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Section: Application Domains

Space re-entry

As already mentioned, atmospheric re-entry involves multi-scale fluid flow physics including highly rarefied effects, aerothermochemistry, radiation. All this must be coupled to the response of thermal protection materials to extreme conditions. This response is most often the actual objective of the study, to allow the certification of Thermal Protection Systems (TPS).

One of the applications we will consider is the so-called post-flight analysis of a space mission. This involves reconstructing the history of the re-entry module (trajectory and flow) from data measured on the spacecraft by means of a Flush Air Data System (FADS), a set of sensors flush mounted in the thermal protection system to measure the static pressure (pressure taps) and heat flux (calorimeters). This study involves the accurate determination of the freestream conditions during the trajectory. In practice this means determining temperature, pressure, and Mach number in front of the bow shock forming during re-entry. As shown by zur Nieden and Olivier [121], state of the art techniques for freestream characterization rely on several approximations, such as e.g. using an equivalent calorically perfect gas formulas instead of taking into account the complex aero-thermo-chemical behaviour of the fluid. These techniques do not integrate measurement errors nor the heat flux contribution, for which a correct knowledge drives more complex models such as gas surface interaction. In this context, CFD supplied with UQ tools permits to take into account chemical effects and to include both measurement errors and epistemic uncertainties, e.g. those due to the fluid approximation, on the chemical model parameters in the bulk and at the wall (surface catalysis).

Rebuilding the freestream conditions from the stagnation point data therefore amounts to solving a stochastic inverse problem, as in robust optimization. Our objective is to build a robust and global framework for rebuilding freestream conditions from stagnation-point measurements for the trajectory of a re-entry vehicle. To achieve this goal, methods should be developed for

  • an accurate simulation of the flow in all the regimes, from rarefied, to transitional, to continuous ;

  • providing a complete analysis about the reliability and the prediction of the numerical simulation in hypersonic flows, determining the most important source of error in the simulation (PDE model, discretization, mesh, etc)

  • reducing the overall computational cost of the analysis .

Our work on the improvement of the simulation capabilities for re-entry flows will focus both on the models and on the methods. We will in particular provide an approach to extend the use of standard CFD models in the transitional regime, with CPU gains of several orders of magnitude w.r.t. Boltzmann solvers. To do this we will use the results of a boundary layer analysis allowing to correct the Navier-Stokes equations. This theory gives modified (or extended) boundary conditions that are called "slip velocity" and "temperature jump" conditions. This theory seems to be completely ignored by the aerospace engineering community. Instead, people rather use a simpler theory due to Maxwell that also gives slip and jump boundary conditions: however, the coefficients given by this theory are not correct. This is why several teams have tried to modify these coefficients by some empirical methods, but it seems that this does not give any satisfactory boundary conditions.

Our project is twofold. First, we want to revisit the asymptotic theory, and to make it known in the aerospace community. Second, we want to make an intensive sensitivity analysis of the model to the various coefficients of the boundary conditions. Indeed, there are two kinds of coefficients in these boundary conditions. The first one is the accomodation coefficient: in the kinetic model, it gives the proportion of molecules that are specularly reflected, while the others are reflected according to a normal distribution (the so-called diffuse reflexion). This coefficient is a data of the kinetic model that can be measured by experiments: it depends on the material and the structure of the solid boundary, and of the gas. Its influence on the results of a Navier-Stokes simulation is certainly quite important. The other coefficients are those of the slip and jump boundary conditions: they are issued from the boundary layer analysis, and we have absolutely no idea of the order of magnitude of their influence on the results of a Navier-Stokes solution. In particular, it is not clear if these results are more sensitive to the accomodation coefficient or to these slip and jump coefficients.

In this project, we shall make use of the expertise of the team on uncertainty quantification to investigate the sensitivity of the Navier-Stokes model with slip and jump coefficients to these various coefficients. This would be rather new in the field of aerospace community. It could also have some impacts in other sciences in which slip and jump boundary conditions with incorrect coefficients are still used, like for instance in spray simulations: for very small particles immersed in a gas, the drag coefficient is modified to account for rarefied effects (when the radius of the particle is of the same order of magnitude as the mean free path in the gas), and slip and jump boundary conditions are used.

Another application which has very close similarities to the physics of de-anti icing systems is the modelling of the solid and liquid ablation of the thermal protective system of the aircraft. This involves the degradation and recession of the solid boundary of the protection layer due to the heating generated by the friction. As in the case of de-anti icing systems, the simulation of these phenomena need to take into account the heat conduction in the solid, its phase change, and the coupling between a weakly compressible and a compressible phase. Fluid/Solid coupling methods are generally based on a weak approach. Here we will both study, by theoretical and numerical techniques, a strong coupling method for the interaction between the fluid and the solid, and, as for de-anti icing systems, attempt at developing appropriate asymptotic models. These would constitute some sort of thin layer/wall models to couple to the external flow solver.

These modelling capabilities will be coupled to high order adaptive discretizations to provide high fidelity flow models. One of the most challenging problems is the minimization of the influence of mesh and scheme on the wall conditions on the re-entry module. To reduce this influence, we will investigate both high order adaptation across the bow shock, and possibly adaptation based on uncertainty quantification high order moments related to the heat flux estimation, or shock fitting techniques [54], [95]. These tools will be coupled to our robust inverse techniques. One of our objectives is to development of a low-cost strategy for improving the numerical prediction by taking into account experimental data. Some methods have been recently introduced [103] for providing an estimation of the numerical errors/uncertainties. We will use some metamodels for solving the inverse problem, by considering all sources of uncertainty, including those on physical models. We will validate the framework sing the experimental data available in strong collaboration with the von Karman Institute for Fluid dynamics (VKI). In particular, data coming from the VKI Longshot facility will be used. We will show application of the developed numerical tool for the prediction in flight conditions.

These activities will benefit from our strong collaborations with the CEA and with the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics and ESA.