COTS is a bad word in rad-hard community

MIAMI. Often a rad-hard supplier this week at the Nuclear Space Radiation Effects Conference (NSREC) in Miami would tell me his product is available off-the-shelf, but cringed at the notion that it would ever be considered COTS or commercial-off-the-shelf.

Whether it is correct or not means not custom to many outside of the rad-hard space community. In the space community that COTS the perception is that COTS means what the C stands for – commercial – and not ready for use in space environments.

Market downturns and upturns in the space market often lag five years behind that of the defense community. However, many at the show this week do not see the move toward COST that is so prevalent in defense procurements strategies extending to space because of the reliability requirements.

The space market for is quite strong while the military market is moving toward more and more COTS, — especially in unmanned systems because of new procurement trends, says Michael Sullivan, director of business development at International Rectifier. COTS works for these applications because the requirements are not as stringent as those for space applications, he adds.

Electronic space components are very specialized, they go through heavy life and reliability testing and qualification for use in space environments, which is why at VPT some standard products are listed as available off-the-shelf but not as COTS, says Leonard Leslie, Manager of Space Programs at VPT. COTS often means commercial levels of reliability, he adds.

Ken O’Neill, director of marketing for space products at Microsemi, suggested a new acronym to provide clarity – yes a new acronym – but it fits. Actually he suggested three– QOTS, VOTS, and SOTS — class Q off the-shelf, QML class V off-the-shelf shelf, and class JAN S off-the-shelf respectively.

Why not a few more? Maybe this will add some clarity or not…. We already have (government-off-the-shelf), (military-off-the-shelf), and NOTS (NATO-off-the-shelf). One integrator told me he has products that are even KOTS or kinda off the shelf.

We just gotta make sure we know how to pronounce QOTS…

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