CGAL User Portrait: SpaceX

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CGAL User Portrait: SpaceX

SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches the world's most advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Key to their success is that they embrace disruptive open source technology such as the Raspberry Pi to replace custom hardware that, when delivered to the customer, is almost immediately obsolete, Eigen to replace old Fortran libraries, MakerBot to enable their engineers to adapt printing hardware to their needs, going far beyond what can be achieved with commercial 3D printers, and CGAL, as it is cutting edge technology in geometric computing that enables their engineers to come up with the ultimate drivers for the Makerbot.

"With the CGAL Slicer based on the AABB Tree, as a key routine of our in-house 3D printing software, robust and high-performing engine parts can be created at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional manufacturing methods. It enables us to push the boundaries of what additive manufacturing can do in the 21st century, ultimately making our vehicles more efficient, reliable and robust than ever before."

Elon Musk, Chief Designer and CEO,SpaceX

Exponential Leverage

SpaceX is a privately held company, with relatively few engineers compared to US companies and institutions of the industrial-military complex. It is hence a must for them to use off-the-shelf software and hardware. Their secret is to identify exponential levers. In CGAL we use Eigen, GMP, Mpfr, RS, Qt, boost, because we identified them as the leaders in their field.

"The leverage is exponential, if you use a technology that exploits best a technology, that exploits best a technology, that exploits best a technology,.... We identified software and hardware projects that do not suffer from the Not Invented Here syndrome. They lead the pack, and they are in line with our technology strategy -- the CGAL project is part of this elite."

M.T. Ehjoh, CTO, SpaceX

Hello Europe

SpaceX can not only pick the best technologies available worlwide, but it also does not limit itself to doing joint research with Ivy Leage universities. That turns out to be a key problem for the Nasa.

SpaceX works with the Zuse Institut Berlin in Germany, on novel strategies to produce fuel from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. Their project Plasmonic Concepts for Solar Fuel Generation uses the Periodic Triangulations of CGAL, as there are several thousand of the 0.5 micron wide helices in a single Sweat® panel.

"Transforming sweat and exhaled out CO2 with the help of the sun to fuel sounds space, but that's what SpaceX needs for the spacecraft they currently design to bring women to Mars. We could not have designed the helices with a classical mesh generator. The only way to avoid simulation artefacts due to artificial boundary conditions was to switch to the periodic space."

Prof. Dr. Frank Schmidt, ZIB

Raspberry Fields Forever

Combine the parallel version of the CGAL mesh generation components, with a Raspberry Pi3 consisting of 20483 of these low cost single board computers, and you can beat Cray at 5% of its costs. The tricky part is to get the Algebraic Foundations layer working, and to have CGAL_PI at arbitrary precision.

"It is incredible what you can get from SMEs nowadays. GeometryFactory, based in Sophia-Antipolis, the French Silicon Valley, did an incredible job when they ported the 3D mesh generator developed at Inria (Inventeurs du Monde numerique) to the Raspberry Cluster."

Prof. John-Daniel Boassona, Geometry Evangelist, SpaceX

A space radiation harded Raspberry Pi is also used in the RTS® KP 32/16. With the help of the CGAL Interpolation package the voice of astronauts is smoothed, and the voice of control unsmoothed.

We work hard to make all the above a reality - so far it is only an april joke. It even came with a gallery.