Digital engineering for space


Spacecraft launched to space require remote operation by their very nature. Simulation tools have been developed widely across the world over the past 50 years. These simulation tools can vary greatly and can present a computer aided design (CAD) of the spacecraft, simulated satellite models used for thermal and structural analyses through to operations simulation tools. Many different tools are also used to monitor and operate spacecraft on a daily basis, including simulation tools where manoeuvres and other events can be simulated prior to performing these activities on the assets themselves. Many of these simulation tools are very well developed and suitable for specific applications, however many are not well integrated (although some may not benefit from such an integration).

Australia is currently producing a small number of satellites, typically CubeSats, which are bespoke. Developing sophisticated and/or integrated simulation tools for a small number of bespoke satellites, where typical contract values are small (in comparison to the global sector) and customers do not yet see the value, is difficult.


Many simulation tools, such as “spacecraft digital twins” are starting to be developed by large organisations where they see value in these activities (e.g. constellations like OneWeb have developed a satellite digital twin, large satellite manufacturers have developed more sophisticated tools to aid in integration activities and NASA is performing research in the area).

Increased simulation tools to support activities such as on-ground integration and testing and on-orbit testing and the integration of the various existing simulation tools may provide value to Australia’s space sector as it grows and more satellites are manufactured here.

These simulation tools may also be useful to support other space activities.


1. Research bodies and academia to investigate the value of “digital twins” within the space sector, when applicable with a priority given to bespoke manufacture of smaller satellites and its componentry, in conjunction with industry, with the investigation to be coordinated by SIAA, SIBA-GITA, FrontierSI and SmartSat CRC.