A make believe game!
One day you wake up and feel like having your own satellite in space. Although the motivations are not that clear, you already have planned what you want inside it: a recording camera, a photograph camera, a Walkman (to play your favorites music in space), a cell phone, a watch, a laptop, a bip and a palmtop. But a detail: you live in the 90’s:
Insouciant, you go to the rocket company to make an estimation of how much it will cost to put your gadgets up there (your mom did not let you make the rocket). In the rocket company, a sharp dressed businessman tells you that each kilogram in low Earth orbit will cost you about 30 thousand dollars and all your gadgets must fit inside a round cookie box, otherwise you will have to pay double.
Then, you come back home cursing your mom for not letting you play with rockets.
Maybe you have not noticed, but you just faced an everyday problem in space business: no matter what will be put in space, it must be compact and light! Every single day, engineers rack their brains to make things smaller and lighter. So to think even more in a way arrange them tighter.
Maybe you never stopped to think about it, but this thinking exercise has propelled many of the technologies that ended up in our hands. From micro-components to composite structures, many things began as a matter of saving weight and space.
If the make-believe you had had been born nowadays, maybe you could go to the rocket company carrying only this. (You would face a lot of further problems but let’s stop here! Hahaha)
In our case, the SCRAP experiment has already been born with several dimensional constraints, which means that we are obliged to adapt our system to some defined volumes. For example, the Free Flying Units (FFU’s) are “cookie boxes” of 240 mm diameter and 80 mm high, which must fit antennas, batteries, navigation systems, circuit boards, wires, parachute, gun cartridges, cooper particles, explosives and so on.
In order to squeeze everything inside, first, the team makes long meetings where members try to bring out ideas, designs, constraints, requirements, etc. Here, the board is often used when languages (sometimes we share three of them!) are not enough to explain shapes and arrangements.
The next steps often involve basic Computer Aided Designs (or CADs) to simulate the arrangement with the exact dimensions and constraints.
Once the perfect setup is achieved, we can either buy or manufacture the pieces. But we can talk about it another day! 😉