Optimising satellite design for digital engineering

As part of its work with small to medium enterprises in the Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) programme, a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority, CFMS is helping KISPE Space to develop the Open Source Satellite (OSSAT) structural design. Collaborating within the DETI programme enables early access to enhanced digital engineering capabilities for KISPE Space, whilst CFMS gets a “real-world” test case against which to validate new technologies.

KISPE Space’s vision is to use the same satellite structure on different missions and with different launch vehicles. The structure must also be optimised to avoid adding unnecessary mass to the satellite, which would increase launch cost. With such a variety of often conflicting requirements,  conventional design methods would require physical prototypes and repeated design iterations. As a result, the traditional design process is lengthy, consumes materials & resources, and demands significant funding.

CFMS is in an ideal position to generate solutions for KISPE Space, using a generative design optimisation approach. This uses digital engineering tools and methods to create multiple  different designs and test each one virtually against performance criteria. By automating this process using multi-objective optimisation (MOO), coupled with high performance computing, an optimised satellite structure is created faster.

The process starts with the creation of an inventory of satellite components and their key parameters (size, mass etc). With these components, a model of the satellite is constructed in an automated way and with minimum input requirements from a human operator.

This allows for a dramatic reduction of design time for any future mission requirements. The process of optimization is conducted algorithmically by varying the geometry (thickness, positions) of the structural elements, the manufacturing methods and materials used to make the structure, and the overall layout of components within the satellite.

The vast array of models so created are then tested against key environmental conditions, such as vibration and the forces experienced during launch, restrictions applied to centre of gravity and total mass etc. The end result will be a structural design that achieves the mission requirements.

An overall architecture design control system (ADCS) is also implemented to avoid having a single solution that fits all possible mission requirements at the cost of structural over-design and, critically, excessive mass. The ADCS may suggest a larger number of multi-mission baseline structures thus balancing recurring design cost and launch performance/cost. A stretch goal will be to include radiation shielding parameters into the structure optimization, which exploits work conducted by one of CFMS’ recent interns as part of their industrial placement in the CFMS Model Based Engineering team.

Originally developed in an ATI funded project (DAWS) for the generation of aircraft structures, the research with KISPE Space demonstrates how CFMS can transfer investment in other engineering domains to solve problems in the space sector. CFMS is assessing its portfolio of solutions for application to other challenges in space.

This article was first published on the CFMS website – with thanks for their contribution and participation in the DETI project.

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