MCF > Planning and Management >

Design Reviews

Scope and Description

This topic covers design reviews employed throughout the design lifecycle of spacecraft, spacecraft subsystems, and space missions. These reviews aim to communicate requirements, technical details, risks, and assumptions to relevant stakeholders and engineers. Teams incrementally build mission confidence by conducting these reviews throughout the project lifecycle.

Resources under this topic area provide descriptions of standard design reviews, how to tailor traditional reviews to fit a smallsat team, and best practices to employ before, during, and after a review to improve efficiency and productivity.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

  • Determining which design reviews are applicable to your team is a function of mission scope, mission assurance requirements, team size, and various other programmatic factors. Don’t be afraid to consolidate or exclude design reviews if you feel that the goal of the review is satisfied elsewhere – the goal is to remain efficient yet communicative.
  • For smallsat teams, a less formal and resource intensive technical peer-review with a subject matter expert (SME) can be an efficient way to replace or pare down the scope of a design review.
  • To scope and lead an efficient and productive design review, make sure to fully understand and communicate to presenters the stakeholders, audience, and objectives.
  • It is critical that action items identified in design reviews are prioritized so that those posing the highest risk of causing issues later in the lifecycle are addressed first.
  • Avoid bikeshedding by placing trivial discussion points at the beginning of the review and allocating a strict time limit for each. Bikeshedding refers to futile investment of time and energy in discussion of marginal technical issues.
  • Consider stopping and rescheduling a review if participants are ill-prepared. The review will almost always be more efficient and effective when all participants are up to speed.
  • Completion of design reviews should gate further work on a project. Enforce these gates and make sure that the appropriate reviews are complete before moving on with manufacturing, integration, or other work that makes the necessary design changes difficult or inefficient to implement.

Resources

This doctoral thesis provides a comprehensive review of engineering project lifecycles from a wide range ... of organizations. It then presents a smallsat-specific mission lifecycle and demonstrates the application of that smallsat lifecycle to a university cubesat. Section 3 presents this smallsat lifecycle, including a detailed description of each phase and design review. The review in Section 2 is a valuable resource for understanding and comparing the various traditional systems engineering processes and associated design reviews.

This standard provides detailed descriptions and success criteria for each design review type in the ... NASA procedural requirements for flight and flight support systems. Table 2-1 separately calls out the applicability of each review and its “chairing organization” at the mission, spacecraft, ground system, and payload level.

Website
NASA

This chapter of the NASA Systems Engineering Handbook website is titled "NASA Program/Project Life Cycle" ... and includes useful figures and links to subsections that describe each project phase in detail. These project phase subsections describe the activities and products of each design phase, providing context and expectations for project status at each design review. Section 3.11.4.3 provides smallsat-relevant guidance on tailoring the formality and timing of design reviews (including combining reviews).

Book
George Sebestyen et al.

This chapter describes design reviews and related elements of systems engineering and program management ... in a practical and hands-on manner with a perspective that is generally appropriate in rigor and scope for smallsat developers.

Book
George Sebestyen et al.

This chapter describes “procedures and program management techniques that lead to reduced spacecraft ... cost.” Note that what is presented here is one experienced leader's approach to low-cost spacecraft development. Other approaches exist, but this is a valuable and concisely presented example. Some of the recommended practices in this chapter can lead to well-reasoned removal or de-scoping of design reviews.

White Paper
NASA

This page in the NASA Public Lessons Learned System describes the importance of establishing a "mandatory ... closed-loop system for detailed, independent, and timely technical reviews of all analyses performed in support of the reliability/design process." These reviews are important for detecting design defects.

White Paper
Arizona State University

This slide package provides an example smallsat preliminary design review (PDR). Phoenix is a 3U university ... cubesat remote sensing science mission.

White Paper
Arizona State University

This slide package provides an example smallsat critical design review (CDR). Phoenix is a 3U university ... cubesat remote sensing science mission.

White Paper
Arizona State University

This slide package provides an example smallsat mission design review (MDR). Phoenix is a 3U university ... cubesat remote sensing science mission.

White Paper
Arizona State University

This slide package provides an example smallsat design review announcement memo. Phoenix is a 3U university ... cubesat remote sensing science mission. The memo outlines the design review scheduling, expectations, agenda, and participants.

Systems Engineering for University-level Engineering is a video series covering systems engineering products ... and techniques and how to apply them to projects. Lesson 4, titled "How to Conduct a Review" discusses the value of holding efficient and effective formal reviews. In the video, the instruction provides processes and procedures for planning and executing design reviews.

White Paper
NASA

This paper describes NASA's Class-D approach for missions that are low cost, have short development/operations ... lifecycles, and are higher risk-posture. This is a concise document that provides "tailoring/streamlining principles" and "minimum expected practices" that can be used by any smallsat team to guide the establishment of effective and efficient processes.

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