HyperSizer Customer Paper

"Automating Structural Analysis of Spacecraft Vehicles" (11 pages)


Hrinda, G.


A major effort within NASA‘s vehicle analysis discipline has been to automate structural analysis and sizing optimization during conceptual design studies of advanced spacecraft. Traditional spacecraft structural sizing has involved detailed finite element analysis (FEA) requiring large degree-of-freedom (DOF) finite element models (FEM). Creation and analysis of these models can be time consuming and limit model size during conceptual designs. The goal is to find an optimal design that meets the mission requirements but produces the lightest structure. A structural sizing tool called HyperSizerTM has been successfully used in the conceptual design phase of a reusable launch vehicle and planetary exploration spacecraft. The program couples with FEA to enable system level performance assessments and weight predictions including design optimization of material selections and sizing of spacecraft members. The software‘s analysis capabilities are based on established aerospace structural methods for strength, stability and stiffness that produce adequately sized members and reliable structural weight estimates.

The software also helps to identify potential structural deficiencies early in the conceptual design so changes can be made without wasted time. HyperSizerTM‘s automated analysis and sizing optimization increases productivity and brings standardization to a systems study. These benefits will be illustrated in examining two different types of conceptual spacecraft designed using the software. A hypersonic air breathing, single stage to orbit (SSTO), reusable launch vehicle (RLV) will be highlighted as well as an aeroshell for a planetary exploration vehicle used for aerocapture at Mars. By showing the two different types of vehicles, the software‘s flexibility will be demonstrated with an emphasis on reducing aeroshell structural weight. Member sizes, concepts and material selections will be discussed as well as analysis methods used in optimizing the structure. Analysis based on the HyperSizer™ structural sizing software will be discussed. Design trades required to optimize structural weight will be presented.