivation of the electric system
Credits: ESA/Marianne Tricot (Ecole Estienne Paris)

In CleanSat we are developing technologies with the systematic involvement not only of the supplier of and technical experts for that technology, but also of the European systems integrators and the user programmes in ESA,” continues Tiago Soares. “We exploit concurrent engineering approaches, putting all the stakeholders working together on each subject under the coordination of the systems engineers. This helps by making the technology more mature and suitable to fulfill the needs of the customers, raising awareness, justifying the investment on these technology developments and creating solid industrial consortia for each technology development”.

Concurrent engineering is being applied regularly in the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF). In these sessions engineers with different specialized know-how (e.g. propulsion, structure, communication, as well as cost engineers) sit together guided by a team leader to design new space missions. In the concurrent approach, a special role is held by the system engineer, who has (and represents) the global vision of the mission.

An extract of such session can be seen in the video below where you can see a discussion about the best way to passivate a satellite at end of life.

The integration of all the stakeholders in the definition of the needs and solutions using a concurrent engineering environment works well for Clean Space system engineers. They feel like it makes the whole process more dynamic and engaging, creating at the same time a collaborative and constructive relation between Agency, suppliers and integrators,

This relationship is also a strong drive towards innovation, not only technologically but also regarding the engineering approaches followed, giving a lot of freedom to the systems engineer to implement new processes, which is stimulating,” concludes Tiago Soares. “I believe that the open attitude and team spirit of the people working for Clean Space are key to create this environment and having all the stakeholders working together towards a common goal.”