Siemens Helps Startup Space Perspective Use AWS Capabilities to Accelerate Development of Space Tourism

Executive Summary

Startup Space Perspective and AWS Partner Siemens are revolutionizing simulation processes to build an innovative and luxurious capsule for space tourism. Using Siemens solutions on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Space Perspective has reduced analysis time from one week to eight to 12 hours for structural, thermal, and other factors that affect capsule design. Space Perspective needed a comprehensive suite of tools that could handle the enormous processing requirements of its computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling. Using Siemens STAR-CCM+ multiphysics simulation software alongside AWS services, Space Perspective could run simultaneous simulations on AWS, saving magnitudes in time and cost.

Accelerating Digital Innovation in Space Tourism

Space Perspective is seeking to use its space tourism vehicle to send civilian adventurers to space. By providing this once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the blue planet from space, the company hopes to provide passengers with a new perspective on humanity’s place in the universe. In a luxurious and highly comfortable pressurized capsule suspended from a large space balloon, eight people and a pilot will rise gently through the atmosphere at 12 miles per hour. Passengers hover at 100,000 feet for two hours, looking upon the curvature of Earth until it’s time for the smooth, gradual descent. The capsule touches down in the ocean, where a recovery vessel meets the passengers to conclude their journey. 

Unlike typical spacecraft, there is no separation between capsule and vehicle. The ship’s capsule and balloon remain intact the entire flight. This type of dynamic creates a three-pronged challenge for Space Perspective: how will the capsule function during its ascent to space, how will the capsule function after it reaches maximum cruising altitude in space, and how will the capsule function during its descent to Earth, which includes a soft water landing? The project requires robust analytics to figure out the complex loads and CFD of a six-hour round trip that involves travel through air, space, and water while maintaining a safe, comfortable environment for passengers. “We need to understand how the vehicle behaves in all those different environments so that we can design it to operate safely and effectively,” says Taber MacCallum, co-CEO and chief technical officer at Space Perspective. “That’s why our analytical load is so high.” 

Space Perspective quickly realized that running analytical loads on premises was prohibitive in terms of cost and time. To accelerate its time to market and expand its simulation capabilities, Space Perspective turned to Siemens Digital Industries Software, an AWS partner that assists companies with their digital transformation. The tasks Space Perspective faced required using as many virtual tools as possible and not relying on expensive prototypes. In August 2021, Space Perspective adopted Siemens’s Software Solutions for Startups and shortly after began simulations using AWS. The company uses the Siemens Xcelerator portfolio, a comprehensive and integrated portfolio of software, services, and an application development solution that helps users to create their own applications. “It was a strategic decision about whether we were going to use CFD to answer these questions at all,” MacCallum says. “Without the combination of Siemens and AWS, we simply wouldn’t have gone down this path.”

“Without the combination of Siemens and AWS, we simply wouldn’t have gone down this path.”

- Taber MacCallum, Co-CEO and Chief Technical Officer, Space Perspective

Building Powerful Parallel Processing Tools

The interaction of the capsule, the rigging, the balloon, and natural elements such as wind and waves contributes to complex CFD models that use up to several hundred processing cores simultaneously. Using AWS solutions, Siemens helped Space Perspective develop massive parallel processing tools that could iterate analysis fast enough to use as the basis for designing the vehicle’s structure. Within the Xcelerator portfolio, Space Perspective uses Simcenter STAR-CCM+, a multiphysics simulation software developed by Siemens. Using STAR-CCM+, engineers were able to simulate products working under real-world conditions, which helps teams make better design decisions faster and ultimately speeds time to market. Multiphysics CFD modeling requires sophisticated processing to run efficiently, so STAR-CCM+ runs on a high-performance compute cluster, which is a collection of separate servers called nodes that are connected by high-bandwidth network interconnects.

AWS recently introduced new high-performance compute services that boost the performance and scalability of CFD workloads on AWS. STAR-CCM+ runs at 100 Gbps on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides secure and resizable compute capacity for virtually any workload. Specifically, the application uses Amazon EC2 C5 Instances, which deliver cost-effective, high-performance compute power at a low price-per-compute ratio for running advanced compute-intensive workloads. Previously, a single simulation involving one million cells on a local computer with eight cores would take Space Perspective about one week of run time. 

Using AWS high-performance compute services, Space Perspective had access to an average of 72 cores and could run the same simulation in an average of 10 hours. Space Perspective would incur costs in the millions of dollars if it had to build physical prototypes from the multiple simulations that it was running, each with different geometries, velocities, and shapes. Instead, the company saves magnitudes of cost by running multiple simulations simultaneously on the AWS. The simulations help Space Perspective build a prototype on the best-case scenario revealed by its analysis. “We were not going to be able to maintain schedule unless we could bring more processing power to the analysis,” MacCallum says. “We reached out to AWS to figure out how to do parallel processing of the work that we’re doing. And the project is ongoing. We’re still cranking through a lot of analytical work.”

“It’s a strategy and process of doing our engineering work to create a vehicle that’s never been made before, to do a type of flight that’s never been offered before. Siemens and AWS are helping us to realize our vision for space tourism.”

- Taber MacCallum, Co-CEO and Chief Technical Officer, Space Perspective

Continuing to Fine-Tune the Design

Space Perspective continues to work through the analysis process in a quest to develop the safest and most luxurious ride possible for its customers. Traveling from land, through the atmosphere, to the edge of space, and back to Earth for a water landing creates immense stress factors on the capsule. Through a digitalized approach, Space Perspective is modeling the behavior of these different environments to a high degree of accuracy, which reduces time and major costs in development. “It’s a strategy and process of doing our engineering work to create a vehicle that’s never been made before, to do a type of flight that’s never been offered before,” says MacCallum. “Siemens and AWS are helping us to realize our vision for space tourism.”

Space Perspective

About Space Perspective

Headquartered on Florida’s Space Coast, Space Perspective is breaking new ground in space tourism by developing a space vehicle that gently floats up to space and back down to Earth. The company hopes to give passengers a new and enlightened perspective after viewing Earth from space.

About Siemens

Siemens Digital Industries Software is a Siemens company based in North America. It serves a variety of industries, helping companies accomplish their digital transformations. Siemens is an AWS ISV Workload Migration Partner and an AWS Public Sector Partner.

Published August 2022