We live in interesting times, where cars cruise the heavens and rockets have second lives.

This month’s launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket was just one of the recent events that have reignited the world’s passion for space, in a way not seen since the space race.

Australia is the new kid on the block in the space scene, as it sets up its first national space agency with hopes to harness the opportunities as the industry undergoes rapid changes. Non-traditional players such as SpaceX are bringing along with them a level of disruption that future workers need to prepare for, noted Philippe Forestier, Executive Vice President of Global Affairs & Communities, Dassault Systémes.

“It’s all about the industry of the future. Some people call it industry 4.0; we call it industry renaissance,” he remarked at a Space Roundtable hosted by Dassault Systémes in Adelaide, South Australia on 12 February. “It’s about making sure we understand the new chances of the new economy.”

The sky’s the limit

Up-and-coming private sector players in the space industry are agile and are “capable to create low-cost launches”, Forestier noted. They are doing things differently from the big boys, and can innovate much faster. “We see a lot of commercial space players breaking the mould,” he said.

There are myriad opportunities for bold, new space companies to come in and shake things up, as they are not held back by legacy systems, added Pierre Marchadier, Vice President in charge of Business Transformation, Tech Sales, Innovation and Strategy. “When you look at how the newcomers and innovators and makers are working, they do not have limits,” he noted at the 3DEXPERIENCE Forum Asia Pacific South 2018 on 13 February.

“When you look at how the newcomers and innovators and makers are working, they do not have limits.”

For instance, Zero 2 Infinity, a Spanish space startup, stands out for the fact that they do not own rockets nor launchpads. It used high-altitude balloons to launch nanosatellites into the stratosphere. “These guys were crazy enough to rethink their business model using some different technologies,” Marchadier said.

And Blue Origin, the aerospace company set up by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, carried out simulations of multiple 3D scenarios so that they could quickly and safely figure out ways to reuse their hardware, he continues. In the virtual world, one crucial aspect is that “you can press the undo button”, Marchadier pointed out.

This particular aspect can make or break a space mission, Forestier said: “This is a market where failure is not an option, and zero fault is absolutely required. Any component failure may result in the total loss of the launcher or satellite.”

New ways of operating

This willingness to embrace unconventional ideas and approaches is one characteristic that many of these new-wave space startups share. It is a whole new way of operating – making it all the more important for space agencies and companies to “change their point of view” and consider different business models and techniques, Marchadier continued.

To support governments in developing new capabilities, Dassault Systémes has set up the North American 3DEXPERIENCE Center in Wichita, Kansas, which is a hotbed for aviation and aerospace manufacturing.

The centre focuses on advanced product development and manufacturing, and will also help train small and medium enterprises to build competencies. “We want to be the centre which is the base for the workforce of the future, and prepare the people that will embark on the industry,” said Forestier.

Working together to reach the stars

Space missions are only possible through close collaboration between government, academia and private sector. In 2004, Dassault worked with French government space agency Centre National D’études Spatiales and the European Space Agency to design and launch the Philae probe, which accompanied the Rosetta comet chaser into space, said Marchadier.

In 2016, the probe finally crash landed on its target comet after a ten-year journey, made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was created using “very, very simple technology”, according to Marchadier.

As Australia looks to better support its growing space industry, Dassault Systémes is actively supporting this transition, particularly on the collaboration front, Marchadier continued. It is much simpler to get all stakeholders on the same page through 3D simulations that can provide accurate visual representations of mission scenarios.

“How to collaborate with your peers, universities, big and small enterprises, international partners – that’s the key today,” he explained. “Thanks to the digital approach, you can accelerate and increase your capacity to connect with people.”

Furthermore, 3D simulation offers agencies the opportunity to “mitigate the different scenarios” and ensure that they make the right decisions. “The digital suite gives you the opportunity to sometimes divide by two the time you need in order to erupt,” Marchadier said.

Australia is poised to make its mark on the space industry, with a keen focus on digital disruption, new technologies, and boosting skills. When it comes to transformation, Marchadier concluded, “it’s very important for everyone to understand that you have to change your mind”.

Image by Official SpaceX PhotosCC BY 2.0