Frisday 15th October: Day 3 SECESA and the dash to the airport

Being the 8:30 am speaker the morning after the conference dinner is a hard task! The audience was a little smaller and there were a lot more people nursing coffee cups but the day kicked off well. 

Open Simulation Data Management
Kjell Bengtsson (1), Keith Hunten (2) and Jochen Haenisch (1); (1) Jotne, (2) Lockheed Martin

As collaboration expands the need for standards becomes increasingly important. Concurrent design requires standards within a team but these standards are not necessarily transferable between teams. The increased use of concurrent design is generating large databases of models and the use of distributed concurrent design is generating a need for standard to allow the sharing of these databases.

This paper discussed standards, knowledge managemnet, the control of IP, security and access, and tracking. These issues are common to any industry trying to embrace collaboration.

Evolving Standardization Supporting Model Based Systems Engineering
Hans Peter de Koning (1) Massimo Bamndecchi (1) and Harald Eisenmann (2); (1) ESA ESTEC, (2) EADS Astrium

Following on from the previous paper Hans Pater presented an overview of the initiatives undertaken within the ECSS (European Cooperation for Space Standardization). This includes the “Engineering design model data exchange” and the Space system data repository”. These are currently technical memoranda within the European space community but are intended to evolve into standards in the future.

Building Skills in Concurrent Design: A Partnership Between Education and Industry
Naomi Mathers (1), Glanda Graham (2) and Michael Pakakis (1); (1) VSSEC, (2) Engineers Australia

I was supposed to be the last speaker of the workshop but unfortunately the travel agent couldn’t fix their mistake and I had to take the 10:00 pm flight from Zurich or wait another couple of days for the next available flight. This meant I had to leave Lausanne before my presentation was scheduled. Massimo was great and moved me up the program but I didn’t get to hear the other presentations in my session and I didn’t get to talk to people after I gave my presentation.

VSSEC started working with the ESA CDF back in 2003. The student program that grew out of this collaboration aims to excite students about maths and science but it also introduces them to system engineer and concurrent design. This student CDF program attracted the attention of Engineers Australia and work began to bring together education, industry and government to co-ordinate efforts and exchange information and ideas. The message that encouraging collaboration between education and industry produces education programs that are more relevant and exciting because they are using current information and data and as a result producing students with the desired skills was very well received.

Unfortunately as soon as my presentation finished I was running out the door and the long journey home began…….

I don’t know if any of this has been useful or interesting for anyone reading it but I know my mind is bursting with ideas and the people I met have opened up many opportunities for further collaboration. If anyone would like more information about anything I have mentioned in this blog or would like to find out more about VSSEC and what we do, please feel free to contact me .

Thursday 14th October: Day 2 SECESA

Day 2 of SECESA started with an overview of the Concurrent Design Facility at the EPFL Space Center. Over the past few years the number of university CDFs has increased dramatically. Prof. Ivanov discussed how the establishment of a CDF at the EPFL has not only supported the teaching of systems engineering and concurrent design, it has also supported collaboration between the university and industry and encouraged collaboration between the faculties within the university. The university is now looking to integrate its CDF with the ESA Open Concurrent Design Server (OCDS) to international encourage collaboration.

Concurrent Engineering at the International Space University
Paulo Esteves, ISU

The International Space University (ISU) promots an international, intercultural, interdisciplinary approach within it’s programs. This philosophy is well aligned with concurrent design approach.

When ESA upgraded the CDF at ESTEC it donated the original CDF to the ISU headquarters in Strasbourg, France. Student involvement with the ISU CDF is not only as users, they are also developing new applications and design processes. To date students have successfully developed and implimented design processes for missions such as remotes sensing and communications satellites and instruments such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR).  

Collaborative System Engineering usag at Thales Alenia Space Italia
Valter Basso (1), Mauro Rocci (1), Christian Bar (2) and Manuela Marello (2); (1) Thales Alenia Space Italia, (2) SSE

As projects become more complex, the tools that facilitate effactive collaborative become more important. The establishment of the CDF was a significant contribution. The limitations of a physical facility have been overcome by the Open Concurrent Design Server (OCDS), a web-based platform. The limitations of modelling and simulation are also being pushed.

