CSTART Design Philosophy

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CSTART recognizes that its goals are ambitious, almost to the point of seeming impossible. To maximise our chances of success, we intend to adhere strongly to a principled design philosophy intended to keep costs down and reliability up. This page describes that design philosophy, which is evolving as our work progresses.


Simplicity above all else

The most important component of our design philosophy is and always will be simplicity. Keeping systems simple will keep them reliable and keep them cheap, as well as making sure a good proportion of the crowd understands how they work and hence can spot problems. The following would be good candidates for a single sentence design philosophy:

  • "Keep it simple, stupid (KISS)"/li>
  • "Do the simplest thing that could possibly work"/li>

In particular:

  • Simplicity is more important than performance
  • Moving parts are evil
  • Precision machined parts are evil
  • Precision timing is evil
  • (Of course, there is such a thing as a necessary evil)

Use off the shelf solutions wherever possible

The only reasons to build a solution ourselves are:

  • Nothing on the shelf is appropriate for the job. Usually this will happen with things that need to work in harsh environments (vacuum, extreme temperatures, radiation exposure, etc.). In this event, we should consider modifying an off the shelf solution before building from scratch.
  • We can do it considerably cheaper/lighter/more reliably than anything on the shelf.

Make as many things reusable as possible

All spacecraft and systems should be designed with reusability in mind. The more components that can be safely refurbished and reused after each flight, the cheaper each individual flight becomes.

Miscelaneous guiding ideals

  • Inexpensive
  • Light weight
  • Reliable
  • Easy to manufacture
  • Simple to design
  • Innovate at all oportunities
  • Test early and test often

What this philosophy is not

The CSTART design philosophy is emphatically not a philosophy of cutting corners, taking undue risks or adopting a "near enough is good enough" attitude. The most important part of doing the "simplest thing that could possibly work" is that the thing can possibly work. This doesn't mean "might just maybe work if we're lucky", but "is genuinely likely to work". We are interested in cutting complexity, costs and development time without sacrificing quality, reliability or safety.

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