Testing is it a waste of time and money?

TLDR: No because the benefits outweigh the cost of testing required.

As someone who is in the early stages on developing my own pocketqube deployer I have already been looking at test facilities for costs of vibration and shock testing. I can tell you the costs are high from some providers. Testing and qualifying products for space is expensive but is there any point in testing? Is it better to just launch a deployer or a satellite into space and just see if it works or not in order to save time and money?

Here’s a couple of reasons why testing and prototyping is useful and important to carry out before you strap that satellite to a rocket.

Ground testing improves your knowledge of your design

Sure, the harshness of space cannot be fully replicated down here on Earth, but it can help teams figure out the weak points or oversights in their designs that would be impossible to solve when it is in space. The results can then be used to improve the thermal control systems and structural integrity of the satellite and its mechanisms.

They help become a better engineer

Since various launchers require tests to be carried out to accordance of certain standards (for example the NASA GEVS) you must ensure you carry out various checks and make sure your experiments are set up in a certain method. Some of the strict criteria prevent you from making silly mistakes which can be costly itself. By following these standards will help you develop good habits for developing satellites.

I have been contacting various launch providers to find out launch schedules, cost and most importantly their test requirements. Each rocket has its own requirements and since there isn’t a standard pocketqube testing requirements (at this current time) its best for each pocketqube team to research each launch vehicles requirements. Currently I am designing my deployer to NASA GEVS since some providers require that.

Physical testing helps validate FEA simulations

When I used to work in academia there was a big push to reduce the amount of prototyping and focus more on simulations during projects. The main goal was to eliminate the need of prototyping in general. While this would help reduce costs in building, rework and disposing scrapped work pieces the main issues with purely simulation focussed projects is that you don’t always get the full picture.

Simulations (if done right) are great at predicting how a system is done well and it can be used to improve a design before the testing stage. However, if it isn’t validated with a physical trial the results should be taken with some caution as it can be easy to make a mistake and simulations may not take everything into account of the systems working environment. The results of a physical trial can be relayed back to your FEA simulations to make them more reliable.

Testing breeds confidence

If I approached any pocketqube team and told them my deployer has not passed its tests would anyone want to risk their satellites with me? If I approached launch providers and told them I didn’t test it, I can guarantee they wouldn’t allow me to put my deployer onto their rocket. How can I prove the deployer won’t damage the satellite or launch vehicle without having the design validated? Not only would I be confident my deployer works but everyone will be more confident that it won’t fail during launch. Sadly, I don’t think throwing my deployer in my washing machine would be deemed as an appropriate vibration test.

Testing is expensive but so is launching a poorly designed satellite!

Testing is expensive and can be time consuming but if you plan and do it right you can speed up your development and help reduce costs by avoiding preventable mistakes. The last thing you want after all that hard work and spending the launch, insurances and registration costs is you satellite failing by something that may have been prevented by qualification trials and prototyping.

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