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PCB-Aug2016

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64 The PCB Magazine • August 2016 Heltzel: When I speak about when things go wrong, it's still ground-based. Matties: That's where you want to catch it. Heltzel: You want to catch it before that. At the PCB level, you want to catch mistakes be- fore they're being assembled. It's very late if we are catching things when we are perform- ing ground-based environmental testing on the unit or even worse on the satellite. Keep in mind that these tests are also pretty severe tests of any electronic equipment that is passing, like a thermal vacuum campaign on the ground is expected to do well up in space. Matties: Who's doing your circuit design? Is that an internal function or is that farmed out? Heltzel: That's the industry's responsibility— the OEMs. Matties: So you basically go in and say, "We need something that gives us this functionality." Heltzel: Yes. Matties: They design it and they engineer it and you just buy it? Is that how it works? Heltzel: It's a bit more complicated than that. There are space projects, some are done by ESA, and ESA issues contracts for those space proj- ects. Those contracts include somewhere in the supply chain that some supplier will manufac- ture the equipment that will eventually be built into a satellite. That equipment manufacturer is responsible for procuring the PCBs. My job is independent from those space projects. I have the general support function just for the PCB technology. Matties: I see. What's the most surprising thing that you've seen in your career? The thing that made you say, "I can't believe they did this," or "We should've done it that way." Heltzel: I think the lesson that has been learned is the fac t that the standard we've been us- ing in space was allowed to be outdated. That causes some problems. We had to provide maintenance in the form of memoranda. It's a European industry standard, but that standard was allowed to be slightly outdated because when PCB technology increased in terms of ability, the standard was not in sync with that capability and of course with the new capabili - ties, you get different failure modes. The fact that this is now being revised will be a major milestone. Matties: How long does it take you to revise the standard and make it become live? Heltzel: This one has now been running for two years. Matties: So it's quite a process. It seems rather long, doesn't it? If it's something outdated to be- gin with... Heltzel: Yes, but then after that, I expect it will be up-to-date for many years. The industry in space isn't changing that quickly—it is still quick but not as quick as an iPhone. THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY ON RELIABILITY

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