The need for a better conceptual design process for aerospace systems has led to the creation of several dedicated design facilities in the US and abroad, such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s “Project Design Center” (PDC), the Aerospace Corporation’s “Concept Design Center” (CDC), and the European Space Agency’s “Concurrent Design Facility” (CDF). By physically collocating systems and discipline experts, along with their software tools, in a design “war room”, communication within the design team is enhanced and the speed and quality of design iterations is increased.

Some of these facilities have been in operation for almost a decade. Their success, and the decreasing cost of equipping such centers, will make their more widespread adaptation in the near- to mid-term future likely. This, in turn, necessitates today’s engineering graduates having to be experienced in working in such highly interactive, intense environments.

As an applied research institution training students in the art and science of multidisciplinary conceptual design of complex systems, the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory (ASDL) at Georgia Tech has therefore launched its own such facility, the “Collaborative Design Environment” (CoDE), which I helped design.The CoDE enables researchers to develop, test and apply new approaches to conceptual design by utilizing high-fidelity modeling, simulation and analysis tools in a collaborative, team-centered environment. It can also support student teams participating in graduate-level design competitions.

The CoDE floorplan is designed for maximum flexibility and support, as is the CoDE's cutting-edge off-the-shelf equipment. The CoDE is fully integrated with ASDL's other design space exploration and decision-making support facilities, the Collaborative Visualization Environment (CoVE) and the high-speed Computational Resource (CoRe).

A paper provides more information, as does this article about a similar facility at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.