NASA’s Langley Research Center engineers have developed a new software package for more facile computational fluid dynamics. The software’s fast user run time, robustness, and efficiency have enabled its extensive use in space shuttle modeling. Adaptive Refinement Tool (ART) permits the computational modeling of flow, including jet or rocket plumes, wakes, and shocks via unstructured tetrahedral grids. Commercially available software packages often struggle to sufficiently and quickly model such complex examples of flow. ART also allows cells to be divided into two, four, or eight cells as compared to traditional software, which allows cell division only in units of eight. This is advantageous as it allows the user to control cell division more succinctly. ART executes commands via colloquial English, and has built-in internal statistical programming that increases its ease of use. ART allows the user the choice of alternate variables such as temperature or pressure at will, which facilitates modeling unusual or unlikely occurrences.

The ART model of the Apollo spacecraft reentry (left) and a shockwave.

NASA’s robust and user-friendly ART software package was developed in response to an internal need to model complicated flow models. Commercially available software did not allow NASA the flexibility to model the complexities associated with spacecraft reentry, or to model unusual and unforeseen scenarios. With the end goal being flexibility, NASA based ART on standard Fortran-90 language and used tetrahedrals, as opposed to rectangles, in the grid design. NASA also chose an edge-based algorithm so that the run time for running simulations is linearly scalable to the number of cells in the grid. For particularly large cells, ART will allow the user to divide the specific cell multiple times by repeated application of the adaptive process. This software can potentially be used in aerospace, aviation, and automotive applications.

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