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Analytical, optimisation software reduces weight of NASA’s Orion crew vehicle

Collier Research Corporation : 07 October, 2014  (Application Story)
At the 2014 Composites and Advanced Materials Expo (CAMX) (previously SAMPE), Collier Research Corporation is demonstrating a key software program used to reduce weight on the heat shield of NASA’s Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle. The show runs from 13 to 16 October at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florlda.
NASA’s Orion team utilised information gathered from HyperSizer analyses to inform discussions that led to a 23% reduction in the final weight of the baseline design. The un-crewed test flight of the vehicle, Exploration Flight Test-1, is currently scheduled for December 2014. The final HyperSizer-designed heat shield will be used on later, manned flights.
For those interested in learning more about this project at CAMX, James Ainsworth, aerospace stress engineer at Collier Research, will present a paper during the Thursday morning session that will give an in-depth look at the design and analysis process, as well as the analytical methods used to perform trade studies of the Orion heat shield carrier structure.
HyperSizer, the first-ever software commercialised by NASA, provides stress analysis and sizing optimisation for reducing the weight of aircraft, wind turbine blades and other structures, in addition to space vehicles - whether designed with composite or metallic materials. A typical HyperSizer analysis produces weight savings of between 25 and 40%.
“We’ve developed a software program for flight certification in the zero-tolerance environment of NASA,” says Craig Collier, president and founder of Collier Research Corporation. “We’ve continued to increase HyperSizer’s speed and robustness, while reducing necessary user input and creating a more flexible and open platform. This makes it ideal for small teams of engineers that need to guarantee the repeatability of results before production, and ensures they can do so in a short amount of time.”
(Above): The Orion Test Vehicle at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The circular heat shield is visible at the very base of the vehicle. (Image courtesy of NASA.) (Right): Collier Research Corp.’s, James Ainsworth, who will present at CAMX, inspects a curved orthogrid shield drop-test specimen. (Far Right) Close-up (upper left) shows detail of the titanium orthogrid that makes up the skin of the final NESC heat shield design (lower right).
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