The Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) is a state-of-the-art facility equipped with a network of computers, multimedia devices and software tools, which allows a team of experts from several disciplines to apply the concurrent engineering method to the design of future space missions.
The CDF’s infrastructure, methodology, tools and processes allow teams of experts from different engineering disciplines to work in close coordination in the same place, at the same time, to develop complex designs very quickly -- typically, in a matter of a few weeks compared to the duration of standard pre-Phase A design period, which is several months.
Concurrent Engineering provides a collaborative, co-operative, collective and simultaneous engineering working environment.
It embodies team values of cooperation, trust and sharing in such a manner that decision-making is done by consensus, involving all perspectives in parallel, from the beginning of the product life-cycle.
The concurrent engineering approach is based on five key elements:
Other European design centres have been created on the basis of the best experiences coming out of the ESA CDF.
Ideas for new space missions and systems are technically and programmatically assessed in ESA’s state-of-the-art Concurrent Design Facility. Since spacecraft design is based on mathematical models, which rely on specific types of software, all available in the CDF, our user teams have the unique opportunity, throughout a study, to define and exchange a consistent set of design parameters with other specialists and see how any changes to any one of them can immediately impact any other. In this way, numerous design iterations can be performed faster, and different design options can be easily analysed and compared.
All the rooms can be linked via an audio/visual network allowing data to be shared on any or all of the screens in the other rooms. All the rooms also have full video conference facilities via ISDN or IP and the ability to record the presentations and video conference via an inbuilt recording system. A 3D Printing facility allows teams to examine tangible prototypes of the systems that are being designed. The CDF is staffed with experienced engineers drawn from various domains and led by specialised System Engineers, who fulfil the role of Team Leaders. A number of junior engineers and trainees get on-the-job training during CDF studies.
A 10-inch display at each station is used to control a PC or laptop and to pull data from various sources. Users can employ their own laptops or use in-room computers, either of which can be displayed on the in-room screen if selected by the moderator. Each workstation also has a camera and microphone to enable a more inclusive experience for remote study participants.
New mission concepts assessment
Space systems trade-offs and options evaluation
New technology validation at system/mission level
Payload instrument conceptual designing
Reviews of industrial phase A studies
Definition and consolidation of requirements
Education and training
It is amazing to see the number and diversity of applications to which concurrent engineering is applied in Europe. My understanding is that the CDF has inspired the majority of them
Mark Adler, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
European industry and national space agencies are using the CDF as a source of inspiration and a guide to creating their own facilities and shaping their own design processes. In support of this, ESA’s CDF is open to provide advice and share our experiences with the goal of assisting European partners in improving their processes.
Traditionally, engineers faced with the task of designing a complex new system or architecture work in sequence, one step at a time, passing the design parameters and data from one subsystem specialist to the next, without any interaction with the rest of the team during the process. The CDF enables ‘concurrent engineering’ methodology based on teamwork and focused on a common design model that evolves iteratively in real time as the different subsystem experts provide their contributions. Designers and customers discuss and consolidate requirements and take decisions by consensus on the spot to produce an optimised design within the cost and programmatic constraints.