Inmarsat, as the pioneer and world leader in mobile satellite communications, is pleased to see the technological advancements in the manufacturing and use of COTS for space applications. Use of COTS is considered one the enabling technologies for seizing market opportunities and lowering the cost of delivered capacity in-orbit.
Consequently, Inmarsat has welcomed warmly satellite manufacturers for use of COTS due to interesting performances combined with lower prices. In May 2019, Inmarsat announced an order with Airbus Defence & Space to build three satellites based on the OneSat design: Airbus’ standard, modular, and fully reconfigurable satellite platform offering a reduced cost and faster time to orbit.
Even though Inmarsat is seeing use of COTS positively, classical product assurance principles continue to be practiced and applied and the use of every COTS needs to be approved.
As a rule of thumb, Inmarsat uses ECSS-Q-ST-60-13: “Commercial electrical, electronic and electromechanical (EEE) components” and PEM-INST-001, LEVEL 1 “Instructions for Plastic Encapsulated Microcircuit (PEM) Selection, Screening, and Qualification” as a basis for accepting use of COTS. Selection and Lot Acceptance Testing (LAT) is to be agreed and approved by Inmarsat in Parts Control Boards (PCB’s). In general, every lot of non-qualified components to be flown needs to be lot acceptance tested for achieving information about lot homogeneity and the components performance in space environment.
Therefore, construction analysis, mechanical testing, vacuum exposure, temperature cycling and radiation testing are standard requests. The components use in flight shall also respect its derating limits and reliability needs to be known to ensure trustworthy system dependability.
In summary, Inmarsat thinks the use of COTS is the path for the future but continues to request assurance in the areas of radiation hardness, reliability, derating and environmental suitability. However, when faced with new unparalleled performances, Inmarsat is open to new thinking and innovative solutions to achieve assurance for space environment.