Grant Anderson, President and CEO
“To boldly go where no man has gone before!” This phrase was popularized by the original Star Trek television series back in 1966, just five years after the first manned spaceflight. However, unlike the fictional crew from the television show that explored the unknown frontiers of space with ease, astronauts in the real world have to rely on highly sophisticated life support systems to survive in space. And due to such a critical role, these systems must display superior fault tolerance and be robust enough to withstand the harsh conditions. Nevertheless, the life support systems available in the market today are incredibly expensive to build and implement. Adding to the woes, space tech engineers struggle to customize these systems to better align them with client requirements at low cost. Addressing this need for innovative and affordable life support systems in extreme environments is Arizona-based aerospace and aviation company, Paragon Space Development Corporation. Founded in 1993, Paragon is committed to developing innovative solutions that fill technology gaps in the ever-evolving space sector as well as the defense and commercial sectors.
The company takes a highly disciplined and cost-efficient stepped approach to innovation through which its offerings help its clients fulfill their mission. By systemizing innovation, the company thoroughly completes “success criteria” for each critical program step with full openness to the customer to ensure the delivery of high-quality systems that align with customer specifications and concept of operations. NASA’s system engineering handbook outlines these steps but Paragon has customized them through almost 27 years of doing business across both the government and commercial world.
As part of its unique innovation strategy, Paragon maintains a transparent client engagement approach. Such an approach results in the development of systems that perfectly align with customer specifications.
“It pays to mention that using MS PowerPoint for engineering presentations was one of the reasons listed out in NASA Columbia accident investigation board’s list of causes for the 2003 Columbia disaster. This illustrates the disadvantages of opaque PowerPoint presentation that discourages detail and subtlety,” says Grant Anderson, president and CEO of the company. To that end, Paragon uses traditional technical memos in the developmental and implementation stages of a system design. “Our use of technical memos enables us to be forthright with our clients and helps them analyze the critical parameters of their desired system without losing any key information,” explains Anderson. Alternatively, when the company cannot develop the desired system due to budget or other constraints, the technical memo simplifies the process of explaining to a customer as to why their specifications need to be reconsidered, thereby preventing waste of time and resources. “We combine our 27-year experience of developing life support systems with our emphasis on transparent client engagements to develop systems that readily integrate with a client’s total spacecraft system solution,” adds Anderson.
According to Anderson, traditional engagements between aerospace manufacturers and space tech providers involve a rigorous process of consolidating a list of requirements for the desired space system. However, due to the tight deadlines from stakeholders, most aerospace corporations struggle to consolidate an accurate list of requirements, which leads to the development of a solution that is not geared to their specific needs. To address the compression of the requirement-to-hardware cycle in the aerospace manufacturing sector, Paragon leverages top-of-the-line 3D printing technology to create prototypes that effectively explore the viability of a design early and quickly.
Highlighting the efficacy of Paragon’s unique engineering approach and leading-edge technological capabilities is a case study where the company built a new heat exchanger/ condenser system for a client. The customer was leveraging a complex “slurper bar”-based system—that captures two-phase mixtures of air and water before separating it with a rotary separator for storage and transport—within their spacecraft. To build an effective alternative to the slurper bar, Paragon categorized the engineering of its system into variables and 3D printed eight different prototypes based on each variable. After testing each prototype, Paragon was able to deliver the solution that best fit the power, pressure, and other requirements of the client’s desired system. “With 3D printing, we not only built a functional product but also did it in a way that saved the client a significant amount of time and resources,” mentions Anderson.
Due to its revolutionary approach to engineering, Paragon has been involved in the development of every life support system used in space missions since 1999. Looking ahead, Paragon plans to maintain its successful record by continuing to build systems leveraging next-gen technologies. Furthermore, the company aims to become the preferred hardware partner in the race to enable simple and affordable space travel and help Earth become an interplanetary civilization. “As long as humanity continues its efforts to explore the unknown horizons of space, our life support systems will continue to transform harsh environments into sustainable habitats,” concludes Anderson.