Engineered products and systems can involve thousands of components, subsystems, systems, and systems of systems that must work together intricately. Ansys software simulates all these pieces of the puzzle and their functional relationships to each other, and increasingly to their environments.
The success of a mission can hinge on the functionality of one component. Consider the launch of a satellite; once in orbit, it cannot be recalled. For missions like these, there are no second chances. Simulation is critical throughout the entire systems engineering process to ensure that every component – whether part of the payload design, launch system, satellite deployment, space propulsion system, astrodynamics, or onboard systems – will fulfill the mission. But how can you be sure of that if you don’t also simulate the operational environment — that is, the mission itself?
Enter Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI) — the newest member of the Ansys family. AGI is the pioneer of digital mission engineering, which extends engineering simulation into the operational environment.
"Ansys' acquisition of AGI will help drive our strategy of making simulation pervasive from the smallest component now through a customer's entire mission," said Ajei Gopal, president and CEO of Ansys in the announcement press release. "It will also expand the use of simulation in the key aerospace sector, where the stakes can be at their highest levels. We are excited to welcome the expert AGI team – and to expand the reach of their world-class technology to industries outside of aerospace, including for autonomy and 5G applications."
In the Beginning There Were Satellites
When AGI was founded in 1989, its goal was to transform the world of satellite mission planning. Very quickly, however, AGI found that its customers wanted a simulation environment in which they could model assets in any domain — land, sea, air, space, or cyber. As the capabilities of AGI’s software grew, the company developed a new, powerful understanding of “the mission.” Simply put, AGI defines a system’s mission as the operational outcome that it is intended to achieve, and the environment in which it must achieve it.
AGI realized that too often, systems aren’t evaluated in the full context of their mission until physical prototypes are put into testing. Many organizations may not even realize the extent to which this approach squanders time and money, sometimes resulting in designs that can’t cooperate with their interdependent assets or perform adequately in their operational environments. And this waste is completely avoidable with the right software approach — digital mission engineering.
All Missions Great and Small
AGI’s digital mission engineering software has been essential to many programs that you’ve seen in the news. Take for example NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex mission, which recently scooped up a mineral sample from the asteroid Bennu like a carousel rider catching a brass ring. AGI’s flagship software application, Systems Tool Kit (STK) was used to calculate the delicate sequence of maneuvers that enabled the spacecraft to touch the surface of the asteroid without slamming into it. The STK scenario that produced the mission’s nominal trajectory was also used to visualize the mission on its website.
“Together a team comprising industry, academia and international partners, and a talented and diverse team of NASA employees with all types of expertise, has put us on course to vastly increase our collection on Earth of samples from space,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a press release. “Samples like this are going to transform what we know about our universe and ourselves, which is at the base of all NASA’s endeavors.”
While OSIRIS-REx is the most recent famous mission that AGI has supported, the company has a long history of making sure that important cargo gets where it needs to go. On Christmas Eve, it will continue its 23-year tradition of working with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Operations Center on the annual Santa Tracker experience, which attracts more than 24 million visitors from across the globe each year. AGI uses STK to model Santa trackers that follow him on his trek around the world and capture video of his visits to famous destinations.
“STK is traditionally used by engineers and analysts to design, test, analyze, and operate complex aerospace systems quickly and with unprecedented accuracy,” said AGI Co-Founder and CEO Paul Graziani in a blog post. “But around the holidays, this product is put to use for another important ‘mission-critical’ project.”
Advancing Digital Mission Engineering
"In the three decades since our founding, we have continuously invested in our technology to create and advance digital mission engineering," said Graziani in the press release announcing the acquisition deal with Ansys. "We are thrilled to become part of Ansys so we can dramatically extend the reach of our world-class products and help more customers accomplish their critical missions."
The pairing of Ansys and AGI software capabilities will enable simulations with unrivaled depth of detail and breadth of scope. Customers who are already familiar with AGI’s digital mission engineering software will find a wide array of digital design capabilities through Ansys, while customers who already design their products with Ansys software will discover the tremendous advantages of extending simulations beyond the point where the rubber meets the road.
AGI software is used to help ensure the success of many types of complex missions.
Air Systems: Accelerate everything. Redirect work from physical systems to their digital representations to deliver systems faster and define operating pictures that comprise all the available, authoritative data to make decisions quicker.
Communications: Explore all the possibilities and account for all your needs. Model complex, multi-domain systems that incorporate your communications systems. Ensure that all your missions will have the communications they need to succeed. Evaluate configurations for your communications systems to optimize them. Arrange your assets where they give you the most while costing you the least.
Electro-Optical and Infrared Sensors: Go beyond geometry and model radiometric detection to evaluate EOIR sensor performance. Analyze performance and detection over time.
Geospatial Analysis: As the expanding demand for geospatial intelligence is met with rapidly expanding data sets, don’t get overwhelmed by it. Put all your geospatial data to fast, effective use.
Hypersonic Missions: To respond to a hypersonic threat you must engage multiple systems to handle detection and tracking — seamlessly and nearly instantaneously. Bring your hypersonic mission planning and system-of-systems analysis into the complete, multi-domain picture of your mission.
Missile Systems: Fuse models and generate data to represent the relationships of the vehicles, sensors, and other assets that comprise entire missile systems. Evaluate parabolic missile trajectories that threaten targets on land and direct ascent ASAT trajectories that threaten targets in space. See the big picture, faster than you thought possible, and respond to any kind of missile threat, anywhere.
All-domain Missions: Land, sea, air, space, cyber – dominance in one domain is no longer possible without systems that span them all. Simulate all-domain, multi-aspect systems to streamline development, dismantle silos, and accelerate delivery.
Radar Systems: To understand a radar system’s capabilities, maximum coverage isn’t enough. You need to know its coverage over time, so that you can determine the probability of detection at any moment. And radars seldom operate in isolation, so to truly know the effectiveness of any particular system, you need to be able to evaluate it within the context of its mission.
Satellite Missions: From a single satellite to a large constellation, a simple orbit to a maneuvering trajectory, a basic signal relay to an EOIR sensor – it’s never been more important to model satellites and their related systems in the context of their mission.
Space Operations: Space is a high-risk environment, and an operational failure can be the end of your mission. With so many complications in the mission environment, you need a single platform to analyze and manage all your challenges. Track satellites, design maneuvers, resolve and investigate anomalies — mitigate risks.
Space Situational Awareness: Eliminate routine, repetitive tasks that maintain your catalog of orbiting space objects at a state of readiness. Devote your time and expertise to solving problems using the data, rather than solving problems about the data.
Space Systems: Before the mission begins, identify challenges early in the life cycle. Reduce costs and accelerate your schedule by learning about problems that will be, before they become problems that are. After launch, maintain safe operations and maximize the return from your mission with accurate analytical modeling.