Engineering teams are under pressure to drastically reduce the time-to-orbit and cost of commercial and scientific space missions. Are suppliers in the space industry ready to embrace these expectations and deliver lower lead times, transparent pricing, greater reliability, better documentation, and improved after-sales support?
Engineering teams working on satellite constellations continue to pop up all over the world. Scaling up production across the supply chain to meet the demands of batch production is an emerging challenge. Vendors across the supply chain are faced with the stiff challenge of decreasing lead times and costs per unit, while maintaining quality and reliability.
Satsearch is conducting a survey among engineers and managers of teams building space missions, to get insights into the current challenges they face when interfacing with suppliers in the space industry. Our investigation includes the entire supply chain lifecycle: from identifying vendors and dealing with export control issues, to working with technical documentation and troubleshooting post-sales issues.
We are happy to share some preliminary results from the survey, with the aim of providing stakeholders across the value chain with key insights into the current challenges faced by engineering teams building space missions.
In your current role, what kind of suppliers do you normally interface with?
Over half of the people we’ve surveyed so far work with component manufacturers. This speaks to the fact that richness of the supply chain at every tier is important for the viability of future space missions.
How many suppliers do you consider in the procurement process for any component/subsystem/service?
Most people in our survey restrict their supplier search to a handful of candidates. Is this because they only need to explore a handful to find the right product or service? Or is it because it’s just too time-consuming to extend the search to other options?
Once you’ve chosen a specific component/subsystem/service, how often do you consider changing the supplier for follow-up procurement?
This is perhaps the most striking result from our survey. Contrary to what many people assume about the space industry, a large fraction of engineers actively assess alternative procurement options on the market. This opens the door for an open, vibrant, competitive marketplace that can only reap benefits for the push towards commercialization.
For any given component, subsystem, entire spacecraft, or service, there are a plethora of suppliers across the world that can be considered in the procurement process. Need some help navigating through all the options? Let us help you identify suppliers for space products and services. We’ve helped countless teams save time and pinpoint the right solutions for their space missions.
How often are you affected by export control restrictions (such as ITAR or others) to procure components?
Export control issues seem to be less of a pressing issue for procurement. Is this related to the fact that engineers restrict their search to only a handful of (known) suppliers? Would this become more of an issue if the trade space became easier to navigate?
The quality of documentation for products/services provided by suppliers is
Clearly, documentation leaves a lot to be desired. On the plus side, there’s lots of room for improvement!
The quality of after-sales engineering support for products/services provided by suppliers is
Again, customer service and after-sales support can be drastically improved in the eyes of space engineers. Does this indicate that suppliers focus their effort primarily on securing sales, rather than building a reputation for excellence across the whole procurement lifecycle?
The delivery time by suppliers in the space industry is
For the commercialization of space, it’s imperative that systematic delays, a depressing signature of the space industry, are consigned to history. Over half of the survey respondents are faced with weeks to months of delays. How much is this costing the space industry? How many suppliers lose sales because they just can’t deliver on time?
Here are some additional challenges identified from the survey
CTO of an Earth imaging constellation spacecraft company says:
Identifying the right supplier with proper heritage is always a challenge.
A subsystem designer at an SME says:
We often are faced with bad documentation by suppliers, which doesn't allow us to work efficiently.
An experienced scientist at a space agency says:
Delivery of sub-quality parts and the resulting time delay is a big problem. Some manufacturers are not keen on offering compensation when they deliver components not up to standard and not according to the previously set requirements.
An engineer working on component development says:
I have had suppliers provide datasheets detailing one set of Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) requirements and then deliver hardware that consumes 30% more power than stated.
A professor leading a satellite lab says:
There is no reliable information on finding the right type of component with least delivery/lead time online.
An engineer at a large satellite manufacturer says:
Procurement process at our institution is in itself a lengthy process and affects our ability to work quickly.
Are you building a space mission and want to add your voice to this survey?
Participate in the satsearch supplier engagement survey to contribute your insights. The survey takes less than 3 minutes to complete.
If you want to reach out to us or have any further questions, please write to us at [email protected].