back to article How did ESA's gamma ray-spotting 'scope make it to 20? They totally overdid it

This week, the European Space Agency's International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (Integral) spacecraft celebrated the 20th anniversary of its launch – although it was only meant to last five years. The satellite left Earth's atmosphere on the back of a Proton rocket from Kazakhstan on October 17, 2002, after first being …

  1. heyrick Silver badge

    In space, you can't underdesign

    There's no "just tell the engineer to go reboot the thing". There's no "turn it off and back on again". If some little bit fails, it could well be an extraordinarily expensive lump of metal in space, and the next time there might be no appetite to fund the research (or, worse, another country gets there first).

    So you design. Then you overdesign. Then you take that up to eleven.

    (I'll point you at Pathfinder for another great example)

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: In space, you can't underdesign

      And it's why your OS of choice is Wind River VxWorks.

      (The 'new boys' to this field; Green Hills Integrity and QNX might also suffice, but don't have the track record of 30+ years. There's even a cut down Linux on the Mars Helicopter as it was expendable.)

  2. TaabuTheCat

    "They sit down and spend possibly days thinking about any ideas they might have, and I don't think anybody ever gets paid for that input. People will work far beyond any contractual requirements to make it work."

    I fear those days are coming to an end. There seems to be so much animosity between workers and orgs these days that the "investment" one used to make in a company and its mission is disappearing. Not really that hard to understand when the "mission" now is only about the money, and who gets to keep it.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      I fear those days are coming to an end.

      There's commercial satellites and there you are correct, they were probably never there anyway.

      There's also far fewer research satellites and for those I suspect the situation is very different.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      For highly commercial craft like SpaceX Starlink sats and the likes that sort of loyalty has probably never been there in the past. Research projects like this are however entirely different and even if you're working for a shit boss, these projects can suck you in as an engineer and make putting up with the shit worth it. Especially when working with the scientists who will end up using the thing, it's hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm these people have for their field of research, and to want to give them the best tools you can manage to do it. It's hard to explain but the investment many engineers working on these sorts of projects make isn't in the company or the mission of said company, you really get invested in the project itself and it's science mission. If you're working in let's say JPL and you worked on the Mars Helicopter (Ingenuity) for several years you would REALLY care about whether or not the thing manages to fly on Mars, and whether you and your co-workers can keep it flying for as long as possible. In contract you probably couldn't really give much of a rats ass about the overall "mission" of JPL and while you would likely find the other projects there very interesting, you're not invested in them in the same way.

  3. KRCaddis

    Just a BINGO!

    As good as it gets.

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