Design for space

I came across this section of a manual published by NASA that gives guidelines for the design of spacecraft. As you  would expect, it appears that there are some demanding standards to be met when considering the design and engineering of such craft. This section of the manual is specifically focussed on Design for Maintainability and lists a number of very specific considerations and requirements to ensure that spacecraft can be maintained effectively on the Earth and in orbit.

The general principles outlined in this document look to offer some simple and sensible considerations and design requirements that could be applied elsewhere.

Often, insight derived in extreme conditions can make highlight the smallest of issues that might normally get missed under normal conditions. This manual is based on experience gained from many space flights and experiments conducted on orbiting space stations.

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The photograph above shows the improvisation that saved the crew members of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. During an emergency return to Earth, the crew needed to replace the saturated filters from the air scrubbers used to removed CO2 from the air. The only replacements available were from a different part of the spacecraft and would not integrate with the equipment that needed to be maintained. This blog gives considerable detail of the emergency procedure that was rapidly developed on Earth to help the astronauts.

This is an example of a valuable lesson learned. The design of future craft would ensure that parts were interchangeable and I’m certain that this incident contributed to the motivation to produce the standards document mentioned above.

Publishing some form of ‘Design Guidelines’ that both encourage designers to consider maintenance as a fundamental aspect of the design process and also aid them in doing so could prove to be a useful tool.

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