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ESA’s Concurrent Design Facility completes fifty studies


The ESA Concurrent Design Facility has completed fifty design studies and reviews since its opening as an experimental facility in 1999. Work is now under way to make the software developed for this facility available to European space industry and space organisations.

Many candidate space missions now take advantage of the concurrent engineering capabilities offered by the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) at ESA-ESTEC to reduce the duration of their preliminary design study from the several months required by traditional methods to just a few weeks.

Real-time interaction between engineering disciplines in the CDF not only shortens the design cycle, it also increases design quality, offering better decision making and risk management and providing improved specifications for use in subsequent project phases.

The CDF transitioned from an experimental facility to an operational unit in 2000, a year after its inception. Since its foundation, the CDF has performed design studies on space missions, systems and instruments for various ESA directorates. The studies have covered space science, astronomy and planetary exploration missions, Earth observation satellites, International Space Station and human spaceflight activities, as well as launch and (re-)entry vehicles. The CDF has also hosted design sessions for European academic institutions, targeted at both student space projects and more general training in concurrent engineering.

The ESA CDF has become a reference centre in Europe for the application of concurrent engineering methodology to the design of space systems. Details of the methods and models on which the ESA CDF is based have been requested by several of the Agency’s institutional partners as a basis for the creation of their own facilities. A preliminary version of the core software has already been delivered to several sites.

The future: Europe-wide collaboration

The task of turning the ESA CDF software suite into a product suitable for distribution to both institutional and industrial partners is under way. Further validation of the design model is being performed, additional modelling language, design tool and engineering database interfaces are being created and an updated user interface is being implemented.

Once the product creation effort is completed and a helpdesk and a maintenance scheme are in place, a wider distribution of the software is planned. It is intended that the software will be made available to ESA’s institutional and industrial partners through a yet to be selected open licensing scheme. It is hoped that wide availability, combined with the use of a common data model, will encourage and contribute to the creation of a Europe-wide collaborative environment for the design of space missions and systems using concurrent engineering methods.

Massimo Bandecchi | alfa
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