Thales Alenia Space presented their Collaborative System Engineering (COSE) Centre and the VE open source platform called VERITAS (Virtual Environment Research in Thales Alenia Space) where virtual reality is being used to test virtual products and their virtual integration in both 1G and microgravity. The addition of the operability aspect has proven very effective. It was also good to hear that they recognised the potential of using these tools for increasing public awareness and supporting education.

Theoretical Foundations for the Concurrent Design Facility
Gwendolyn Kolfschoten (1), Arne Matthyssen (2) and Martin Fijneman (2); (1) Delft University of Technology, (2) J-CDS

This was a very interesting  presentation on a study that was done to evaluate the effectiveness of concurrent design. The study investigated the questions, “What is the added value of concurrent design?” and “To what extent does concurrent design support collaboration?”

The study used observation, a questionnaire and interviews with moderators and participants to develop a more detailed understanding of the role of various elements in the success of the CDF. It explored the process; the infrastructure; and the human factor. It was interesting to see that concurrent design demonstrated clear benefits in:
– the validity of the design
– rigor
– learning
– flexibility
– efficiency;
and that all the areas for improvement related to the human factor; quality of interaction; engagement; commitment to the process.

Keynote: Mark Adler
Recent Directions in Concurrent Engineering at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Team X

Mark Adler is the Chief Mission Concept Architect at JPL’s Team X, the equivalent of ESA’s CDF. In his keynote he gave a very frank analysis of the benefits and problems associated with concurrent design. Some of the key messages were:

– The benefit of reducing the time taken for preliminary design is good as long as it leads to the best design not just a design.
– The fixed schedule for a session can exclude experts because of availability
– Distributed studies are good but you have to be careful managing time zones; cultural differences; and clear communication
– There is an important role for non-concurrent distributed studies
– The dependance on Excel is limiting innovation
– Open source software development has an important role to play

Integrated Design Process for Conceptual Design of Space Systems in a Concurrent Environment
Ivo Ferreira and Paulo Gil; Instituto Superior Tecnico

This presentation was mind blowing! I love it when people really push the boundaries and aim for the best!

Concurrent design brings together people from many disciplines who work together to narrow in on a design. This paper explored how you could evaluate many designs at the same time to ensure you got the best design not just a design. The different disciplines in a concurrent design study often represent a complex system in themselves and the combination of disciplines increases the complexity further. The evaluation of multiple designs adds a level of complexity that can be overwhelming if not tackled with clear process, the use of appropriate software tools and people with the right skills and attitude.  If done well this approch could have significant benefits to mission cost and management.

After the end of the technical sessions I attended a demonstration of the Open Concurrent Design Server (OCDS). I really hope some Australian companies embrace this approach. As well as making the concurrent design software available, the OCDS is building a strong collaborative environment.

Tonight was the conference dinner. Lausanne is the home of the International Olympic Committee and the dinner was held at the Olympic Museum.

It was very interesting to wander around the exhibits and see the significant Australian presence. If only the space industry in Australia could have a small percentage of the sport budget!

Dinner gave me a good chance to talk to the only other Australian at the workshop. Unfortunately he is now working at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in the UK and has been tasked with establishing a CDF for the British Government, but he is still an Australian at heart and we discussed way in which he could support some of VSSEC’s education programs.

Education seems to be a good dinner topic and it was interesting to hear the different experiences of the people on our table. We had people from Japan, the Netherlands, the US, the UK, Germany and Australia. We should be very proud of our education system, and VSSEC won hands down for building skills for the industry.

Wednesday 13th October: Day 1 SECESA

The 4th International Workshop on System and Concurrent Engineering for Space Applications (SECESA) is being hosted by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL). In 2003 EPFL established a Space Centre, including a concurrent design facility, for their students. This Centre has strong industry support and in Sept 2009 it launched the first Swiss CubeSat. It has been operating for more than 380 days although after well exceeding its design life some of the subsystems are starting to degrade. You can track the spacecraft live at or visit for general information.

The workshop is organised by the ESA Concurrent Design Facility (CDF). The CDF is a state-of-the-art facility which allows a team of experts from several disciplines to apply the concurrent engineering method to the design of future space missions. It facilitates a fast and effective interaction of all disciplines involved, ensuring consistent and high-quality results in a much shorter time.

Over the years activity in this area has expanded and there are many new concurrent design facilities and new applications for this design methodology. As projects become more complex and multidisciplinary, it has been shown that concurrent design facilitates collaboration and clear communication between disparate groups in the initial design phase, streamlines the design process, ensures standards are met and helps deliver the project objectives on time and on budget.

