Engineering and Technology
History and Sponsors
As spaceflight pioneers with over 50 years of experience, APL has designed, built, and operated 68 spacecraft and more than 150 instruments. From the first days of spaceflight to autonomous interplanetary spacecraft, APL's history of space exploration and experience is diverse, including small, mid-sized, and interplanetary spacecraft and instruments developed for a variety of sponsors.
APL's long history of developing instruments for both in situ and remote sensing observation has benefited our various government sponsors, ranging from the Department of Defense to NASA. The Civil Space Business Area designs and develops advanced instruments and novel methods and software to conduct innovative research. Unique APL instruments range from the first hyperspectral imager in space to sample-return methods and technologies.
APL's robust systems engineering philosophy guides the development of systems. A systems engineering approach defines system needs and functionalities early in the development cycle, documents those requirements, and then monitors the requirements throughout the design, build, and system validation. Trades studies, system performance, and system optimization are considered at the beginning of each mission and weighted against the operational requirements. A life-cycle view ensures that requirements affecting other aspects of development, production, and operation are considered and evaluated before implementation. APL's systems engineering approach requires interdisciplinary skills as well as teamwork.
Capabilities, Facilities, and Methodology
In addition to systems engineering strengths, APL is recognized as a leader in mission design and navigation; instrument development; mechanical engineering; mechanical design, thermal, and instrument accommodation; communications hardware; electrical subsystems and power; precision timekeeping devices, and mission operations. Our facilities are essential to support our spaceflight build process.
APL operates with an AS 9100 Certified quality management system. That certification is specific to the Laboratory's spaceflight design, science research, and hardware and software manufacturing processes. Space Department processes are appraised at CMMI Level 2, with the Instrument Development and Software processes appraised at CMMI Level 3. Multiple lots of appropriate parts are procured and inspected for each mission, and the parts are monitored across multiple programs so that each remains on schedule. The process of integration, testing and qualification of spacecraft components, and preparing the systems for launch is a complex, time-sensitive balance of resources and available facilities.