The CDF turns 10
It all started on the 18th of November 1998 with the kick-off of the CESAR (Central European Satellite for Advanced Research) mission study..... 10 years ago! This scientific space mission, promoted by the Central European Initiative (CEI) and supported by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), had the objective to investigate the role of the ionosphere in the Sun-Earth relationship. The General Studies Programme offered and supported this opportunity as the first test case feasibility study based on the Concurrent Engineering (CE) approach.
Actually the CE approach had been already partially applied in two previous mission assessment studies: Euromoon and Venus Sample Return, but this time the goal was to investigate the creation of a permanent infrastructure to carry out feasibility studies in a more effective manner.
The first experimental facility was named after the mission: "CesaR" (Concurrent Engineering Set-up for Advanced Results) later renamed Concurrent Design Facility (CDF). Important elements of this first setup was the gathering of the tools and databases required by various disciplines involved, the development of an Integrated Design Model (IDM) and of course the training of the specialists in the new design methodology.
In these 10 years of activities almost 100 potential future ESA missions have been studied and designed at conceptual level in CDF. More than 600 Technical Specialists and Scientists have used the Facility and its infrastructure and on average a further 600 people visit the CDF every year. Additionally, hundreds of students have experienced working in the CDF on educational projects, such as ESMO (European Students Moon Orbiter).
As well as the CDF becoming the normal starting place for pre-phase A studies, the CE approach has extended to later phases of the Project life-cycle, including reviews of industrial projects, Tiger Teams investigating anomalies, etc.
The CDF has also become an important repository of knowledge and is considered an essential part of the risk mitigation and decision making process within ESA. The CDF is an invaluable tool for training in systems engineering and the methodology is being exported to other areas through ESA's Technology Transfer Programme.
The CE approach and the associated IDM software has been rolled out to European Industries, Agencies and Academia with the result that a number of design centers have been created based on similar processes and datamodels, enabling collaboration and more effective data-exchange within the Space Community.