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COTS EEE parts: a new frontier for the coming Italian Space Agency Space policy

Silvia Natalucci, Marco Di Clemente & Giovanni Cucinella

ASI (Italian Space Agency), (IMT, ASI advisor)


In response to the rapid increase in interest in the use of small satellites, for different types of mission in low earth and interplanetary orbits, the Italian Space Agency have supported a line of national technological developments to allow the realization of a new generation of small, modular and multi platforms mission. These initiatives are devoted to be internationally competitive and to offer an excellent opportunity to test new Italian technologies.

In this context, the PLATiNO Program aims to develop a national production chain dedicated to a product line represented by a “multi-purpose” satellite platform (able to embark a whole range of scientific and applicative useful loads).

The Program presents high-tech innovation challenges. This aspect will also allow, among other things, important effects on the economic and innovation front, permitting the country access to technologies currently closed to the national level, and creating the prerequisites for the growth of skills of Italian companies and research institutes.

There is a wide spectrum of approaches to parts screening.

At one end of the spectrum, EEE parts, used in critical space systems in general, are subjected to 100% parts-level inspections and testing to provide high assurance of quality and reliability.  At the other end of the spectrum are commercial catalogue parts that have not been subjected to any testing other than those established by the manufacturer.

The main reason for use of COTS EEE parts is because space applications are becoming more and more sophisticated and need state of the art EEE Components for their implementation. Classical Space components development plans and qualification schemes have shown their limits already for a long time; usage of COTS components are already a reality for the following reasons:

  • Performance
  • Availability
  • Cost of Ownership
  • Lead times

Currently estimation is that 20% EEE components in ESA satellites are COTS.

No longer a decision if COTS components are needed, but more, how to use them in an appropriate manner according to the mission profile in terms of: Safety, Reliability and Availability. However, main Technology Concerns are related to: Tin whiskers, lead free, Cu wire, Risk Management, Reliability prediction, Derating.