COTS – Commercial Off-The-Shelf Electronic Components

The drive to use COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) components in the space industry is growing since these parts allow to obtain higher performance at the system level, which is difficult to obtain using currently available space components. However, the use of COTS components has an inherent risk because of the lack of confidence in the traceability and the long-term performance of these parts as well as the new concerns affecting mostly this type of products (RoHS, counterfeit parts, long-term reliability, etc.).

Consequently, COTS should be considered only if existing hi-rel alternatives are impractical from a performance point of view.

Alter Technology offers a global solution to specific concerns about the use of COTS, such as life cycle (obsolescence) or counterfeit detection, integrating all required steps into the supply and testing chain and providing alternative solutions and risk-mitigation strategies.

A key factor for the safe use of COTS parts is to take into account the specific quality and reliability concerns associated with the use of these components in space applications, as well as to obtain technological knowledge and manufacturers’ support necessary to properly estimate the risk and the required countermeasures.

With the introduction of a stringent methodology for product assessment, selection, procurement and testing (screening and qualification), using COTS can provide a solution when space level parts are not feasible or available for the intended application.

A methodology for the selection and procurement of COTS can be defined as:

COTS electronic components

Alter Technology Offer

The risks associated with the use of COTS can be minimized by means of: COTS Commercial Off The Shelf

  • Appropriate product selection
  • Evaluating device construction
  • Radiation evaluation
  • Incoming inspections
  • Defining proper test flow
  • Performance of reliability tests

Test Flow Definition

Based on the accumulated experience, and in close cooperation with the customer, specific test flows can be defined for each individual type of components.

Reference documents:

  • PEM-INST-001, Instructions for PEM Selection, Screening and Qualification (NASA)
  • EEE-INST-002, Instructions for EEE Parts Selection, Screening, Qualification and Derating (NASA)
  • ECSS-Q-ST-60-13, Commercial Electrica, Electronic and Electromechanical components (ESCC)
  • ATN-TN-001, Management of COTS for Space Applications (Alter Technology)

alter technology cots


COTS precautionsProcurement from a reliable source

  • Counterfeit detection

RoHS – Determining lead finish

  • Re-tinning process
  • Risk analysis

Available package

  • Compatibility with mounting techniques

Temperature range

  • Capability to operate safely at maximum and minimum application temperatures

Lot Homogeneity

  • Procuring parts that come from an homogeneous lot

Evaluating data validityCOTS precautions electronic components

  • Process monitoring
  • Tracking manufacturing changes (die- and package-related)

Product life cycle

  • Obsolescence monitoring
  • Alternative solutions
  • Product availability needs

Related Content

COTS EEE parts in space applications: evolution overview.