The idea for PTScientists was born in 2008, when founder Robert Böhme and a band of engineers and enthusiasts decided to take part in the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The aim of the competition: to land a probe on the Moon and send a Rover at least 500 metres across its surface. Robert Böhme originally called the company Part-Time Scientists, because the project had to fit in around their normal working lives. In spite of this, the team officially registered for the Lunar XPRIZE in September 2009 and were able to introduce the first Rover prototypes in December of the same year. In March 2010, Part-Time Scientists GmbH was founded.
In 2011, the company began collaborating with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Together, they’ve developed the Asimov R3c. In July 2014, the third generation of the Rover withstood a range of tough tests, going on to win the Milestone Challenges—along with the $750,000 prize money—in the camera and rover categories. A year later, the employees moved from their makeshift basement and garage workplaces to the company’s first headquarters. They also decided to enter into a strategic partnership with Audi. In addition to financial support, the South German company can also lend their experience in vehicle and lightweight construction along with metal 3D printing. Revising the Rover’s design reduced its weight from 45 to 35 kilograms, and when every kilo costs $500,000 to transport into orbit, a light design is definitely an advantage. “Our aim is to send a payload to the Moon at a fraction of the price it used to cost,” says Jürgen Brandner, CTO and Head of Construction at PTScientists.
The Alina module (Autonomous Landing and Navigation) needs to transport up to 100 kilograms of material from Earth to the Moon.
To this end, PTScientists presented the Alina module (Autonomous Landing and Navigation), which is to transport up to 100 kilograms from Earth to the Moon. “Demand is high and will keep on increasing—we can already envisage business case for our product.” Jürgen Brandner is one of the founding members and had already been working with SOLIDWORKS in his capacity as design engineer in medicine technology. “I’ve been working with SOLIDWORKS since 1999 and I’m really impressed with how easy it is,“ Brandner continues. “A fitter can assemble a frame of standard profiles in SOLIDWORKS in 40 minutes—something I’ve never seen in any other system.” And what’s more, the cost/price relationship is right. SOLIDWORKS and SolidLine support us in our construction work so perfectly that we’ve never even thought about finding an alternative.”
PTScientists use SOLIDWORKS at three of their workplaces—including using one premium licence for simulations. In his master thesis, Jürgen Brandner had the opportunity to check whether SOLIDWORKS simulations were up to the special requirements that the mission imposed. “Up to now, astronautics has relied on specific simulation systems. We were the first company to use SOLIDWORKS in this industry.” Next he wants to see whether the software can cope with the specific physical requirements and conditions of space and the surface of the Moon.
SOLIDWORKS provides us with a solutions portfolio that is incredibly easy to use. It allows us to realise our—literally—high-flying plans.
Jürgen Brandner, CTO and Head of Construction, PTScientists
The challenges of a vehicle featuring four individual wheels—which can each be pivoted to up to 360 degrees—that’s designed to be remote controlled from almost 400,000 kilometres away are simply huge. The runtime of the radio signals is up to 1.5 seconds—meaning that every move the Rover makes will be slightly behind the command. The camera also sends its response back to the earth with a delay of 1.5 seconds. “When controlling the robot, it really feels like you’ve drunk a bit too much!” says Jürgen Brandner. The Rover features intelligent electronics that translate the commands into complex movements. The Rover is also exposed to special environmental conditions in outer space, such as far stronger radiation, meaning that electronics and steering software are therefore very important. The integrated electronic circuits and software need to be redundant and error tolerant—as well as compact, in order to fit into the Rover’s small chassis.
The constructors currently work in two different locations, with Jürgen Brandner in Salzburg and his colleagues in Vienna. Both locations access the database that hold the SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional data management solution in Berlin. “It proved itself very quickly, and so well, in fact, that we now manage all other documents in SOLIDWORKS PDM. SOLIDWORKS PDM ensures that revisions can be conducted neatly and in a way that is understandable—and so we can clearly see which version is the most current. I especially like the way that this tool can be used in many other areas than just development.
For purchasers, SOLIDWORKS PDM simply looks like another drive where the PDFs used for making quotes are stored.” The PDM system is also linked to Windows Explorer. The users can also search for documents and open, edit, and save them on a special drive
“SolidLine implemented the system and gave me and my colleagues from IT some quick and easy training in how to use and administrate SOLIDWORKS PDM. And the cooperation with them has been seamless and efficient right from the beginning,” recalls Jürgen Brandner. By the time the mission launches, PTScientists aims to expand to approximately 50 employees and move production to Berlin. “We’re currently building a construction space with four workstations, and I’m sure SolidLine will have many useful tips to share again. SOLIDWORKS provides us with a solutions portfolio that is incredibly easy to use. It allows us to realise our—literally—high-flying plans,” Jürgen Brandner concludes.
The aerospace company, PTSCIENTISTS, founded in 2008, develops affordable space exploration and robot solutions for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Headquartered in Berlin, the company employs 12 full time staff and 35 part time employees (hence the name: Part-Time Scientists). Their current collaboration partners include Audi AG, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in addition to technical universities in Germany and Austria.
Published on Aug 27, 2018.