Thales Alenia Space partnered with Siemens to explore new tools and methods for acoustic testing in the space industry. Siemens research engineer Mariano Alvarez Blanco shares with us some insights about the exciting project.
Tell us about your ongoing research.
My research entails the development of methodologies and strategies for MIMO acoustic control, as well as the investigation of vibro-acoustic phenomena that happen during the so-called Qualification Test. The main goal of this kind of test is to reproduce specific acoustic environments in order to evaluate the survivability of hardware in operating conditions. In the case of Thales Alenia Space, the application concerned the reproduction of the sound field that occurs during a spacecraft launch.
How was it to work with Thales Alenia Space?
It was a great and challenging opportunity, since Thales Alenia Space is a well-known company in the space industry due to its high quality standards and engineering expertise. The most challenging part was to combine my hard technical background with the soft skills required to communicate my research findings to different company levels, as well as interpreting and correlating such findings with the needs of our partner. It was without a doubt a great responsibility and I am grateful that Siemens trusted my skills to undertake this task. After all, it was a very successful test campaign.
Can you give us an insight into the workings of the DFAX test method you helped develop at Siemens?
The DFAX test method consists in reproducing a specific sound environment through many electrodynamic loudspeakers. At Thales Alenia Space, the key point was to design a control strategy able to adapt to different test requirements. Then, my task consisted in translating those requirements into suitable input parameters for our environmental testing software, thereby optimizing the MIMO control performance through the so-called pre-test analysis. There is a complex algebraic rationale behind the algorithms used for such analysis. However, at the end of the day, it can be translated into finding the right electrical signals to drive the loudspeakers in order to play a high sound pressure level noise.
Why tackle new methods for satellite testing?
There is an industrial and an academic answer to this question. As a PhD candidate at the KU Leuven University, my academic motivation is to understand and explain the underlying physical phenomena involved in sound field reproduction, and consequently, induced structural vibrations. The industrial answer shares the scientific framework, but it is much more related to flexibility and testing efficiency. Through the new tools and methods we are developing, we intend to offer an alternate and reliable solution for environmental acoustic testing, which would traditionally be performed in sparse and costly testing facilities.
What do you think was a crucial key for success?
I think it was key to have a very fluid communication with Thales Alenia Space along the whole process: the design of control strategy, planning and execution of the tests. This interaction provided first-hand industrial information to prioritize the goals of my PhD roadmap. It allowed us to understand industrial needs and to take them on board in the development, implementing and validating of the new tools.
What triggered your interest in this research project?
The main motivation for applying to the Marie Curie fellowship at Siemens was the strong link I noticed between the project and my background. As a university student in Argentina, I acquired experience in research and environmental acoustics. Later, during an internship in Switzerland, I was trained in conducting dynamic tests on composite structures and in performing modal analyses. Such insights into structural and acoustical testing later proved to be a valuable asset for the project.
Anything else you’d want to share with us?
Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge the European Commission as my research was supported by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie program through the ITN ANTARES project.