Making Systems Development Mission-Aware: Here’s Why

Digital Engineering transformation is all the rage today. It is helping conventional industries establish a development lifecycle with improved agility, quality, and efficiency. The benefits of this transformation are more pronounced in industry sectors dealing with complex systems and longer development times like defence and space technology. Clearly, the transformation is proportionally (even exponentially) more difficult.

At the center of any system development in sectors like aerospace and defence is a Mission.

In the context of a system, it is the delivery or fulfillment of time-dependent (often time-critical)  functional and operational objectives – with the desired performance and in a reliable manner.

It being at the core of systems development, the mission is often ‘reasonably’ disconnected from the systems design process in our current approach.

The current paradigm

The following schematic from AGI (Analytical Graphics Inc.) describes the status quo- a typical lifecycle, with breaking model threads, model re-creations, and disconnected workflows:

Digital Mission Engineering
Systems Development Lifecycle in the current paradigm
(Credits: AGI/Digital Mission Engineering)

Let’s quickly go over the problems with this approach:

ISOLATED: Engineers spend more time isolated from the latest mission data than with it.

UNFORESEEN: Deficiencies in mission validation revealed only during reviews, or worse- during integration.

NON-PERSISTENT: Incorporating mission data in systems design is asynchronous and is not preserved. Breaking threads introduce gaps in the information. At any time, different system/subsystem engineers working with different versions of mission data.

UN-ADAPTIVE: Changes in mission or system design are not gracefully adapted. Reconfiguration routine is chaotic.

DISTRIBUTED and DISCONNECTED: Data, models, simulations, and documentation is spread into numerous files with manual versioning.

MANUAL LABOUR: Data hand-typed between simulation tools and excel sheets, forwarded by emails, managed manually into databases and documentation.

These problems make the process slow, susceptible to errors and inefficient.

Solution: Digital Mission Engineering and DDSE

Digital Mission Engineering emphasizes on a mission model that captures the mission objectives while connected to the broader digital ecosystem as mission requirements change. This is the perfect complement to a  data-driven hardware model.

Our customers in the space industry have already realized the benefits of data-driven hardware design.

Having the whole engineering team engaged in interacting and exchanging information over a single system has made a big difference to the typical work of having many separate excel files and documents maintained by people sitting on different desks. 
– Stefano Redi, Luxspace

Now, we have something even better in store for the engineers.
Consider this semi-automated workflow :

Digital Mission Engineering + DDSE
Integrated design update workflow with Digital Mission Engineering and DDSE (Valispace)

By making bindings/connections between your project data on the Valispace platform and your mission environment, with just a click you are able to update the dependent quantities (e.g. updated spacecraft dry mass) into your mission simulation and repeat mission calculations. With a single click you are then able to push all the updated parameters (e.g. updated Delta-V) and relevant datasets (e.g. body-fixed sun angle on solar panel) to linked components and valis in Valispace, where DDSE shows it’s magic!

As soon as the updated parameters and datasets are pushed to Valispace, design recalculations are triggered in all the dependent components (e.g. power generated from the sun-angle datasets). On concluding recalculation, Valispace automatically verifies the requirements and validates the new design iteration. Subsequently, the updated mission/system design data is immediately available to all the project members and all the linked documentation is updated.

Have you noticed? It only took a few clicks!
This is how easy it becomes to accommodate changes in the system design that affect the mission and vice-versa.

Isn’t this how it should be? 

With our industry partner AGI’s proven digital mission engineering platform – STK (Systems Tool Kit) and Valispace’s DDSE platform, we are laying the foundations of this automated engineering process with native integration.

It will make sure that mission engineering is closely integrated into the digital engineering block. Correspondingly, your project lifecycle management will look like this with a persistent mission thread and an authoritative source of truth for the project data connected to models and requirements across the lifecycle.

Digital Mission Engineering
Lifecycle in the Digital Mission Engineering paradigm
(Credits: AGI/Digital Mission Engineering)

Why is it important?

The space industry is prepared to drive the major space technology and applications of the future. In order to do this, companies are needed to deliver systems of ever-increasing complexity that meet higher capability expectations in a shorter time.

In this context, this automated digital infrastructure can be elementary to systems development. It can enable industry frontrunners to reduce the delivery-time for novel technologies by significantly reducing redundant complexities that hinder it today.
In a broader spectrum, it can enable project management of complex systems with increased efficiency by saving up on precious time, effort and costs.

“One of the biggest driving factors for reducing development time and cost of these complex hardware projects is to have an iterative approach, where the project phases and engineering disciplines are parallel and connected.”
– Louise Lindblad, Valispace

Are you curious yet?

Check out our preliminary integration between Valispace and AGI’s STK showing a glimpse of this integrated approach using the APIs.

We are now developing a plugin that brings the integration much closer to the STK mission environment. It will empower projects to preserve system-mission relationship along the lifecycle and realize our automated workflow described here.

At the upcoming International Astronautical Congress in Washington, meet the Valispace team to see this automated design workflow in action.

Check out AGI’s Digital Mission Engineering portal for some great resources.

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