NASA is embarking on the development of a number of new spacecraft systems employing crewed and unmanned vehicle designs that must survive the reentry environment and can be reused on subsequent missions. The proposed simulation technology will provide improved accuracy in simulating the environmental loading and response of these new systems, which include the Space Launch System's Orion Crew Vehicle, the Boeing CST100 commercial crew vehicle, and variants of the SpaceX Dragon capsule for both commercial crew and cargo missions. NASA's Space Technology Roadmap 14 calls for "higher fidelity, multi-physics predictive capabilities that reduce the need for excessive, and in some cases prohibitive, sizing margins and flight tests" This project will make significant progress towards that objective. The outcome will be a suite of fully-coupled simulation tools that could be used for the development of thermal protection systems on the aforementioned planned missions as well as new reentry technologies, such as the a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD), Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators (SIADs), and Supersonic Disk Sail (SSDS) parachute.
In addition supporting the design of thermal protection systems for NASA exploration and transportation missions, a fully coupled aeroheating simulation framework will provide new predictive capabilities for the development of a number of military hypersonic systems, which encounter similar extreme mission environments to spacecraft reentry vehicles. Candidates for infusion of this technology into the design process include: Ballistic reentry bodies (weapons systems such as ballistic missiles encounter hypersonic flow environments during the descent portion of their trajectory); Hypersonic vehicles (President Obama has called for development of a new generation of hypersonic vehicles and several systems are now in early stage development); Kinetic interceptors (used for missile defense, kinetic "kill vehicles", such as those used in the Aegis and THADD systems, fly and maneuver at hypersonic speeds to reach their targets).