This Is No Simulation: Achieving Zero-G on Earth

I wasn’t expecting my dad to start speaking — especially while were we watching television. Let’s face it: some things are sacrosanct. So, when he started talking during the opening credits of the 1985 miniseries “Space,” I listened.

“All my life,” he said, “I’ve wanted to go in to space. But, I know that that that’s not going to ever happen. Maybe you’ll have the opportunity.”

Fourteen-year-old me had little doubt that I’d explore space, just like Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker. I would, in fact, be the first person on Mars. No doubt about it. Oddly enough, my journalism degree wasn’t exactly the ticket to space. So, like most of us, my feet never left the ground.

Fast forward to last November, when one of our ANSYS employees entered a contest and won a seat on Zero Gravity Corp’s G-Force One. This company, the brainchild of X-Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis, sends everyday people on zero-G flights, similar to the ones NASA used uses for astronaut training. As luck would have it, the opportunity to fly with Peter and G-Force One fell to me. Continue reading

What We Can Learn from the Wright Brothers on National Aviation Day

Tomorrow is Orville Wright’s birthday and we celebrate National Aviation Day and the incredible progress made in aviation in just over 100 years. It was December 1903 when Orville became the first pilot of an engine powered aircraft, staying aloft for 12 seconds and covering a distance of 120 ft. at 20 ft AGL. Five years later he was able to stay aloft for an entire hour, reaching an altitude of 350 ft.

Indeed, the Wright brothers are a great example for all those who want to innovate. Many pioneers lost their lives or were badly injured in their attempt to demonstrate their ideas, test new concepts and to tame phenomena they were still not able, sometimes very far, to understand and master. Continue reading

The Engineering Behind Why It’s Too Hot to Fly

I’ve read a lot of articles talking about an interesting fact: this summer was so hot that in some cities like Phoenix aircraft could not fly. If you are an engineer or a pilot, it should not be a surprise that in hot weather an aircraft’s performance can deteriorate until the point it is unsafe to attempt take off. But maybe you have not considered all the possible causes of why it’s too hot to fly. I will try to explain things in a very basic and simplified way, for the benefit of those who are not familiar with these phenomena.

American Airlines canceled dozens of flights out of Phoenix on June 19 due to extreme heat. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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Why Startups and New Players are Driving Innovation in the Space 2.0 Arena

With a clear mission in mind, huge government funding and thousands of talented scientists, the early pioneers of space exploration were disrupting innovators, able to achieve what many thought impossible. Then organizations grew in size, and projects and goals multiplied while public funding was often in doubt. Despite other significant success, this led to a slowdown in the innovation pace. Now, another wave of innovators has come: Space 2.0 players.

With no history, no legacy of tools and processes and no constraints in workflow design, they were able in a few years to attract huge private funds and challenge the leadership of the big established players.

Both the old players and the newcomers rely on simulation, but I see a big difference in the results they get in terms of efficiency, costs and innovation pace. The secret is in how they implement it. Continue reading

Lightening the Load with Composites and Digital Prototyping

Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are doing everything they can to lower their costs, including lightweighting every component possible, which can improve fuel efficiency. The industry spends more than a hundred billion dollars on fuel every year. While the price of oil is relatively low today, manufacturers and airlines must look ahead to the more than 25-year life span of the average airplane, assuming someday prices will rise again. Cost is a major driver, but the industry is also committed to reducing emissions during flight, and reducing fuel burn from the engine helps achieve this goal. Lightweighting, then, is one of the most important trends in the aerospace industry, and using composites, that can offer the required strength but at lower weight than metals, in manufacturing is a key strategy.

aircraft cargo area

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The Next Generation of Aircraft is Different from Anything You’ve Seen Before

A few weeks ago I got a very close look at a F-35, and was able to talk a bit with one of the test pilots. “This is not an aircraft,” he told me. It’s more a kind of spaceship.” I believe he is right. This is not an aircraft, at least not the kind of aircraft we are used to.

Two generations, face to face

Courtesy G.P. Torriani

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Hang Gliding Takes Quantum Leap with Simulation

hang gliding simulation side viewSince its creation, hang gliding has progressed solely — and often painfully — through experimentation. But engineering simulation is starting to change that.

The German inventor and flight pioneer Otto Lilienthal made over 2,000 flights as long as 820 feet in gliders he designed and flew in the 1890s. He died in 1896 from injuries sustained in a glider crash, but his well-documented accounts of theories and experiences with flight influenced many of the early aviation pioneers, including the Wright Brothers. Continue reading

In-Flight Icing Simulation: 3-D CFD-Icing is Here to Stay

3-D computational fluid dynamics simulation of in-flight icing (3-D CFD-icing) has achieved considerable advances in the last decade , and many dynamic OEMs and second tier suppliers are using them to speed icing certification. Yet, others remain on the fence, using technologies from three decades ago.

inflight icing simulation

The different characteristics of ice, at different locations on an aircraft:
can that be done in 2-D?

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Earth-to-Space Delivery Services℠ Faster and Affordable with ANSYS Simulation

earth to space delivery systemsThe rapid surge in consumer demand for mobility, connectivity and content has fundamentally changed the space industry. Space, as the ultimate vantage point, is a necessary destination to connect 55 percent of the world that does not have access to the internet. With miniaturization of technologies, capabilities that until now required large satellites the size of a bus with a billion-dollar price tag are being challenged by small satellites that are 12 inches long and weigh only 9 pounds. When constellations of 24 to 800 of these small satellites are established in low Earth orbit, the world will enjoy global WiFi, maritime connectivity, real-time navigation maps, precise weather forecasts, virtual reality in space and more. Continue reading

Is Uber Actually a Space Company? The Discussion at AIAA SciTech

While attending the AIAA SciTech aerospace event in January I was surprised when the discussion turned to Uber as a space company. Seriously? I understand that Uber is revolutionizing the business model for transporting people, but I thought it was purely terrestrial.

Even though this statement was said somewhat tongue in cheek, with a stretch of the imagination you can see how it can be argued that Uber’s business model is predicated on monetizing data — GPS in this case — that is a product of the space industry. From this follows the (somewhat tenuous) proposition that Uber should be considered a part of this industry.

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