June 15, 2016

Project organisation

1. What is a project

A project is a unique process made up of a combination of coordinated and controlled activities with defined start and end dates, carried out in the aim of reaching an objective in conformity with specific requirements, such as stipulations regarding schedule, costs and resources.

To reach this goal, multiple groups of participants may be involved at different levels. Each group assumes responsibility for the part of the project it is to complete: this "partial" objective becomes in itself the project for the group in question.

In practice, therefore, the term "project" can apply both to the whole and to each of the parts it comprises.

Thus, in collaborations between CNES and manufacturers or scientific laboratories, the project comprises:

  • on the CNES side, the overall objective and all the resources needed to reach it: instrumental or experimental parts, system analyses, ground segment; interfaces;
  • and, on the manufacturer and laboratory side, the instrumental or experimental part, the ground segment and the data processing for which the laboratory or manufacturer is responsible.


In this framework, regardless of the vantage point, the term "project" shall here refer to the design / definition / production / integration / validation / qualification / operation cycle of an instrumentation or a specific experiment the result of which is to be called "product".

2. The participants in a project

For a project, the relationships between the participants are governed by contracts. These relationships are of the customer/supplier type, and they identify the nature of the tasks to be carried out, the products to be delivered and each party's responsibilities.

As a general rule, the participants are of the following types:

  • The user is responsible for defining the mission and utilising the space data.
  • The project owner is the legal entity for which the structure is built. Its responsibilities are:
    • to define or to validate the expressions of needs
    • to ascertain the appropriateness and feasibility of the operation,
    • to define the project,
    • to define the administrative and technical conditions for analyses and operations,
    • to choose the prime contractor,
    • to announce official acceptance of the structure.
  • The prime contractor is a legal entity or individual, working in both a technical and economic scope, designated by the project owner to design the structure, supervise and monitor execution of the tasks and submit them for acceptance.


As a general rule, an organizational network needs to be set up for a project, to provide for its consistency and the management of the operations involved.

A project team is generally structured as follows:

  • The Project Manager Has the overall responsibility for the completion of the project in accordance with the assigned objectives and the specifications to be met. Acts on behalf of the company and makes commitments on its behalf on the authority of company management.
  • The Product Assurance manager and his Product Assurance team Depending on the complexity of the project, this team may be composed of:
    • a Dependability manager,
    • a Components manager,
    • a Materials and Processes Quality manager,
    • a Software Quality manager,
    • an Integration Quality manager.
  • The System Engineer Is responsible for controlling the overall performance of the System (space/ground).
  • A technical team Depending on the difficulty of the project, may be composed of:
    • an electrical and data processing architect,
    • a mechanical and thermal architect,
    • a performance manager,
    • an integration and testing manager,
    • managers of sub-assemblies.
  • The payload manager Is responsible for all the instruments of a given project.
  • The ground segment manager Is responsible for the architecture of the ground segment.
  • The Project Controller (sometimes referred to as: Project Coordinator) Manages the schedules, the documentation, the configuration, etc.


The various participants in a "scientific project" are indicated below (provided as an example):

Throughout the development of an item of equipment, an instrumentation or experiment, the project team liaises with three types of contacts at the project owner level:

  • A user: the scientific community Unofficial entity composed of theorists and experimenters who define the scientific mission of the instrument or equipment and who will use the results obtained.
  • A financing customer Organisation that has the financial resources; in the case at hand, this role is played by the CNES.
  • A satellite customer To whom the product will be delivered, i.e. the space agency that placed the order: ESA, RKA, NASDA, NASA, CNES, etc. It provides the carrier satellite, issues the development schedule, the interface specifications and the Product Assurance requirements.


In the actual production of the instrument or equipment, there are four types of contacts:

The Scientific Board, composed of members from the scientific community specific to the instrumental project, this board is responsible for the mission specifications and the preparation of the instrumental data via the PIs and COIs.

  • The Steering Board, a permanent structure made up of the PI(s), the CNES Project Manager, representatives from CNES management, the laboratory management and possibly a representative of the satellite customer.
    This board regularly examines the progress of the project and has the authority to decide on actions needed to resolve technical, financial and timeline problems when they cannot be directly resolved by the CNES project team, the laboratory project team or the Scientific Board (Mission Group).
    It makes the decision to proceed to the next phase.
  • The Laboratory project team, the full laboratory project team which designs and produces the instrumentation or experiment. Scientific and technical participants work together within this team.
  • The CNES project team, it is generally made up of the following: a project manager, a system engineer, a product assurance manager, a project controller, a payload manager, a technical team, and the ground segment manager.


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