Half is crucial. WIth half, we are 'go' for construction. With our first half payment, we get:
- the actual hardware
- all the detailed tech specs
- a slot on the launch schedule
The full tech specs will be nice, also. We know what we need in a broad sense, but in tasks like the specific computer model and coding environment, in particular, details are important.
Most important is to get our hands on the actual satellite hardware. There's a world of difference between writing up plans and schematics, and actually building something. Sometimes the written spec isn't enough. You also need to know what access you have to the inner workings.
You can imagine having a 6-foot closet but finding out there's only a 1-inch keyhole to get into it, for example. Tiny clearances can make a world of difference, as anyone who has tried to move a too-big sofa through a doorway or replaced a screen door can attest.
Over at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in the large assembly building, they have a full-sized mockup of a Space Shuttle cargo bay. Word is, this was a request of a saavy engineer who realized they could build a satellite that, in theory, fit into the shuttle. But they could reduce the risk and uncertainty greatly if they actually test-fitted it into a mock shuttle bay, just to make sure it worked in real life.
It's as the saying goes, "in theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is."
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