This rapid response computer program predicts Orbiter Wing Leading Edge (WLE) damage caused by ice or foam impact during a Space Shuttle launch (Program “IMPACT2”). The program was developed after the Columbia accident in order to assess quickly WLE damage due to ice, foam, or metal impact (if any) during a Shuttle launch. IMPACT2 simulates an impact event in a few minutes for foam impactors, and in seconds for ice and metal impactors.

The damage criterion is derived from results obtained from one sophisticated commercial program, which requires hours to carry out simulations of the same impact events. The program was designed to run much faster than the commercial program with prediction of projectile threshold velocities within 10 to 15% of commercial-program values. The mathematical model involves coupling of Orbiter wing normal modes of vibration to nonlinear or linear spring-mass models.

IMPACT2 solves nonlinear or linear impact problems using classical normal modes of vibration of a target, and nonlinear/ linear time-domain equations for the projectile. Impact loads and stresses developed in the target are computed as functions of time.

This model is novel because of its speed of execution. A typical model of foam, or other projectile characterized by material nonlinearities, impacting an RCC panel is executed in minutes instead of hours needed by the commercial programs. Target damage due to impact can be assessed quickly, provided that target vibration modes and allowable stress are known.

This work was done by Robert Clark, Jr., Paul Cotter, and Constantine Michalopoulos of The Boeing Company for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact the JSC Innovation Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-24988-1

Software Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2013 issue of Software Tech Briefs Magazine.

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