In less than a week the SpaceX pod competition will take place, and several people of our team are already performing the final tests our pod will have to endure. There, on the SpaceX terrain, stands the tube containing the I-Beam on which all teams have to test and on which only the best three may perform the final run. While standing in front of the tube, the aluminum I-Beam seems really smooth with bumps of only 1mm in height. But these small bumps will easily become an enormous obstacle at speeds of over 500km/h. In fact, those bumps were the leading criteria for the design of the suspension mechanism of Atlas 02. It had to be designed to withstand the forces of those bumps and track irregularities, while keeping contact with the track for maximal traction.
This proved to be a real challenge, as the design had to be made long before the pod was ready for its first test run. This is where In Summa showed its value as a partner to us. Their software ADAMS specializes in Multi Body Dynamics, which we used to study the dynamics of the moving components of the mechanisms and estimate the force distribution throughout the parts within. With their collaboration, we managed to simulate a track of I-Beam segments that were aligned according to SpaceX specifications. After adding a CAD of our pod from Catia, the tube run could be simulated to output loads and optimize suspension characteristics for the required dynamics.
This enabled us to get insight in the dynamics and forces in our systems long before their components were actually manufactured. With the results of Adams we were able to reach the limits and increase our confidence in our own design.