MiCRA: Concurrent engineering for early mission concept assessment in the CDF

MiCRA Session in the CDF B Room
18 September 2012

In the last few years it was noticed that in some cases the CDF has been required to perform a preliminary definition of the mission requirements/concept before embarking on a conventional CDF study (i.e. a full CDF study utilises a certain amount of resources, including a full team, eight sessions in the CDF main design room, with the aim of achieving a mission preliminary conceptual design). To cover this need, a new type of CDF activity, called MiCRA, has been defined.

MiCRA (Mission Concept and Requirements Assessment) studies aim to provide a better understanding of novel mission ideas, by identifying main drivers, constraints, profile, architecture, and first trade-offs, as well as assessing preliminary system sizing, technology needs, etc. Within a period of typically two weeks, four sessions (including K/O and Final Presentation) are held in the CDF Room B involving a smaller team composed of customer, team leader/systems engineer and a maximum of three to five specialists from the mission critical domains. A synthesizing presentation, together with any ancillary technical documentation produced during the study (like calculation worksheets), is delivered to the customer at the end of the last session. The results of the MiCRA (including a first set of mission objectives and requirements) can then be used as input for a follow-up full CDF study or industrial activity.

Three MiCRA studies requested by the Future and Strategic Studies Office (DG-PF), under General Studies Program (GSP) funds, have successfully taken place in the CDF in the last months. Two of them, namely ADI (Asteroid Deflection by Ions) and DDI (Debris Deflection by Ions), were dedicated to the investigation of the Ion Beam Shepherd concept and its application to, respectively, asteroid trajectory or orbit deflection and active space debris removal. The third MiCRA study, named ILS (Interplanetary Life Support) was dedicated to explore mission concepts aimed at demonstrating the ability to sustain life in interplanetary space and investigate the impact of radiation in life forms during this type of mission. The experience has been very positive in all the cases; the small team and the short schedule resulted in very active participation and high motivation from the specialists, allowing to fully exploit the benefits of concurrent engineering even at this very early stage of mission concept assessment.

MiCRA activities complement the portfolio of services offered by the ESA CDF, that includes as well mission and instruments preliminary conceptual design in conventional full CDF studies, System of Systems activities, concurrent reviews, etc.

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