Arkyd-6 is a technical evolution of our Arkyd-3 spacecraft. Its avionics, software, structure, and mechanisms are all improved from the previous generation, and we’re in the process of improving it once again for the Arkyd-301 platform.
But more than just a technical advancement, Arkyd-6 allowed us to evolve our design and engineering philosophies as well. Using the lessons learned from Arkyd-6, we have kept the design philosophies that worked really well for us and changed or abandoned the ones that didn’t.
An important idea that Arkyd-6 reinforced is that we don’t have to limit ourselves to using parts that were designed specifically for space. We have the facility and expertise in-house to qualify commercial hardware through modification and test. For example, Arkyd-6 has one of the first commercially available mid-wave infrared instruments for use in space. We took a commercial instrument designed for use on Earth, replaced some of the electronics, modified the structure, and then re-tested it for the space environment – this opened up a huge arsenal of commercial products at a cost that typically isn’t available for deep space missions.
We’re a small company that is tackling very large problems and in order to solve those problems we don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every component on our spacecraft. Instead our philosophy is to use available technology that meets our purpose as well as identify the key technologies that we do need to develop in order to enable commercial access to deep space.
The philosophy that had the most positive outcome was to have a single team member own a product from inception of the idea all the way through operation. And rather than an assembly line, the engineer is involved at all stages, and that person moves along with the product and understands everything that happens to it. With this idea of ownership, each of us has a sense of pride about the work we have accomplished by the time we’re operating the mission. This type of ownership of our work is something we’ve brought forward in how we’ve structured the team for the next spacecraft design. It not only creates a better product in the end, but it also creates a stronger engineering team.
With design philosophies like these, we’ve set up our small team to tackle the next extraordinary engineering challenge – building commercial deep space spacecraft.