Say what you want about NASA's inefficiencies
When it comes to missions lasting many multiples of the planned life they are the undisputed champion.
NASA has formally ended the Geotail spacecraft's 30-year mission studying the Earth's magnetosphere after months of repeated attempts to repair its last data recorder failed. Launched on July 24, 1992, Geotail was put to work probing the protective bubble that prevents harmful solar rays and cosmic radiation from hitting our …
"When it comes to missions lasting many multiples of the planned life they are the undisputed champion."
Nasa planning meeting: "So guys, how long do we think the spacecraft will last?"
Engineering: "Probably 20 years or so"
Marketing: "Ok we'll tell everyone the mission duration is 6 months"
I'd like to think that when they build something like this, the design specs are something like "we'll be disappointed if it doesn't last at least X months/years; but we're hoping to get Y months/years out of it; and if all goes really well, it might last as long as Z years." But for P.R. reasons they only announce the X value publicly.
The Voyagers for example had announced design lifetimes of around 5 years. I wonder what the Z value was for those craft; and would NASA have done anything differently if they had known that they might survive for several decades?
Works for me. Happiness is just having your expectations exceeded, no matter how low they were.
Lada owner: "Bugger me, it started first time. Again. That's the 4th time this week. And how about that hand warmer on the back window eh? I am so buying another Lada"
To those complaining they over-engineer, it's difficult to build a piece of equipment to last until the day the warranty expires when you're only building one or two of the type.
Now, if there was a mass produced, off-the-shelf, multi-config satellite that's cheap to launch....
Then yes. But when running a team for 30 years still costs less than building and launching it then overeengineering it is.
I wonder how they work out the probable life-time for a satellite. There is the us of fuel for positioning, damage caused during launch (and landing if appropriate) were and tear on moving parts, radiation damage, and the stress caused by differential heating and cooling in space. Then there are micro-meteoroid collisions and cosmic rays. Must be quite tricky.
I might be mis-remembering, but I went to a talk by one of the Juno scientists where they said that originally Juno wasn't supposed to have a visible light camera as it wasn't relevant to Juno's primary mission. Junocam was only added as an afterthought once someone pointed out that the public would be really confused that scientists would send a probe all the way to Jupiter but not have it capable of taking pictures.