Challenges To improve NASA’s life support backpack, Jacobs needed a design engine that could challenge conventional design biases and deliver an optimal balance of performance and safety.



In the weight-conscious aerospace industry, product engineers must balance safety, reliability and lightweight design. As a NASA contractor, Jacobs teamed with PTC to optimize their designs for the life-support backpack, achieving that perfect balance. 

Technically, the life support backpack is called the Exploration Portable Life Support System, or xPLSS, Astronauts would use it on the International Space Station, the Moon or even Mars – environments some 238,000 miles from earth.  NASA scrutinizes every gram for impact on launch costs and, in the case of the backpack, for impact on the astronauts’ mobility.  

Jacobs turned to PTC’s generative design capabilities available in Creo 7.


With generative design, Jacobs’ team automatically created optimized designs based on their system requirements. Moreover, they were able to rapidly explore hundreds of combinations of different materials and manufacturing processes, including traditional and additive manufacturing. Jacobs applied this innovative approach to a variety of structural components to squeeze the most performance out of every kilogram.

From a strategic point of view, the Creo 7 generative design engine also enabled Jacobs to challenge conventional design biases.


“As an engineer, I like right angles, flat surfaces and round dimensions, and generative design says that may not be the best solution. And so, if I want to be the best possible engineer at my job, I look to generative design to find those kinds of solutions.”

~ Jesse Craft, Sr. Design Engineer & Innovation Project Manager



Jacobs realized part mass reduction of up to 50%, resulting in significant fuel savings and improved astronaut mobility.  Jacobs also expects that using generative design will shorten design time by 20%, increasing engineering team productivity.

With PTC’s Creo 7 and generative design, the sky is the limit for Jacobs.