A software tool suite for small satellite risk management




Gamble, Katharine Brumbaugh

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Risk management plans improve the likelihood of mission success by identifying potential failures early and planning mitigation methods to circumvent any issues. However, in the aerospace industry to date, risk management plans have typically only been used for larger and more expensive satellites, and have rarely been applied to satellites in the shape of 10 x 10 x 10 centimeter cubes, called CubeSats. Furthermore, existing risk management plans typically require experienced personnel and significant time to run the analysis. The purpose of this research was to develop two risk management software tools, the CubeSat Risk Analysis tool and the CubeSat Decision Advisor tool, which could be used by anyone with any level of experience. Moreover, the tools simply require the user to enter their mission-specific data; the software tools calculate the required analysis.

The CubeSat Risk Analysis tool was developed for the purpose of reducing the subjectivity associated with estimating the likelihood and consequence of spacecraft mission risks. The tool estimates mission risk in terms of input characteristics, such as satellite form factor, mass, and development cycle. Using a historical database of small satellite missions, which was gathered in the course of this research, the software determines the mission risk root causes which are of the highest concern for the given mission.

The CubeSat Decision Advisor tool uses components of decision theory such as decision trees, multi-attribute utility theory, and utility elicitation methods to determine the expected utility of a mitigation technique alternative. Based on the user’s value preference system, assessment of success probabilities, and resources required for a given mitigation technique, the tool suggests the course of action which will normatively yield the most value for the cost, personnel, and time resources required.

The goals of this research were met in the development of two easily-accessible and free risk management software tools to assist in university satellite mission development. But more importantly, these tools will reach beyond the academic setting and allow small satellites to continue to evolve as a platform to accomplish educational, scientific, and military objectives.



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