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Assurance Process for Complex Electronics
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Roles and Responsibilities

A variety of people have responsibilities for the development and assurance of complex electronics (CE). These people are drawn from within the project, from assurance organizations, and possibly from other areas as well.

It is important to remember that the roles defined below may be filled by several individuals, or an individual may fulfill several roles. The roles, and associated responsibilities, should be divided among the appropriate personnel available to each project. The only caveat is that assurance requires a degree of independence. The person creating the complex electronics should not perform the assurance activities on it. However, in some cases, the assurance activities can be performed by another engineer or designer, when the available assurance engineers are lacking the necessary technical skills.


Typical Organization


Systems Engineer

Project Engineering

  • Define the system requirements
  • Decompose system requirements down to sub-system level
  • Maintain interfaces between sub-system and rest of system
  • Integrate the system
  • Define system-level testing

Electronics Designer

Project Engineering

  • Derive requirements for the board or chip level
  • Design electronics to meet the requirements, using good engineering practices
  • Define internal interfaces between parts of the electronics
  • Consider system aspects that may affect the electronics, including noise and power distribution.
  • Implement the design in hardware
  • Test the hardware; Implement corrections as necessary

CE specialist

(may be the Electronics Designer)

Project Engineering

  • Derive requirements for the complex electronics
  • Define internal interfaces
  • Design complex electronics to meet the requirements, using good design practices and tools
  • Ensure external interfaces match the specification, including voltage level and timing.
  • Implement the design
  • Simulate the design at various levels
  • Synthesize, place and route, etc. the design
  • Program the complex electronics
  • Test the final hardware; Implement corrections as necessary

System Safety


  • Perform system safety analyses
  • Identify if complex electronics can cause a hazard or are part of a hazard control
  • Ensure that design errors in complex electronics are considered as a failure mode
  • Provide safety guidance to system designers
  • Verify safety features and controls are successfully implemented
  • Identify safety verifications required, including for complex electronics
  • Assess tools used to design and implement complex electronics for safety impacts

Quality Assurance


  • Create QA plan; Include complex electronics assurance
  • Review subsystem requirements for proper decomposition from system requirements
  • Review design to verify requirements implemented, good engineering design practices followed
  • Assess implementation against the requirements and design
  • Ensure development and supporting processes (e.g. Configuration Management, ESD) are in place and followed
  • Review choice of parts; Provide guidance on preferred parts
  • Ensure electronics are assembled/manufactured to acceptable standards
  • Perform or witness testing at various system and subsystem levels
  • Ensure all requirements are adequately verified

CE Process Assurance

(new category)

Assurance, with possible help from Engineering

  • Assess entrance and exit criteria for each life cycle phase
  • Ensure traceability of the requirements through all levels of development
  • Analyze the products produced (documents, designs, etc.) against the requirements and the output of the previous phase
  • Assess the quality of the development process, and the level to which it is adhered
  • Perform white-box analyses on complex electronics designs and tests
  • Ensure all appropriate project plans are completed (to a sufficient level of detail) prior to when they should be used.

Configuration Management (CM)


  • Ensure software tools used for complex electronic design and programming are archived and controlled
  • Ensure complex electronic designs are captured in the CM system
  • Ensure changes to complex electronic designs are reviewed, evaluated for impacts, and approved
  • Provide official builds for formal programming/test
  • Ensure problem reporting, tracking, and corrective action occur for the system, including complex electronics

Reliability Engineer

Assurance or Project Team

  • Ensure that design-related failure modes and logic problems (for complex electronics) are considered in the analyses, including FMEA and FTA

Specific responsibilities and activities for each project life cycle phase, and for each of the various roles, are provided under the Assurance Process tab. Each individual phase has a chart listing all roles and associated processes.

Communication between all parties is vital to ensure that the complex electronics are designed and assured to the required level of quality. Electronic designers have to make sure that system safety and quality assurance are aware of the complex electronics, especially when it is used as part of a safety or mission-critical subsystem. Quality assurance has to work with the electronic designers to tailor the assurance process to meet the risk and complexity of the project, system, or subsystem. Awareness of the presence of complex electronics is the first step to assuring the devices.

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NASA Official: Cynthia Calhoun
Last Updated: 07/31/2007