Tangible Collaboration applied in Space Systems Concurrent Engineering Concept Studies


The first development phase of a Space Mission consists of the Space System Concept Studies, in which system concepts are broadly defined, as a set of feasible System Conceptual Solutions to accomplish the mission needs. Nowadays, this phase involves the practices of System Engineering (SE) and Concurrent Engineering (CE), which respectively: (i) organizes the systems investigation/documentation methodology, and (ii) speed-up the process into parallelization of disciplines studies and successions of convergence sessions (CE Sessions). The CE Sessions for Space System Concept Studies are highly interactive activities, which require: (i) specialists of a given discipline (thermal, operation, electrical, etc.) to describe to the team their System Element solution models, showing its parts and required parameters, and (ii) facilities to handle the CE activities streamlining the work toward the System Concept Solutions. Either in document-centric or model-centric approaches, the model collaborations occur by: projection of the models, within a sequential order, and accordingly to the number of the projectors, which shows the discipline’s models. This virtualization of information undermined the physical collaboration through artefacts, in preference to virtual-only metaphor collaborations, where, for instance, a person bringing together two physical peons means that a new representation is obtained, was replaced by drag-n-drop tree branches in Graphical User Interface (GUI). This thesis proposes and demonstrates the viability to use Tangible User Interfaces (TUI) constructed with physical electronic artefacts and Spatial Augmented Reality to reintroduce tangible collaboration into CE Session. A tangible interaction vocabulary was defined in order to use real artefacts to control CE data. In a pragmatic aspect for the Space Engineering sector, this thesis brings cognitive aid tools back to the design workspace.

Keywords: Tangible User Interface. Concurrent Engineering. Model Based System Engineering. Space Systems Concept Design. Collaborative Environments.