Design for Reliability: NASA Reliability Preferred Practices for Design and Test

Keywords design and test preferred practices reliability

1.1 Applicability

The design practices that have contributed to NASA mission success represent the "best technical advice" on reliability design and test practices.These practices are not requirements but rather proven technical approaches that can enhance system reliability. This tutorial is divided into two technical sections. Section II contains reliability practices, including design criteria, test procedures, and analytical techniques, that have been successfully applied in previous spaceflight programs. Section III contains reliability guidelines, including techniques currently applied to spaceflight projects, where insufficient information exists to certify that the technique will contribute to mission success.

1.2 Discussion

Experience from NASA's successful extended-duration space missions shows that four elements contribute to high reliability(:I) understanding stress factors imposed on flight hardware by the operating environment; (2) controlling the stress factors through the selection of conservative design criteria; (3) conducting an appropriate analysis to identify and track high stress points in the design {prior to qualification testing or flight use);and (4) selecting redundancy alternatives to provide the necessary function(s)should failure occur.

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This tutorial summarizes reliability experience from both NASA and industry and reflects engineering practices that support current and future civil space programs. These practices were collected from various NASA field centers and were reviewed by a committee of senior technical representatives from the participating centers (members are listed at the end). The material for this tutorial was taken from the publication issued by the NASA Reliability and Maintainability Steering Committee (NASA Reliability Preferred Practices for Design and Test. NASA TM-4322, 1991).

Reliability must be an integral part of the systems engineering process. Although both disciplines must be weighted equally with other technical and programmatic demands, the application of sound reliability principles will be the key to the effectiveness and affordability of America's space program. Our space programs have shown that reliability efforts must focus on the design characteristics that affect the frequency of failure. Herein, we emphasize that these identified design characteristics must be controlled by applying conservative engineering principles.

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