July 18, 2005
The MathWorks Aerospace Blockset 2 With New Flight Simulator Interface For Desktop Modeling, Simulation, And Visualization
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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The MathWorks announced the availability of the Aerospace Blockset 2, which builds on the foundation of Simulink and Model-Based Design for aerospace vehicle modeling, simulation, and visualization. New features bring high-quality flight simulation graphics to the desktop, where modeling and simulation is more accessible and economical than design and test conducted in a lab. Additionally, the new version provides off-the-shelf, drag-and-drop representations of aerospace components using standards-based reference models. Consequently, engineers can use the Aerospace Blockset 2 to optimize vehicle subsystem configurations and rapidly perform subsequent tradeoff studies earlier in the design

Interfacing with FlightGear flight simulator software, new animation blocks in the Aerospace Blockset 2 enable users to visualize vehicle dynamics in a sophisticated 3-D simulation framework. Engineers can now quickly evaluate and verify complex flight dynamics before committing to a final design by using Simulink for multi-domain simulation and Model-Based Design.

"The Aerospace Blockset has desktop visualization capabilities that provide the ability to quickly analyze the response of an aerospace system, not only from a pilot's perspective, but also from a chase aircraft or ground observer," said Kevin Cunningham, Aerospace Engineer, NASA Langley Research Center. "The ability to present visual animations is particularly beneficial when complex multi-axis dynamic maneuvers are being evaluated. Now, non-subject matter experts are able to comprehend the results more effectively."

The Aerospace Blockset 2 also extends support for navigation and tracking applications. Expanded modeling utilities, including transformations and equations of motion for world or Earth-Centered Earth-Fixed (ECEF) coordinates, enable engineers to model high-orbiting and long-range vehicles. Similarly, point-mass models make possible the simplified representations characteristic of multiple-body modeling. Plus, an expansion of the GNC library with navigation blocks - an accelerometer, gyroscope and inertial measurement unit - enable users to meet difficult design schedules by providing pre-built components when testing full vehicle designs.

"We are pleased to be providing the aerospace engineering community with a product that not only bridges the gap between modeling, simulation and flight simulation graphics software, but also helps meet the growing demand for designing low-cost, high-endurance aerospace vehicles," said Jennifer Petrosky, industry product marketing manager, The MathWorks. "Now, engineers can save time and money by using desktop modeling and simulation capabilities rather than relying on costly lab-conducted design and testing methods."

The Aerospace Blockset 2 is available immediately for Microsoft Windows, UNIX/Linux, and Macintosh platforms. The U.S. list price starts at $1,000.

The Aerospace Blockset is an interesting comprehensive suite of specialized blocks for modeling, integrating, and simulating aerospace systems and components that are vital to anything that flies, such as aircraft, spacecraft, rocket, propulsion systems, and unmanned airborne vehicles.

The Aerospace Blockset is actually an extension of The MathWorks' Simulink application with blocks specifically intended for aerospace applications. Simulink is a platform for simulation and model-based design of dynamic systems. It provides an interactive graphical environment and a customizable set of block libraries that for accurately designing, simulating, implementing, and testing control, signal processing, communications, and other dynamic systems. The Aerospace Blockset also includes blocks that implement mathematical representations from aerospace standards, common references, and fundamental principles. Blocks for modeling equations of motion and for navigation, gain
scheduling, visualization, unit conversion, and other key operations are provided, and you can access all algorithmic C source code for really tailoring things to meet your needs, if you're so inclined.

Standards-based, pre-defined reference blocks, including environmental models for gravity, atmosphere, and wind let you verify and validate vehicle system design. Graphical switching capabilities let you alternate between mathematical representations for modifying modeling conditions without having to actually change the model.

The aerospace vehicle component block libraries in the Aerospace Blockset let you design and test a subsystem or complete vehicle simulation in a single model. For example, you can perform analyses and tradeoff studies to understand system behavior under a variety of environmental conditions and parameter constraints before full system specification. Some of the major component block libraries include:

  • The GNC library includes guidance blocks for calculating the range between two crafts given their respective positions.
  • The Propulsion library includes a turbofan engine system block that implements a first-order representation of the engine and the controller.
  • The Actuator library includes component blocks for simulating second-order linear and nonlinear actuators.
  • The Mass Properties library includes blocks for estimating inertia tensor and symmetric inertia tensor and for calculating moments about center of gravity due to forces.
  • The Equations of Motion library includes blocks for simulating three- and six-degrees-of-freedom equations of motion with fixed and variable mass.
  • The Flight Parameters library provides blocks for calculating common flight parameters, including incidence, sideslip, airspeed, Mach number, dynamic pressure, equivalent airspeed, and calibrated airspeed.
  • The Aerodynamics library includes blocks for calculating aerodynamic forces and moments using the values specified from your flight parameter blocks.
  • The Animation library includes an interface to the FlightGear flight simulator for visualizing vehicle dynamics in a sophisticated 3-D simulation framework.
  • The Axes Transformations library includes blocks for converting spatial representations between Euler angles and quaternion vectors and for creating direction cosine matrices.
  • If this all sounds like a lot of capability, well, it is, and it starts at a reasonable price. With the Aerospace Blockset and the comprehensive set of libraries, you can construct the dynamics, perform simulations, and understand system behavior under a variety of conditions for just about any aerospace system or complete vehicle that flies.

    The Week's Top 5

    At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

    MSC.Software Corp., a provider of virtual product development (VPD) products including simulation software and services, announced the release of MSC.Patran 2005 r2. MSC.Patran is part of the MSC.Software SimOffice product line and is an interactive, general-purpose computer-aided engineering (CAE) modeler that enables engineers to visualize and test product designs through computer-based simulation. MSC.Patran 2005 r2 continues MSC.Software's open systems policy, which allows users to interface with their preferred CAD environments and CAE tools including MSC.Nastran, MSC.Marc, MSC.Dytran, and third-party tools. Several enhancements aimed at increasing user productivity have been
    implemented in MSC.Patran 2005 r2 including:
  • Enhanced interoperability with many CAD environments and CAE tools
  • Complete support for MSC.Nastran SOL 600 and SOL 700 nonlinear analysis capabilities
  • Advanced surface and assembly meshing
  • Topology optimization
  • Group tree hierarchy functionality.

  • PTC announced the results of its most recent study of the electronics and high technology industry. The best practices survey, conducted by PTC and the Reed Research Group, identified superior research and development (R&D) performance as a key contributing factor in the success of high-growth companies. The objectives of the best practices survey were to investigate the correlation between overall corporate financial success and R&D performance, and the best practices within R&D that led to strong performance. PTC and Reed Research surveyed over 200 senior executives responsible for the development and management of new products in global electronics and high technology companies. The
    following critical themes emerged from the research:
  • Theme 1: Leading companies drove 20% more revenue growth and two times higher earnings through product development. By launching more new products and generating more revenue from those introductions, high-growth companies used product development to fuel increased revenue, profit and market share.
  • Theme 2: High-growth companies excelled in three important R&D capabilities - product planning tools and practices; standardized internal and external collaboration processes; and tools and processes that enable design engineers to have early access to enterprise and supply chain data.
  • Theme 3: R&D capability advantages drive superior new product development performance in high-growth companies, enabling them to invest less as a percentage of revenue in R&D while delivering twice as many new products to market, keys to their strong profitability.

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    You can find the full MCADCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


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