Collier Research Corporation
Newport News, VA

With the go-ahead from NASA for a first mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Dream Chaser® spacecraft team is now reviewing flight performance data and refining the vehicle's design adaptations to meet mission requirements and changing payloads using Collier Research's HyperSizer software.

HyperSizer provides insights into the strength, weight, and manufacturability of designs for both composite and metal structures. Typically able to reduce the weight of existing designs by 20% to 40%, the software plays an important role in margin-of-safety certification for aerospace projects, and is also valuable for wind, marine, and other fields that demand performance with durability.

The current model of the autonomous, reusable Dream Chaser — Commercial Resupply Service 2 (CRS-2) — will transport pressurized and unpressurized cargo to and from the ISS, with a launch window of late 2020. The vehicle also has the potential for satellite servicing, orbital debris removal, and exploration technology testing. In every case, the demands of low-orbit flight, Earth re-entry, runway landing, and vehicle reuse require precision design optimization for reliability, durability, and safety. Each type of mission requires additional analysis due to new flight trajectories and corresponding changes to the vehicle loads.

The unique challenges faced by the structural engineers at SNC were to design the Dream Chaser to accommodate changing cargo weights and different re-entry trajectories, carry pressurized and non-pressurized items, and withstand significant deflection forces. To meet these challenges, HyperSizer was used on nearly all primary composite structures for the launch-approved CRS-2.

“HyperSizer's suite of industry-standard failure criteria was extremely valuable for our team, enabling us to quickly size the Dream Chaser structure and perform architectural trade studies,” said Andy Kim, Senior Structural Engineer for SNC. “The software's rapid analysis capability gave us more time to interrogate our results and gain insights into the sensitivity of the structural weight to various design features and stiffener cross sections.”

“HyperSizer helped us improve and automate the design-analysis process for the CRS-2,” added Eric Schleicher, SNC Principal Structural Engineer. “We found some of the most useful aspects of the software to be load processing, sizing, margin reporting, and the finite-element model update feature.”

SNC incorporated HyperSizer into their design and analysis process in order to meet the weight and schedule targets. The software's scripting API customized the workflow and automated data exchange with their suite of CAE software tools. This enabled the team to move rapidly from whole-scale optimization to detailed analysis and stress reporting.

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