Digital Engineering Elevates NewSpace Success

2022-03-31  |  4 min read 

From streaming entertaining animal videos to making weekend plans based on an accurate weather forecast, satellites impact our everyday lives in ways ranging from large to small. New applications have been emerging at a quickening pace since the early 2000s, when the new Space Race started. “NewSpace” comprises many smaller, more powerful satellites in less-costly low Earth orbits (LEO). As launches or LEO orbits continue to increase, technology capabilities, features, and services also grow. To speed this process and assure that performance goals are met over the entire satellite mission, digital design techniques encompass new capabilities like model-based engineering.

Technology approaches that speed the design, manufacturing, and deployment process are needed to meet the growing demand for LEOs. According to ReportsnReports, “The LEO satellite market is projected to grow from USD 9.6 billion in 2021 to USD 19.8 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 15.5 %. LEO satellite systems hold a huge potential for satellite data service providers, small sat service providers, remote sensing service providers, technical service providers, and investors. The market is one of the most lucrative verticals of the space industry. Factors such as versatility, low cost, advanced mechanics, ease of assembly and launch, mass production, and short lifecycles have driven investments in the LEO Satellite Market. The amount of satellite data and the range of applications for that data will continue to grow in the future as new technologies develop and more satellites come online.”

It is possible and economically viable to provide a space-based infrastructure for traditional space applications and emerging applications such as radar and quantum key distribution. This capability has kicked off a NewSpace race, or gold rush, to deploy commercial infrastructure in reserved orbits. The goal is to provide services and create new downstream industries leveraging the data generated or transferred through these satellite networks.

Thanks to modern computing power, engineers can now build complex models that can interact with one another in an entirely digital environment. Sophisticated digital models, dubbed “digital twins,” are interchangeable with the physical version. They allow teams to quickly develop, test, and improve designs without significant investment and costly design cycles. 

The proper use of models within and across teams can accelerate development by enabling parallelism between groups. It also can inform decisions earlier in the development life cycle. This is particularly the case when the models are not static, but evolve through the application of realistic data and increasing parameters to improve realism. 

Typically, developers use modeling tools early in the process to define the mission and then design systems and components based on concept and objectives. By using a data-driven modeling approach at the concept stage, however, you gain a better understanding of capabilities and requirements. Confidence in performance grows as you build models based on real-life performance. As you build hardware based on those models, your ability to predict physical performance nearly equals a traditional life cycle moving into production. 

For greater insight into these technology advancements and their benefits, check out our new white paper: Accelerate Deployment of Space Missions Through Digitalization.