Cory Tubbs, a project engineer with Environment One, knew exactly where to turn when he ran into a technical glitch with a capacitor in the field: the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP).

Environment One is a manufacturer and provider of products for use in operating sewer and utility systems. One of the grinder pumps that Environment One manufactures had a problem with an electrolytic capacitor on the control panel. Tubbs suspected they were using a part that was outside its specified parameters.

“We needed to go through a research process to find a viable replacement for this component,” said Tubbs. “Because SATOP had helped us with a problem in 2007, I knew I wanted to work with them and hopefully have access to the same engineer. I was confident that this situation was right up his alley.”

SATOP provides free technical assistance to small businesses with engineering challenges through the expertise of the program’s Alliance Partners, which consist of more than 30 aerospace companies, universities and national laboratories involved in the U.S. Space Program.

Tubbs filed a Request for Technical Assistance (RTA) with SATOP’s New York office and Madi Kalibala, senior project engineer with SATOP-NY assigned the RTA to Fernando Amaton, an engineer with MEI Technologies in Houston, TX, a SATOP Alliance Partner and the same engineer Tubbs had worked with in the past.

Amaton analyzed the component, confirmed lifespan calculations and recommended a longer lasting replacement for the external conditions in which the capacitor was being used. He then provided Environment One with the analytical tools they would need to go through the selection process for a new component.

“He told us what to look for, how to qualify basic components and calculate the expected life of the part relative to the environment we would be using it,” explained Tubbs. “Obviously, working with an expert who could quickly present every option to us was a big time savings. We may have gotten to this information eventually; however, since it is Amaton’s forte, he could give it right to us.”

Thanks to SATOP and Alliance Partner MEI Technologies, Environment One will be able to confidently plan support for the product, determine component replacement cycles and establish warranties. Ultimately, Environment One will save money on support costs and increase sales due to increased reliability.

“Working with SATOP again met all my expectations,” said Tubbs. “We were able to get relevant, cost-free information that was very useful and allowed us to move forward in a timely manner. Plus, when we need to make a decision to change a part in the field, it helps to be able to tell customers that a NASA-affiliated engineer made the recommendation. You are confident that you have the right fix.”