The future: a Design Engineering Assistant for space mission design
The future: a Design Engineering Assistant for space mission design (Credit: Kim Carney / Fred Hutch News Service).

The exciting idea of a Design Engineering Assistant (DEA) that can support decision-making for complex engineering has been contemplated by researchers since pretty much the start of the computer age. With the advent of powerful cloud computing and advanced computational intelligence methods, Expert Systems like a DEA are rapidly emerging as a reality. The literature is replete with examples of how a DEA would benefit the engineering process, helping to reduce cost, mitigate risk, and identify bottlenecks at the preliminary design stage. Not really sure what this means? Think more IBM Watson for engineering, and less Clippy.

With this in mind, I am excited to announce that satsearch has partnered with University of Strathclyde (Strathclyde), RHEA Group, Airbus Defence & Space (Airbus DS), and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) to design, implement, and evaluate a DEA for the early design of space missions. This project is being led by Strathclyde within the Intelligent Computational Engineering (ICE) lab, under ESA’s Networking/Partnering Initiative, and aims to deliver the design and implementation of a DEA that can demonstrate the ability to support systems engineers during feasibility studies. The DEA will provide support for initial input estimation, provide assistance to experts by answering queries related to previous design decisions, and offer new design options to explore. The ultimate goal of the DEA is not to replace the human in the loop, but rather enhance human perception of the problem and the design space. To achieve these goals, the project is employing the latest in Natural Language Processing (NLP), machine learning, knowledge management, and Human-Machine Interaction (HMI) methodologies.

Our role within this project is to support the development of the knowledge management system, by providing a structured supply chain dataset that feeds into the knowledge graph generated by researchers at Strathclyde. Our bottom-up approach towards the development of an ontology for space systems is highly complementary to the work being conducted during the ESA NPI. By working on digitalization of the global space supply chain, we can plug our data directly into this project, opening the door to exciting developments for advanced space systems engineering through Data-Driven Design (D3). This approach, which we have dubbed Integrated Mission Design, will be detailed in future blog posts.

The initial results of this project will be presented at SECESA 2018 in Glasgow from 26th to 28th of September.

If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to contact me directly.

The official announcement can be found on the University of Stratchlyde ICE LAB website.

Ad astra!