Requirements and standards
ESA has been a proponent of space standardization for a long time. It cooperates with several international organisations to generate and promote common standards for space projects.
In particular, ESA has a strong commitment to support the European Cooperation for Space Standardization (ECSS), an initiative established to develop a coherent, single set of user-friendly standards for all European space activities. The ultimate goal of building such a standardization system, at European level, is to minimise life-cycle cost, while continually improving the quality, functional integrity, and compatibility of all elements of a space project. This goal is achieved by applying common standards for project management and for the development and testing of hardware and software.
During the development process of ECSS standards, the Requirement and Standard division acts as the ECSS central secretariat and in this function provides:
- Technical support during the drafting process of new standards and during the subsequent review process.
- Administrative support to the different entities (working groups, executive, panels, and steering board) to ensure the necessary flow of information between these bodies, support by implementing the actions and agreements approved by the technical committees during the editing process, submission of documents as draft standards to ECSS member bodies for voting and final publishing.
To reach its goal, ECSS standards have to be known and applied. A mechanism to promote, disseminate the information, and involve the space community in the development of standards is vital for ECSS success. The rapid development of information technology during the past years, and particularly Internet, makes a series of tools available suitable for this purpose. The integration of these tools in a single web site provides a consistent approach to these tasks. TOS-QR has therefore designed, developed, and is still maintaining the ECSS web site with the objective to:
- Make all the information freely available worldwide: The most recent versions of the standards, procedures, and policies are easily accessible and downloadable, making these documents publicly available in real time.
- Share ideas among the space community: Discussion forums help in prioritising the needs for new standards and improving existing ones. Questions and answers promote a common understanding and interpretation of standards. Both aspects are key in building a common ECSS culture across the space community.
- Integrate the initiatives of the different actors in the boards, panels, or working groups: When developing ECSS standards, such actors perform their task on a voluntary and non-permanent basis. They are provided with a password-protected environment to implement their activities (for example, a central place for shared information, decisions, documents …).
To train potential users in applying ECSS standards in space projects, or tailor these standards for their specific needs, Requirments and Standards is preparing training material.
Finally, we provide support to the ESA Standardization Steering Board (ESSB) and maintains the list of standards approved for application by ESA space projects. This list is largely based on already published ECSS standards.