In 2003 Michael Pakakis and Phillip Spencer from VSSEC visited ESA and spoke with the Head of the CDF, Massimo Bandecchi. This was the start of an ongoing relationship which generated an education program for secondary students based on the ESA CDF. This is the third SECESA I have attended and presented VSSEC’s programs that support the development of skills relevant to system and concurrent engineering. These workshops have been great for stimulating new ideas and expanding collaboration in this area. From the interest our programs generate it is also clear that we are on the right path.

After welcoming statements from EPFL and the ESA CDF there was a keynote address on the ATLAS experiment at CERN. Space missions are considered complex systems but WOW, this was a HUGE, COMPLEX, engineering challenge. It is amazing that such a huge instrument can be so sensitive. This international, multidisciplinary project also required careful management and integration of the various systems and service providers. It was an excellent introduction to the workshop and provided lots of food for thought.

I’m not going to provide a review of all the presentations but I will pick out a few that stood out for me. I’ll provide the paper title and authors so you can get additional information if you are interested.

Application of Lean Engineering Principles to Space Engineering
Kian Yazdi (1) and Torsten Bieler (2); (1) EADS Astrium and (2) ESA

Lean engineering is a collection of strategies, tools, technologies and behaviours that differentiate between value-adding and non value-adding activities with the objective of reducing non value-adding ones and increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

Three typical inefficiencies were identified and the evaluated in the context of lean engineering

–          Waste
–          Overburden
–          Variation

Once the inefficiencies are identified some of the lean engineering strategies were discussed

–          Initially mindset
–          Then behaviour
–          Then problems
–          Then tools/techniques

One of the overwhelming messages was that people and attitudes are key to lean engineering. Empowering people to take responsibility for waste management and encouraging collaboration is more effective than enforcing processes and procedures. The concurrent engineering approach supports lean engineering. It also encourages the use of key skills in the early phase of the design process to minimise waste at later stages. It was also clear that to prepare students for this type of working environment they need to be comfortable working in teams and capable of seeing the bigger picture.

Life Cycle Assessment in a Concurrent Design Environment
Tiago Soares; ESA

This was a preliminary study to investigate what strategies could be applied in the design phase to minimise the environmental impact of space missions. The scope of the study included materials, industry processing, programmatic and cost. It was found that the consideration of environmental aspects generated a lot of interest within the CDF but the evaluation of aspects such as the impact of manufacturing process could not be performed because the detailed data is not included in the existing database used for preliminary design. It was found that to perform this evaluation properly a new domain expert should be introduced with access to the relevant data.

The good news is that the environmental impact of space missions is not being ignored and that the existing design parameters of low mass, low volume, low power and low cost often produce the best environment solution.

As with most conferences the really interesting conversations happen during the meal breaks. By chance at lunch I sat with a group from JPL (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory). This group included members of Team X (JPL’s concurrent design team) and software designers and systems engineers from the Mars rover program. I was keen to hear about the Mars Science Laboratory but they seemed to be more interested in VSSEC’s rover and our educational programs.

Engineering a Service Oriented System: The Galileo Approach
Marco Lisi; ESA

Over the past few years it has been interesting to see focus move from technology to service. The increasing importance of the end user has implications for the design process. The use of concurrent engineering in the initial design phase supports this approach as the customer is involved in the entire process. However there are still many challenges. One of the challenges identified in the presentation is the ability to capture the different “views” of the system (technical, technological, operational…..) and to cope with evolving business and mission needs.

To address this challenge the following characteristics of a service oriented system were discussed

–          Software intensive
–          Capability based rather than platform based
–          Enterprise organisation (process based)
–          Organisation and governance (human factor)
–          Operational requirements are importanto
–          Quality of service
o   Reliability, availability, continuity
o   Safety
o   Security
o   Flexibility
o   Expandability
o   Interoperability

The discussion was obviously very lively because by the end of the day we were an hour and a half behind time. I signed up for the Thursday demonstration of the OCDS (Open Concurrent Design Server) so I finished at 6:30pm. The delegates who signed up for the Wednesday demonstration and staff from the CDF didn’t finish until 8:00pm.

