Jarvis Con – Space Edition with Nicholas Lindsay

Jarvis Con’ episode 4 finished off the Space Edition with a fascinating talk by Nick on ‘Testing optimized for Speed’. The talk covered the best practices that Nick developed in his time spanning the US Navy, SpaceX, a brief stint as a pilot and ultimately in Gilmour Space Technologies in Australia.

Nick’s current role as program manager of launch vehicles sees him develop new capabilities for launching small satellites to Space using pioneering and innovative hybrid propulsion technologies that will enable more affordable access to space. Gilmour Space is at the forefront of innovative space technologies launching a hybrid rocket in 2016 and carrying out the world’s first flight demo of 3D printed rocket fuel.

Proving insights on a big-picture testing strategy that aims to be easy, fast and efficient, Nick approaches the matter with the mantra of prioritising not failing but learning fast and creating with minimum effort a product that delivers the performance needed in a cost-effective way.

By doing rapid testing you gain the ability to make quick iterations which allows for rapid decision making; ultimately saving pennies.

Here is a bite-sized recap of the talk and some pointers on how to develop a speed optimised testing process in your projects:

  • Take the most direct path and don’t waste time evaluating intermediates steps if the design point doesn’t work
  • Follow the 75% rule of information, make sure the time spent gathering more information equates to knowledge gain; if it doesn’t push you to make a better decision then you may have fallen foul to analysis paralysis. Shun indecision!
  • Iterate fast: the goal of testing it to try until it works, make sure you architect your processes, procedures and policies such that they can be changed efficiently – change is the only constant 
  • Build testing facilities that can cater for many iterations and accommodate for changes  (use COTS, err of the side of excess capacity..)
  • Allow for expansion in your data acquisition channels
  • Think about a spares strategy or acquire part rebuild kits for long-lead items or those that are most likely to fail – keeping testing on track
  • Perform polarity and continuity checks on all new equipment and embrace checklists
  • Incorporate procedural adjustments: testing procedures can change and be optimised; do so safely and systematically
  • Your team is important, delegate responsibility and authority, support them with the tools they need and trust in your technicians – the model is not everything
  • Testing can be qualitative or quantitative. Evaluate both and review if the data gathered was valuable
  • Emphasise smooth approaches  – promote methodical procedures and fix inefficiencies; review and take notes throughout!
  • Develop a mission-oriented safety/risk management system and culture, take calculated risks – understand and agree on this from an execution standpoint

Nick concludes by highlighting the balancing act of testing. Safe, efficient, reliable and cost-effective testing relies balancing the following:

  • Conservatism vs Aggressiveness
  • Analysis vs Testing
  • Safety vs Risk
  • Exploratory vs Targeted

Whilst Nick’s success in his field and built up expertise is impressive he was quick to state that attitude and technical training in your team is key – make sure expectations are clear and decisions are made to accelerate your team success. We are excited to see what awaits Nick and his team at Gilmour Space as they push forward on their great ambitions developing hybrid propulsion technologies and more.

If you want to catch up on what you missed, watch the full recording here:

Jarvis Con – Space Edition with Nicholas Lindsay

About Nicholas Lindsay:

13+ years of Aerospace Engineering experience with the US Navy, SpaceX, and Gilmour Space Technologies. Former Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer, Manager of the Dragon Test team, Cargo Dragon Product Manager, and Director of Dragon Production. Current Program Manager – Launch Vehicles with a heavy focus on R&D testing of the Eris Launch Vehicle.

Connect with Nick.

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