High-speed, unsteady flows represent a unique challenge in computational hypersonics research. They are found in nearly all applications of interest, including the wakes of reentry vehicles, RCS jet interactions, and scramjet combustors. In each of these examples, accurate modeling of the flow dynamics plays a critical role in design performance. Nevertheless, literature surveys reveal that very little modern research effort has been made toward understanding these problems. The objective of this work is to synthesize current computational methods for high-speed flows with ideas commonly used to model low-speed, turbulent flows in order to create a framework by which we may reliably predict unsteady, hypersonic flows.
We wish to validate the new methodology for the case of a turbulent wake flow at reentry conditions. Currently, heat shield designs incur significant mass penalties due to the large margins applied to vehicle afterbodies in lieu of a thorough understanding of the wake aerothermodynamics. Comprehensive validation studies are required to accurately quantify these modeling uncertainties. To this end, we select three candidate experiments against which we evaluate the accuracy of our methodology. The first set of experiments concern the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) parachute system and serve to demonstrate that our implementation produces results consistent with prior studies at supersonic conditions. Second, we use the Reentry-F flight test to expand the application envelope to realistic flight conditions. Finally, in the last set of experiments, we examine a spherical capsule wind tunnel configuration in order to perform a more detailed analysis of a realistic flight geometry.
In each case, we find that current 1st order in time, 2nd order in space upwind numerical methods are sufficiently accurate to predict statistical measurements: mean, RMS, standard deviation, and so forth. Further potential gains in numerical accuracy are demonstrated using a new class of flux evaluation schemes in combination with 2nd order dual-time stepping. For cases with transitional or turbulent Reynolds numbers, we show that the detached eddy simulation (DES) method holds clear advantage over heritage RANS methods. From this, we conclude that the current methodology is sufficient to predict heating of external, reentry-type applications within experimental uncertainty.