Deutsches SOFIA Institut
Innovating Joint DLR/NASA Flying Observatory Using SOLIDWORKS Research Edition
Simulating Stratospheric ConditionsThe SOFIA development team used SOLIDWORKS modeling software to design the various assemblies and components required to stabilize the telescope and tracking cameras during flight. They also leveraged SOLIDWORKS Simulation tools to validate and optimize design performance in the challenging operating environment of a moving aircraft in the stratosphere. “The SOFIA aircraft is constantly shaking and moving, and the telescope systems must perform across a wide temperature and pressure range,” explains Jan Drendel, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of Stuttgart, who worked on the interface between the aircraft’s three tracking/positioning cameras and the telescope. “The system is subjected to the California heat when on the ground and temperatures close to -40ºC when in the stratosphere. “Using SOLIDWORKS Simulation tools, I conducted linear static stress and thermal expansion studies on the camera/telescope interface components,” Drendel continues. “Weight is critical on aerospace projects, and SOLIDWORKS Simulation helped me reduce material and weight on components with low operating stress, as well as strengthen parts where the stress is high.”
Facilitating Collaborative EffortsIn addition to easing collaboration and communication across the mechanical design team—the back-and-forth between the telescope stabilization effort and the positioning camera/ telescope interface, for example—the SOLIDWORKS design platform facilitated interactions with other teams responsible for electronics, software, and optics development. “There are many other disciplines that worked on this project,” Lammen notes. “The advanced design visualization capabilities in SOLIDWORKS—including its rendering and animation creation toolkit—facilitated communication across the disciplines, as well as with partners involved with assembling and disassembling the system,” Lammen adds.
Important Astronomical AchievementsThe development of the SOFIA flying observatory, which had its first scientific flight in 2010 and began its official operating status in May 2014, has led to a range of astronomical achievements. These include the occultation of Pluto, when Pluto’s shadow moved across the Earth; the discovery of two new molecules in the interstellar medium, sulfur hydride and deuterated hydroxyl; and gas dynamics and star formation discoveries at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. “SOFIA can be at the right place at the right time,” Lammen points out. “I feel I was at the right place at the right time, having this wonderful opportunity to work on the development of a true astronomical innovation.”
Develop and optimize telescope stabilization, a tracking camera, and interface systems for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a flying observatory.
Utilize SOLIDWORKS Research Edition software as the primary platform for designing and optimizing telescope stabilization, tracking camera, and interface systems.
- Supported important achievements in astronomical discovery
- Optimized telescope/tracking cameras interface
- Decreased weight of parts by using simulation tools
- Facilitated collaboration and communication across development team