Modelling and Analysis for Mission SuccessWhen planning for the complexities of space missions, state-of-the-art mission modelling is paramount to proper preparation. Satellites form a critical part of our global telecommunication infrastructure, robots carry out simple tasks on the international space station, and spacecraft manning. The complexity and technical nature of these space missions is astounding - relying on the very best tools, technology, and minds to succeed. As the space mission capabilities advance, so do their complexities. Testing and validating mission concepts and systems using the technology of yesterday is becoming increasingly more difficult. Space Mission modelling using simulation is developing rapidly alongside the complex challenges of today and tomorrow’s space missions. This technology has vast applications when it comes to space mission rehearsal, training, and sensor modelling.
Satellite ModellingSatellites are essential tools for meteorology, defence, navigation, communication, and space exploration. Their ability to operate effectively and safely is absolutely paramount to operations around the world. The installation and maintenance of these satellites have to be handled with extreme care, caution, and thorough planning. Satellite modelling is a critical component of mission preparation. Their main aim is to evaluate performance at a system level. They also help with budget control as the price can easily build up in space missions. Considering all of these factors, satellite modelling must be robust at every level. Satellites have to be able to withstand the harsh environment of space and maintain acceptable internal conditions. Heat dissipation and magnetic fields are just some of the conditions that you need to consider. The magnitude of these factors depends on the mission and payload requirements of a specific satellite. Modelling is useful as a means to perform thermal, structural, and magnetic analysis, alongside orbit propagation tools, to give engineers the information needed to make important changes before mission launch. Mission support teams rely on modelling tools to provide realistic environmental boundaries as a basis for these tweaks and changes. Sensor geometry, satellite orbit, and altitude variations also need to be carefully considered, along with Earth’s rotation, and relief. Satellite modelling must be able to compensate for distortions and complex interactions between all these areas and many other conflicting factors.
Modelling ToolkitsScientists and engineers have a number of modelling tools at their disposal, all forming a vital toolkit for successful space operations: ● Orbit determination tools give detailed orbit analysis support for the lifecycle of a satellite and its tracking system. ● Conjunction analysis tools determine how the launch of an object into space is affected by other orbiting objects. ● Space environment and effects tools to evaluate the effects of the space environment on a spacecraft. These effects include the high levels of debris that are now in orbit. Failure to consider their trajectories could lead to severe mission complications. Equipped with detailed data and analysis from satellite modelling, space mission teams can rest assured every factor and scenario has been through rigorous testing before launch.
Role of Simulation Software and Satellite ModellingSimulation software gives engineers and various other mission support members further tools for satellite modelling. They can help in power and fuel budgeting, satellite orbit and constellation analysis, and manoeuvre planning, along with analysing and visualising complex systems with dynamic datasets in 4D. Modelling simulations and analysis that use powerful data processing are replicating the conditions of space for satellite analysis. These simulations can support mission delivery at launch, ground station and satellite level. They can take in a multitude of parameters, such as the amount of power generated from solar resources and complex astrophysics, to calculate and run simulations on a satellite’s orbit. Modern simulations can even point out the precise periods where a satellite can communicate with the ground. All this data is considered when creating an optimal mission profile for satellite launch and maintenance. Other replication and modelling possibilities include the size of the satellite, through to finer details such as the on-board computer and electrical interfaces. This allows greater design and testing tools of the actual satellite payload when simulating orbit paths. With orbit and payload testing simulation being carried out together, data can be given to mission owners on whether design improvements are required before proceeding to the next steps. These tools reduce the time it takes to design and qualify space missions for launch, reducing costs and freeing up vital resources.
Lifecycle integrated modelling and simulationFor systems to survive long periods of time in space and achieve complex missions, lifecycle integrated modelling and high-fidelity simulation technologies are being rolled out. They have various applications in analysing and evaluating system design to deal with the demands of space exploration. These include several different types of modelling such as:
1. Coupled and integrated physics-based modellingTesting large systems on earth is not always possible. To realistically simulate these tests, you need physical realistic models of scientific phenomena, instruments, and spacecraft. These have to account for various margins and uncertainties and equip engineers with associated risks and grounds for system improvement.
2. Trade space explorationTrade space exploration technologies use various modelling methods to help develop space systems. They must model these systems against the following parameters to achieve mission success:
- Performance and operation
- Visualisation for design decisions