Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design
David Akin, a professor at the University of Maryland
- Engineering is done with numbers. Analysis without numbers is, at best, only an opinion.
- To design a spacecraft right takes a infinite amount of effort. This is why it's a good
idea to design them to operate when some things are wrong.
- Design is an iterative process. The necessary number of iterations is one more than the
number you have currently done. This is true at any point in time.
- Your best efforts will inevitably wind up being useless in the final design. Learn to
live with the disappointment.
- (Miller's Law) Three points determine a curve.
- (Mar's Law) Everything is linear if plotted log-log with a fat magic marker.
- At the start of any design effort, the person who most wants to be team leader is least
likely to be capable of it.
- In nature, the optimum is almost always in the middle somewhere. Distrust assertions
that the optimum is at an extreme point.
- Not having all the information you need is never a satisfactory excuse for not starting
- When in doubt, estimate. In an emergency, guess. But be sure to go back and clean up the
mess when the real numbers come along.
- Sometimes, the fastest way to get to the end is to throw everything out and start over.
- There is never a single right solution. There are aways multiple wrong ones, though.
- Design is based on requirements. There's no justification for designing something one
bit "better" than the requirements dictate.
- "Better" is the enemy of "good"
- The ability to improve a design occurs primarily at the interfaces. This is also the
prime location for screwing it up.
- The previous people who did a similar analysis did not have a direct pipeline to the
wisdom of the ages. There is,therefore, no reason to believe their analysis over yours.
There is especially no reason to present their analysis as yours.
- The fact that an analysis appears in print has no relationship to the likelihood of its
- Past experience is excellent for providing a reality check. Too much reality can doom an
otherwise worthwhile design, though.
- The odds are greatly against you being immensely smarter than everyone else in the
field. If your analysis says your terminal velocity is twice the speed of light, the
chances are better that you've screwed up than that you've invented warp drive.
- A bad design with a good presentation is doomed eventually. A good design with a bad
presentation is doomed immediately.
- (Larrabee's Law) Half of everything you hear in a classroom is crap. Education is
figuring out which half is which.
- When in doubt, document. (Documentation requirements will reach a maximum shortly after
the termination of a project.)
- The schedule you develop will seem like a complete work of fiction up until the moment
your customer fires you for not meeting it.
- Its called a "Work Breakdown Structure" because the Work remaining will grow
until you have a Breakdown, unless you enforce some Structure on it.
- Space is a completely unforgiving environment. If you screw up the engineering, SOMEBODY
- Project-related tasks converge. Managers attempt to design the system, and designers
attempt to manage the project.
- A small satellite inherently limits the amount of trouble you can cause.
- Never show your working prototype to the management. It imay become tomorrows press
announcement of the finished project. (D.M.Gabbitas)
- The 90-90 rule of project schedules: The first 90 percent of the project takes 90
percent of the alloted time. The last 10 percent takes the other 90 percent.
- For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
- Experience is something you only gain just after you needed it..