You are probably hearing and reading a lot about digital engineering. At its core, it takes the acquisition, development, and sustainment of a product or system from the physical world to the virtual one. Doing this yields numerous benefits.
By using digital models, customers and engineers can more quickly specify, develop, and deploy solutions in response to a rapidly evolving mission space. Digital engineering is transforming acquisition, complex systems engineering and integration, and sustainment from the existing design-build-test paradigm to a model-analyze-build methodology. There are tremendous savings of cost, time, and resources by moving a solution through its full life cycle digitally.
Digital engineering is particularly critical to space programs. Unlike other domains where deployed assets can be more easily retrieved, maintained, and enhanced, what is sent into space is likely what the program is stuck with.
Whether the deliverable is a satellite or a spacecraft, digital engineering results in greater confidence – and thus lower risk – in the quality and performance of the solution. Digital technologies enable tools, methods, and processes to enhance transparency, collaboration, and communication among program stakeholders.
Greater insight and integration of development activities lead to better and faster decision-making and also lessen the chances of discovering costly design conflicts during the build stage of a program. This is vital to the speed and efficiency with which space organizations produce solutions for a rapidly changing operational and threat environment.
Complex systems and their capabilities have to serve a range of space missions and users. In the past, a sensing capability, for example, was typically optimized for a given satellite constellation using traditional engineering practices.
Digital engineering helps us assess a solution's capabilities against variables and mission needs for balanced performance.