I was invited to join the CDF team for dinner. We found a restaurant that served traditional Swiss food. This included cheese fondue and cooking large quantities of meat in a meat broth. I think this is a ploy by Swiss chefs to pass the work on to the customer. My thanks to everyone for a great night!

Tuesday 12th October: Transfer to Lausanne

A 4:30am wakeup call is never fun but what really woke me up was when I logged on to confirm that there had been no changes to my flights home. When I booked my flights the travel agent booked me on a flight that didn’t allow me time to give my presentation at the conference. Of course this was changed and a new itinerary was issued. Needless to say I was surprised to find I was still booked on the Friday night flight. A few quick emails were all I had time for before I had to leave for the station.

Thankfully the station wasn’t far from the hotel and the coffee shop was open. Armed with a good book and caffeine I settled in for the 7hr journey to Lausanne.

Lausanne is a beautiful city but it certainly isn’t flat! True to Murphy’s law my hotel was uphill from the station. I was very grateful to drop my all my bags at the hotel and use the remaining hours of sunlight to explore the city. A quick survey of the shop windows made it clear that I would NOT be doing any shopping in Lausanne!

Sunday 10th October: Technik Museum Speyer and the Buran

Today was a chance for me to express my inner space nerd. The Technik Museum Speyer is HUGE and like a candy shop for a technology lover. There is everything from planes, trains, automobiles, boats and submarines to musical organs and carousels.

The highlight of the museum was definitely the space exhibition and the Buran was fantastic. The Buran is the Russian version of the space shuttle. It was never put into operation but the Buran on display was built in 1984 and was used for testing gliding-flight and landing after reentry into the atmosphere.

By the end of the day I had walked around it, in it, seen it from the top, bottom and side and taken a HUGE number of photos.

The space exhibition was very comprehensive and also contained a Soyuz capsule, letters from Werner von Braun, artefacts from the Apollo missions and models of ATV, Columbus and the ISS.

Next I went wing walking on a 767. The Lufthansa 767 was mounted above the crowd and after exploring the inside of the plane you could walk out onto the wing. Definitely not the view I am accustomed to. I’m also not used to using a slide to disembark the aircraft but it was a lot more fun than the sky bridge.

I would definitely recommend the Technik Museum Speyer as a great place to spend a day.

Saturday 9th October: Hessenpark

After a week of space systems and operations it was time to take a break and stimulate the other side of my brain. Christian and Connie arranged a visit to Hessenpark. Hessenpark is a museum of German architecture. Rather than demolishing old houses they are disassembled and transported to Hessenpark where they are reconstructed and restored to their former glory. The ultimate medieval jigsaw puzzle! Below is an example of the before and after. Each of the red roofs represents a house waiting to be built. There are enough houses to keep them busy for MANY years to come.

It was a fascinating trip through history and a lovely way to spend a sunny Autumn day.

Friday 8th October: ESOC

ESOC (European Space Operation Centre) is where ESA operates its space craft and ground stations.

The first stop was the control room for Mars Express and Venus Express. One of the Space Operations Engineers explained the systems and procedures. VEGA was involved in the development of the control system and training of the spacecraft operators so this time I recognised what I was seeing on the screens.

It is always good to meet people who are passionate about their job but when your job is to control a spacecraft orbiting Mars it shouldn’t be hard to maintain the passion. Thomas was also pretty keen to see our Mission Control and Mars surface so an exchange visit was discussed.

Our next visit was the engineering model of the Rosetta spacecraft. Rosetta was launched on the 2nd March 2004. It will be the first spacecraft to undertake the long term exploration of a comet at close quarters. An engineering model is an exact duplicate of the spacecraft which allows engineers to test systems and new procedures on the ground before implementing them in space.

From Rosetta we toured all the various control rooms. ESA has many space missions being controlled from ESOC at any one time. As well as spacecraft operations rooms there is a ground station operation room where ESA’s ground stations around the world are controlled, including the ground station at New Norcia near Perth in Australia.

The final stop was the launch control room. Looking at the very long list of ESA launches I could only imagine the roller coaster of emotion that had been experienced in this room.

This was an excellent way to end my training at VEGA. I would like to thank Christian for being such an excellent teacher as well as a fantastic tour guide. Now the real work begins!

Monday 4th October – Thursday 7th October: STC Training at VEGA

All the bad weather from Prague was gone and the short walk to VEGA for my first day of training was bright and sunny.

The VEGA STC (Satellite Training Centre) is a simulation package that was developed to train ESA’s satellite operators. I first saw the software at the IAC in Valencia in 2006 and instantly recognised its potential for younger students. Christian has been very patient and the time has finally come when we are ready to use the software at VSSEC, so the time has come for me to do the Train the Trainer course. All I can say at this stage is stay tuned for some very exciting programs!

Even though the weekend was spent sightseeing Christian and I bored Connie to tears talking about work. The good thing is that we hit the ground running and the training went really well.

Before I started I was a little concerned that it had been a while since I had used the “Engineering part of my brain”. Thankfully it all came flooding back and we finished a day early. The best part about finishing early was that it left time to visit EUMETSAT and ESOC.

EUMETSAT is where the Control Centre for the European meteorology satellites is situated. I would like to thank Matt for such a comprehensive tour. I am under no delusions that I would be able to operate anything after my STC training but it certainly helped to understand what Matt was talking about and showing me.

As well as controlling the satellite all the data collection and processing is done at EUMETSAT before being distributed as a processed image.

Like any good space nerd I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have my photo taken with the 1:1 model of METEOSAT along with Christian. It’s a little bigger than FedSat.

From EUMETSAT we were travelling back in time again to Castle Frankenstein, although the castle decorations are less than historic! Halloween is approaching and Castle Frankenstein was being prepared for the occasion. Halloween is not a European tradition but the presence of American soldiers in Germany helped Castle Frankenstein embrace the tradition.

Sunday 3rd October: The Rheine Tour

Today we spent a very enjoyable day along the Rheine River. We took a river cruise to enjoy the full splendour of the valley from the water. The first thing that struck me was how steep the vineyards were. They were so steep that they still needed to be harvested by hand.

In between the vineyards were more castles, even some in the middle of the river. Within a couple of kilometres there are nearly 20 castles of varying sizes, styles and ages. Before I arrived Christian promised me castles and he certainly delivered! Many of them were built as tax collecting points and I suspect they were very profitable. The Rheine is still a major trade route through Europe. We saw lots of barges and the trains were constant but I suspect the government has more modern methods for extracting their share.

We got off the boat for lunch in a very sweet village that I can’t remember the name of. Lunch was again a huge affair. This time I had meat rolled in meat (I don’t think there are many vegetarians in Germany) and a glass of Riesling. I couldn’t visit the Rheine Valley and not sample the local specialty!

After lunch we returned to the car and then continued our journey by road. Toward evening we stopped at a Kloster Eberbach, a Monestary made famous by the Shaun Connery movie The Name of the Rose. Unfortunately by the time we arrived it was closed so I will need to put it on my list of places to go back to.

Saturday 2nd October: The Castle Tour

I still can’t upload photos so you need to use your imagination until the problem is fixed.

I am very lucky to have two such generous hosts. Today Christian and Connie took me on a castle tour of the Rheine Valley. The first stop was Auerbacher Castle. A bridal party was braving the cold for what I imagine will be stunning wedding photos. I was very glad for my scarf and jacket and hoped the bride didn’t spend her wedding night with frostbite.

Even though the castle was a ruin I got a real a sense of how hard life would have been. The view was spectacular but life was about defending your position and basic survival.

The next stop was Michelstadt. This was a fortified village and it was interesting to see that people now live in the guard houses in the wall. We started with lunch in a lovely restaurant. I chose a very nice traditional dish of sausage and sauerkraut but there was no way I could eat it all. In fact it was enough to keep me going until breakfast the next day.

After lunch we explored the village and enjoyed the French market.  It does play with your mind a bit to be at a French market in an historical German village talking about space!

On the way to the last castle on our list for the day we stopped to buy some milk. This sounds very boring but rather than going to the supermarket we went to a local dairy farm where you poured fresh milk into glass bottles. It is so good to see that there are still parts of the world where an honour system still works.

Next we were heading back in time again for a medieval festival at Alsbacher Castle. It was very easy to get into the spirit of the event because nearly everyone was dressed in medieval attire and there was plenty of music and merriment, we looked quite out of place in our modern attire.

We sampled the Mead and enjoyed the show, including a tar and feathering. We saw the victim later in the evening and he was still well encrusted. The lack of electric lighting helped to build the atmosphere and stop me being tempted by the handmade goods for sale.