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As NASA prepares to return to the Moon in 2024, they are looking at a much different mission than just going for a walk.  The next time humanity reaches the moon, the goal will be to set-up sustained human exploration to prepare for the next step in our journey into our solar system – Mars.

To do this, NASA is working with commercial space ventures around the world to create the infrastructures needed to sustain life, transport, and commercial operations on the only natural satellite of the Earth. In this spirit, the Artemis Accords have established an international framework for space exploration, with Luxembourg as a founding member. But the Artemis programme is just one exciting element of a new space race – one Luxembourg is familiar with.

In the last few decades, technology innovation has made it possible for more and more commercial operations to enter the space sector. And as aerospace technology evolved, so did design. Concurrent Engineering is a design methodology that is replacing the traditional sequential design practices. In this new approach, engineers work together in parallel on the same project, rather than consecutively. This offers vast benefits in terms of costs, schedule, and leads to more accurate designs. It is a critical enabler for the NewSpace sector, but also for more traditional space players like ESA and NASA in early planning and design of large-scale projects like the Artemis programme.

A Swiss Army Knife of Space System Design

Dr. Loveneesh Rana, Head of the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF-LU) at the University of Luxembourg, teaches Interdisciplinary Space Master (ISM) students to work under this new collaborative approach to design satellites, spacecrafts, and much more.

“I envision the CDF-LU like a sophisticated ‘Swiss Army knife’ of space system design. As the knife can become a different tool for various situations, our facility’s configuration can also be changed depending on the desired application, be it designing a spacecraft, planning the architecture of a space system, conducting feasibility studies, or strategic forecasting, to name but a few” says Rana. “Our Concurrent Design Facility can be used in a vast range of design applications: from designing a single satellite to an entire lunar establishment akin to NASA’s Artemis program,” he adds.

The underlying concept is easy to understand: design is the most important phase of product development – and as any creative process, it can be done in a variety of ways. Using a collaborative approach right from the beginning helps improve the entire process, leading to better products. In fact, decisions taken at the design stage influence 80% of the product lifecycle costs. This is also the reason why the CDF-LU is particularly apt to be used for feasibility studies – assessing the requirements of space missions even 30 years into the future – to support top-level decision making.

Luxembourg, do you read me? Over.

At the moment, two cohorts of ISM students are using the CDF under the supervision of Dr. Rana to learn satellite design and subsystems engineering. “Due to its modularity, the CDF is also planned to be used as a mission control room to simulate a mission on the Moon – in our case, the Lunalab,” says Rana.

Soon, the students will have another exciting chance to apply the knowledge they gained in class. “We are excited to be selected and participate in the next ESA Concurrent Engineering Challenge in 2021. I look forward to seeing our students apply their knowledge in real-time practical mission design scenarios, and collaborate with other universities to design future space missions,” concludes Rana.

Want to know more? Discover the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF-LU) of the Interdisciplinary Space Master.