• RHEA leads consortium to identify and model thermal engineering processes that would benefit from digitalization in support of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) transition to digital continuity.
  • The 18-month project will define an ontology (vocabulary) for thermal engineering within the space domain to complement the central Space System Ontology that is currently under development.

A consortium led by RHEA System S.A. has won a contract from ESA to identify thermal engineering processes within the space sector that would benefit from digitalization, and produce a domain-specific ontology, or vocabulary, to support those processes. This will complement the Space System Ontology (SSO) that is being developed to provide a common vocabulary for space projects, to enable end-to-end digitalization.

ESA has commissioned a series of projects to develop ‘Universes of Discourse’, or ontologies, for different domains of engineering expertise. In the Digitalisation of Space System Thermal Engineering project, the RHEA consortium will define a Universe of Discourse for thermal engineering, which impacts every spacecraft subsystem. They will develop Conceptual, Logical and Physical Data Models to support processes that require digitalization. These will then be tested in two use cases: heater sizing and data exchange; and mapping of telemetry data.

The project consortium comprises RHEA as prime, OHB and DEKonsult. RHEA has extensive experience in conceptual modelling and the SSO, with the consortium providing expertise in space thermal system modelling, system engineering tool development and underlying standards.

Sam Gerené, RHEA’s Competence Area Lead for Concurrent Design and MBSE, said: “Our strategy in this project is to focus on letting machines do what they do best in order to free up time for thermal engineers to do what they do best, such as finding creative solutions, anticipating and responding to change requirements, taking informed decisions and explaining relevant information in human readable ways. We are excited to be leading this project for ESA, as the outcome will provide an important addition to the Space System Ontology to extend digitalization further across the space domain.”

Thermal data is already heavily digitalized, but the preparation, exchange and application of thermal information involves many manual steps and remains largely based on documents. The issue is that thermal engineering touches every spacecraft subsystem, requiring information to be shared between many different disciplines within organizations as well as with customers, suppliers and operators, and a document-based approach can be relatively slow and more prone to errors. This project will support ESA as it moves towards an end-to-end digital process for space missions.

Image: Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) © ESA