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Tool-to-tool or open standards?The development of STEP-TASValidation of STEP-TAS using TASverter
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Thermal data exchange standards
Reliable and easy-to-use exchange of electronic data is essential for efficient and cost-effective industrial product development processes. This is true for all disciplines involved in space product development and certainly also for space thermal control engineering, which comprises design, analysis and verification activities. Analysis using discrete models is an important part of the process.
A company invests a significant amount of time and money to build up the expertise necessary to work with a given set of analysis tools. The tools form a critical role in the workflow and are key to the company's success. Companies are therefore reluctant to switch to using other tools, even if they offer the same functionality. As a result, if two groups using different tools need to exchange model data, one or both groups need to have some means of converting the model data from one tool format to another.  
Tool-to-tool or open standards?
In the past, many groups, including ESA, have been forced to create their own tool-to-tool converters in order to satisfy a short term need. Over time and across the space thermal community, this has lead to much duplication of effort, and a multitude of converters.
The whole European space industry recognised the long term disadvantages of tool-to-tool converters approach, with ESA being the only player in a position to begin the long process of developing an open standard that would provide the basis for improved data exchange between the tools.
The development of STEP-TAS
The existing ISO 10303 standards, with the formal title of "Industrial automation systems and integration - Product data representation and exchange", but also informally known as STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product model data), already address the representation of geometrical models. The existing STEP protocols do not address the complete needs of the space thermal analysis community, but they do provide the foundation on which to build.

STEP-TAS (Thermal Analysis for Space) builds on the foundation laid by ISO 10303 to provide a comprehensive standard for use in the space thermal analysis application domain. STEP-TAS contains building blocks for storing network models with results, meshed geometrical models, orbits and mission parameters, and kinematics and pointing. STEP-TAS provides a tool-neutral format for storing data related to:

  • a spacecraft geometry represented by a bounded face model with minimum topology and material properties
  • the exchange of thermal network models
  • the capture of results data from analysis, test or operation
These three areas, and sub-divisions within them, are reflected by different levels of conformance classes.

For more information see the link to the STEP-TAS technical pages.
Validation of STEP-TAS using TASverter
TASverter is an in-house ESA implementation of a STEP-TAS model converter. It can read spacecraft geometrical models in various tool specific formats, convert them to internal data structures based directly on STEP-TAS entities, and can write to various other tool specific formats. TASverter has been essential for the validation of the concepts and entities described by the STEP-TAS protocol.

For more information see the link to the TASverter technical pages.
Last update: 9 March 2007


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