Space Exploration: How Advances in CAD are out of this World


From Yuri Gagarin’s fledgling foray into orbit to Neil Armstrong’s one small step and beyond, space exploration holds humanity’s attention like no other scientific discipline. The public’s evergreen fascination with galactic travelling has pushed scientific advancement and discovery beyond our earthly atmosphere.

Even more astonishing are those achievements when considering the comparatively primitive technology that propelled those early missions to the stars. Currently, thanks to advances in CAD, the flight path to the stars has been eased considerably since those groundbreaking years.

To infinity and beyond…

CAD really is the designer’s best friend. Offering blistering simulations imperceptible from reality, software packages such as SOLIDWORKS have lent inventors, designers and engineers a lifelike 3D platform to create. All without the potentially pricey barrier of needing to produce a physical prototype. And where else more cost-effective to replicate than the cosmic black of space?

Space travel design has taken a giant leap for mankind with CAD. Its ability to replicate realistically the qualities of material without the need for lengthy calculations are a boon to the clock-conscious engineer, seeking to claw back a few hours. Weight? Resistance? Torque, tensions, and malleability? All qualities readily available at a click.

CAD also reduces the likelihood of failed missions, before a shuttle has so much as left the landing pad. Space travel is not without risks. Sadly, disaster and tragedy are no stranger to the history of spaceflight. However, CAD’s simulations of conditions provided by the cold vacuum of space have lent designers a virtual heads-up to the likely dangers.


Have rocket, will travel

The fruits of this computer-aided labour? Well, aside from Mars Rovers designed and made by both NASA and Alliance Spacesystems (the latter using SOLIDWORKS), CAD has been the design choice for Elon Musk’s ambitious SpaceX project. It’s a concept that concentrates on, amongst other things, returning the rocket back for re-use from flight. Its how the company are envisaging commercial space flight taking shape over the next decade.

Being able take the public to go boldly across the universe is the next step in space travel. Forget fully trained astronauts spending years learning how to cope in zero gravity; the next space passenger could be your boss, your neighbour or maybe even you. Commercial space flight is the industry’s next main goal, and it’s tantalisingly close.

Whether using the vertical rocket idea popularised by SpaceX or a small satellite designed for passengers, the ideas have huge financial backers (such as entrepreneur and explorer Richard Branson).

It’s written in the stars…

Progress is marching on at rocket-powered pace. Sites such as New Mexico’s Spaceport America have seen dozens of test launches in the industry’s pursuit of perfecting the endeavour. Of course, space tourism is currently barely affordable for most, with prices prohibitively expensive for all but the world’s wealthiest. An interplanetary Uber this sure isn’t.

However, as the inception and design process relies more on the simple and cost-effective CAD, then more time and money can be invested in the end product. A service with a little more universality that takes you to the far reaches of the universe is merely a generation or two away.

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Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data. SolidWorks products are easy to learn and use, and work together to help you design products better, faster, and more cost-effectively. The SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use allows more engineers, designers and other technology professionals than ever before to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life.