29th April 14:51
etter, Faster Spacecraft Designs: New Software System Offers Promise Of NASA-Wide Collaboration
Better, Faster Spacecraft Designs: New Software System Offers Promise
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
News release: 06-068
Marshall Center engineers use a suite of design tools called PARSEC,
short for the Preliminary ****ysis of Revolutionary Space Exploration
Concepts. Even at NASA, host to some of the brightest engineering
the term "collaborative engineering" might not elicit excitement until
you imagine its possibilities -- better spacecraft designs within a
shorter turnaround time.
Thanks to a recently launched NASA software system, more efficient
mission planning soon could be a reality. Developed by a team of
engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.,
the new system was created to support the NASA design teams charged
engineering the spacecraft of tomorrow - advanced vehicles to realize
the Vision for Space Exploration. The vision plans for the return to
moon, human missions to Mars and exploration of the rest of the solar
The suite of design tools is called PARSEC, short for the Preliminary
****ysis of Revolutionary Space Exploration Concepts. It enables
engineers to share design ideas, access the same highly technical
information and see the latest test results -- all from their desktop
"By evaluating more concepts within a shorter turnaround time, we can
review more options early on" said Rob Adams, the Marshall Center
engineer who led the software-development activity. "And by evaluating
concepts in greater detail in the early stages, we can address
problems more quickly in the design cycle, which saves time and money."
On an infinitely more complex scale, designing spacecraft is like
assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle. To develop a single new spacecraft,
numerous sub-systems must be conceptualized, developed, tested and
integrated into the final vehicle to ensure a perfect fit.
Each engineer is responsible for a select number of sub-systems ranging
from electrical to life-support. But to determine whether or not their
sub-system is the right one for the job, they must evaluate that system
on a global level. They must ask themselves, "How does this fit with
other systems?" and "How does this fit with the spacecraft as a whole?"
The foundation of PARSEC is a central database. NASA engineers across
the country can tap into it for up-to-the-minute data from colleagues.
Armed with better and more comprehensive information, the engineers can
evaluate design concepts earlier in the vehicle design process.
The cycle is self-perpetuating, Adams said, because these early
evaluations also are input into the system, fueling better
decision-making later in the spacecraft-design process. The system also
closes the gap sometimes left in traditional concept and architecture
mission studies, which often have fewer ****ytical details and little
continuity between individual studies.
"We look for PARSEC to be a valuable resource not only for Marshall
Space Flight Center, but other NASA centers as well," said Ed Threet,
the lead of the systems engineering team within the Advanced Concepts
Office. "It has been instrumental in completing advanced design studies
for nuclear propulsion spacecraft and most recently in Lunar
Architecture definition studies supporting the Vision for Space
In addition to data input from engineers across NASA, PARSEC includes
design tools and avenues for discussion groups among engineers and
scientists -- enabling seasoned design professionals to share insights
and further fine-tune the software features.
"Our team intends to produce the best conceptual designs possible in
shortest amount of time," Adams said. "In doing so, we have already
reached revolutionary improvements in time and accuracy. We expect to
realize even higher improvements in the future as we collaborate with
our colleagues around the country."
The developers also see potential for the technology to benefit
and other governmental agencies, particularly organizations that depend
on engineering and manufacturing expertise. Currently, all PARSEC
tools are limited to government and affiliated contractor personnel
only. More information about PARSEC is available on the Web at: