CMMS and maintenance in the space industry
Monday 07 february 2022
In 1961, the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to be sent into orbit. A Soviet success too... It will be finally only in 1969, that the Americans will manage to precede the Soviets by making Neil Armstrong walk on the moon thanks to the Apollo program. These three historic dates were key points in the evolution of the space industry as we know it today.
To this day, many other achievements have been made thanks to technological developments and accumulated knowledge. All this makes this industry grow every day and space agencies, such as NASA in the United States, Roscosmos in Russia, ESA in Europe, CNSA in China and CNES in France, now compete with private companies. In order to remain competitive in this changing market, to amortize the expensive investment costs of their assets and to develop their activities, space industry players must pay attention to their maintenance operations. If you are a space industry professional, you may be wondering how to integrate a maintenance strategy into your space site. We'll see that an adapted CMMS tool is almost indispensable to remain competitive.
The space industry sector
The space industry encompasses all public and private players that play a role in the development and provision of space-related products and services. According to this definition, the companies involved in the space economy are specialized in R&D, in the manufacturing of space equipment or provide space products and services to users in various fields.
We find here all the companies that develop satellites for civil (telecommunications, weather forecasting, GPS), scientific (astronomical and Earth observation, altimetry, microgravity, oceanography) or military (intelligence) purposes. According to astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, there were about 5,000 active satellites in orbit at the end of 2021. In 10 years, more than 30,000 additional satellites could encircle our planet.
In addition to satellites, this industry also includes space tourism, with the main market leaders being Blue Origin, Space X and Virgin Galactic. These companies, respectively created by Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, should make thousands of rich tourists travel in the years to come. Virgin Galactic hopes to sell 1,000 tickets at $450,000 each before it begins its first flights in late 2022.
Finally, space agencies dedicated to the discovery of space, such as NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, CNSA and many others, continue to develop their activities. From the conquest of the sun with the Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter probes, to the pursuit of the discovery of the planet Mars with the collaborative project between Europe and Russia: ExoMars 2022, space projects are very numerous.
In France, Ariane Group is the European leader in space launchers. Threatened by private players and countries such as China and the United Arab Emirates, the French government is nevertheless investing 1.5 billion euros as part of the France 2030 investment plan, in addition to the funds already allocated. This budget will be used to develop reusable mini launchers, mini satellites and constellations. This investment is a response to the desire for global connectivity and to the strong competition from countries and companies involved in the space industry.
Maintenance in the space industry
In order to meet the technical challenges of the space industry, each of the actors, both private and public, must maximize their efforts around the maintenance of their assets. Indeed, the technicality required and the expensive budgets necessary to achieve the objectives impose a very particular vigilance of its equipment. The more assets are maintained, the longer their life span will be and the more costs will be amortized.
If we take the case of the French launch base, located in Kourou in French Guiana, or that of NASA, located in the United States, the maintenance and safety of the space center are essential elements. This makes it possible to achieve the launch objectives of Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, or Space Launch System, Psyche and DART. To achieve unstoppable success, the base's equipment must not have any weaknesses. Asset maintenance is therefore essential, and reactivity in case of failure must be fast and efficient. Many technicians are involved in this task, such as refrigeration technicians, electricians, audiovisual technicians, computer specialists, as well as controllers or inspectors, operational safety engineers, methods engineers, and many others.
The main tasks of the employees require a high level of reactivity and regular revision of the equipment, even before breakdowns occur. Thus, they guarantee the availability and the control of the space center configuration. Site access control, video surveillance, public address systems, automatic fire detection and extinguishing, electrified fences, supervision and backup systems, etc., everything must be properly maintained for the center to function. To help with these numerous maintenance actions, there are CMMS software programs that can be used to perform predictive and efficient maintenance of its assets. But how can such tools help the smooth running of such a sensitive site?
The contribution of CMMS for the space industry
Let's remember that a CMMS software is a software solution that centralizes maintenance information, facilitates processes and automates certain tasks to improve the efficiency of its assets. This computer-aided maintenance management system software optimizes the use, availability and life span of its equipment and, more globally, of its infrastructures. Following the integration of data concerning the assets and their maintenance and with a joint work with various sensors installed on your devices, this type of software can predict breakdowns or signs of end of life of an equipment.
Visible to all your teams, a task schedule is then organized to fluidify technical interventions on the various assets. Your technicians will find all the safety and maintenance sheets, the necessary intervention equipment and the maintenance history of the equipment. The CMMS will also help you manage your inventory so you don't run out of replacement parts. Finally, detailed reports on the KPIs of your assets will help you adjust your various interventions.
Maintenance software truly guides your teams while centralizing important information about your assets. Thanks to them, your interventions become predictive, which allows you to avoid costly unexpected breakdowns that could disrupt the entire operation of your entity. This proactive maintenance is even more important in a specialized field such as space.
As we have seen, the numerous stakes and objectives of the space industry and its actors require precision in maintenance actions. The constant technical evolutions and the responsibility towards its staff and end-users require a great adaptability at the maintenance level. The role of CMMS is to help all the actors of the space industry to reach their objectives as quickly and easily as possible.
In addition to making your assets last and reducing your emergency repair costs, CMMS helps you implement new strategies to outperform. This way, you stay ahead of the competition and address civic, scientific and environmental issues. What better way to perform and pursue the conquest of space?Back to the articles