Advanced Simulation for Spacecraft Engineering

Manage the complexity of spacecraft systems, structures and mechanisms, and support advanced design processes throughout the spacecraft development

Stringent weight requirements and functional operations under extreme environmental conditions are crucial challenges when designing spacecraft systems. Full functionality has to be guaranteed and damage to components must be avoided during the spacecraft’s entire lifecycle. Moreover, due to the complexity and the cost of the design, there is not much room for prototyping. So whereas in other industries one would test a prototype, in space industry, the test object is often the real thing.

Virtual prototyping and virtual testing are requirements for the space industry, because failure is not allowed and physical testing can be very difficult and extremely expensive. Thanks to decades of experience in 3D and 1D multi-domain simulation, we are able to provide comprehensive computer-aided engineering (CAE) solutions for companies involved in spacecraft engineering.

1D Space System and Control Simulation

Our scalable mechatronic modeling tools allow you to functionally develop spacecraft systems and components in early design stages. Our tools contain dedicated libraries for detailed component modeling, including multiphysics behavior, which is critical for the design of the propulsion system or the launcher cryogenic system. Components can be integrated into a larger systems and the overall performance can be optimized by adding controls. Such full-system mechatronic simulation guarantees a more reliable and safer design in a much shorter time.

3D Space Structure and Acoustic Virtual Testing

During prelaunch and launch, the space system and its payload experience extreme structural and acoustic loading. It is crucial that all components of the system and all equipment can withstand those forces without being damaged. Our dedicated 3D simulation solutions provide both linear and nonlinear structural analysis of components such as tanks, launchers and satellites. The structural models can be excited by realistic load conditions, and acoustic loading on lightweight structures and satellites can be investigated. By virtually coupling these structures to the environmental noise, calculations can be done to predict vibration and stress responses, as well as acoustic or vibration fatigue. Common applications include:

  • Launcher, tank and satellite structures
  • Launcher, tank and satellite loads
  • Virtual acoustic testing for vibration and stress response
  • Virtual acoustic testing for acoustic/vibration fatigue
  • Pyroshock
  • Virtual shaker testing
  • Coupled load analysis

3D Space Mechanism Simulation

Scientific, earth observation and telecommunications missions require the deployment of antennas, solar arrays and other appendages that need to be stowed during launch. The need for larger deployable structures forces engineers to study more and more complex mechanical systems in the early phases of the design, as well as during their operational life. This scenario leads to the necessity of simultaneously evaluating, under a large number of mechanical parameters, the exact 3D kinematics, the mechanical loads, stresses and vibrations, large amplitude motion and multibody flexible dynamics in the space environment and on-ground testing. The most common applications for 3D simulation of space mechanisms are:

  • Solar panel deployment
  • Instrument and mechanical devices
  • Deployment of complex space structures
  • Mechanical devices on re-entry vehicles
  • Inflatable structures
  • Correlation

Thermal Simulation

Spacecraft structures experience extreme temperature variations during their lifecycle, which can have dramatic consequences if damage occurs. The propulsion system holds very cold liquid in the tanks and gets heated when the spacecraft is launched or changes direction. The nozzle is subjected to very high temperature and pressure, while tanks of liquid propellants are at cryogenic temperatures. Liquid rocket engines are an extremely important component, and the extreme conditions that they encounter must be accounted for in their design process. You need to properly assess the heat fluxes circulating through conduction, convection and mutual radiation. Our 3D simulation solutions allow you to analyze the thermo-mechanical impact of those conditions on the spacecraft system.

Hypersonic re-entry of space vehicles or capsules in the atmosphere is a complex process, due to the enormous amount of heat generated by air friction. Ablative materials are used as thermal shields, dissipating the heat via a pyrolysis process and keeping the temperature level in them at an acceptable level. Our solution has been specifically developed to simulate this kind of phenomena and accurately predict the effectiveness of the shield.

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