Spacecraft design

Updates from Use-It-Wisely’s Space Cluster

Our space researchers are developing a software which will allow those in the space sector to create a virtual model of a spacecraft, in terms of technical data, related simulations and 3D visualisations. This may be used by technical teams to quickly design a spacecraft according to customer needs. The aim of the research is that the collaboration tool may be used across the European space sector as a whole once it is fully developed and validated.

The space cluster of Use-It-Wisely, which is made up of Use-It-Wisely partners ALTEC, Thales Alenia Space and VASTALLA, are working on improving space IT software. The IT system developed by the cluster will have a massive impact on how space stakeholders collaborate with engineering teams developing not only products, but also services associated with the product or related to engineering services. The software will involve customers and stakeholders in the process and will give a quicker technical response to their needs. It will improve the collaboration process through:

  • Capturing and anticipating customer’s needs
  • Capturing customer’s feedback on proposed solutions
  • Understanding customer’s needs
  • Assisting in the redesign of operations
  • Providing, to a technically knowledgeable customer, easily interpreted and process worthy outputs (simulations and 3D visualisations)

Trial 1

During Trial 1, the space cluster partners analysed the existing data/tools in their individual companies in order to define the architecture of the system.

Figure 1 - Cluster 3 architecture in Trial 1

Figure 1 – Cluster 3 architecture in Trial 1

Trial 2

In Trial 2, the researchers focused on creating the components of the architecture from scratch and customising it, defining the basis for the communication process. Moreover, ALTEC began to define a new component of the architecture: the Mission Control Centre (MCC). This block of the architecture is very important during the configuration of a mission as it allows the definition of the launcher data, the depot data, the schedule of the Space-tug (Cluster 3 scenario) and the resources necessary for the ground segment.

Figure 2 - architecture tested during Trial 2

Figure 2 – architecture tested during Trial 2

Trial 3

During Trial 3, all of the tools were integrated and it was also possible to test the communication between most of them. ALTEC MCC was populated with real data which originated from a mission already completed or with data and parameters related to the components of a spacecraft. The results of Trial 3 were:

  • Sensible reduction of integration time using shared concepts (conceptual data modelling of interfaces) and shared model-to-model transformation rules
  • Sensible reduction of customer front-end preparation through the definition of services
  • Responding to a need using the collaborative environments
  • Collective access to technical data (and processed data) allowing time saving
  • The use of probes with clear semantics and conventions allowing a clear flow of information

(=> higher security, while maintaining collaboration)

Figure 3 - architecture tested in Trial 3

Figure 3 – architecture tested in Trial 3

Following the software’s most recent trial in July 2015, it was clear the architecture needed to be finalised in order to enable communication between the ALTEC side and TAS-I side (this was only simulated in Trial 3). Cluster 3 is currently working on incorporating both organisation’s data into the current software. This is an essential step in its development, for the collaboration tool to be used across the space sector as a whole. The software must be sufficiently flexible to incorporate different organisation’s data.

Partners aim to test the final version of the software by the end of June and to complete the final demonstration by the end of July. Following the results of the demonstration, the space cluster partners will plan how the results will be disseminated and exploited to both the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency.