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 http://www.swisscube-live.ch/ or visit http://swisscube.epfl.ch/ 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
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
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!