Value-informed space systems design and acquisition

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Brathwaite, Joy Danielle
Saleh, Joseph H.
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Investments in space systems are substantial, indivisible, and irreversible, characteristics that make them high-risk, especially when coupled with an uncertain demand environment. Traditional approaches to system design and acquisition, derived from a performance- or cost-centric mindset, incorporate little information about the spacecraft in relation to its environment and its value to its stakeholders. These traditional approaches, while appropriate in stable environments, are ill-suited for the current, distinctly uncertain and rapidly changing technical, and economic conditions; as such, they have to be revisited and adapted to the present context. This thesis proposes that in uncertain environments, decision-making with respect to space system design and acquisition should be value-based, or at a minimum value-informed. This research advances the value-centric paradigm by providing the theoretical basis, foundational frameworks, and supporting analytical tools for value assessment of priced and unpriced space systems. For priced systems, stochastic models of the market environment and financial models of stakeholder preferences are developed and integrated with a spacecraft-sizing tool to assess the system's net present value. The analytical framework is applied to a case study of a communications satellite, with market, financial, and technical data obtained from the satellite operator, Intelsat. The case study investigates the implications of the value-centric versus the cost-centric design and acquisition choices. Results identify the ways in which value-optimal spacecraft design choices are contingent on both technical and market conditions, and that larger spacecraft for example, which reap economies of scale benefits, as reflected by their decreasing cost-per-transponder, are not always the best (most valuable) choices. Market conditions and technical constraints for which convergence occurs between design choices under a cost-centric and a value-centric approach are identified and discussed. In addition, an innovative approach for characterizing value uncertainty through partial moments, a technique used in finance, is adapted to an engineering context and applied to priced space systems. Partial moments disaggregate uncertainty into upside potential and downside risk, and as such, they provide the decision-maker with additional insights for value-uncertainty management in design and acquisition. For unpriced space systems, this research first posits that their value derives from, and can be assessed through, the value of information they provide. To this effect, a Bayesian framework is created to assess system value in which the system is viewed as an information provider and the stakeholder an information recipient. Information has value to stakeholders as it changes their rational beliefs enabling them to yield higher expected pay-offs. Based on this marginal increase in expected pay-offs, a new metric, Value-of-Design (VoD), is introduced to quantify the unpriced system's value. The Bayesian framework is applied to the case of an Earth Science satellite that provides hurricane information to oil rig operators using nested Monte Carlo modeling and simulation. Probability models of stakeholders' beliefs, and economic models of pay-offs are developed and integrated with a spacecraft payload generation tool. The case study investigates the information value generated by each payload, with results pointing to clusters of payload instruments that yielded higher information value, and minimum information thresholds below which it is difficult to justify the acquisition of the system. In addition, an analytical decision tool, probabilistic Pareto fronts, is developed in the Cost-VoD trade space to provide the decision-maker with additional insights into the coupling of a system's probable value generation and its associated cost risk.
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