This project will increase predictive capability of computational tools for simulations of the aerothermal environment around space vehicles at extreme Mach numbers. The new capabilities will find direct and immediate application in a multitude of NASA technology development programs related to access to space and planetary entry. Detailed treatment of electrons will reduce uncertainties and improve accuracy of collision-radiative models to predict radiation spectra and plasma signature. The accurate modeling of aerothermal environments is essential for predicting heat load and design of thermal protection systems (TPS) for space vehicles such as NASA's Orion spacecraft and the proposed Space Launch System. The modified UFS code will be used as a design tool for development of new generation vehicles for space exploration and components of future hypersonic spacecrafts. The new tool will help analyzing communication blackout problems and hypersonic flow control by electromagnetic fields. The methodology will also be useful for implementation in other legacy codes used at NASA.
Technology applications beyond NASA include Ballistic Missile Defense and future hypersonic vehicles performing exo-atmospheric missile intercepts, nozzle expansion and thruster plume interaction. The new model will improve predictive capabilities for calculating the radiation signature of hypersonic plasmas. The tool will have an appeal to rocket engine manufacturers (e.g., ATK, Pratt & Whitney, and Aerojet) and to universities studying arc-jets, plasmatrons and other high enthalpy flow systems. The developed computational tool will be utilized for evaluation of plasma phenomena on advanced hypersonic vehicles such as the X-51 waverider, missile technologies such as the Next Generation Aegis Missile. Typical applications include communication blackout for hypersonic flights, plasma flow control for hypersonic vehicles, electric propulsion, and plasma plumes expanding through nozzles, and shock wave propagation through plasmas. The methodology and software will be extendable for analysis of high-speed plasma jets for material processing and biomedical applications, plasma assisted ignition and combustion. Potential users include Air Force, DARPA, and commercial companies utilizing plasma technologies for aerospace, propulsion, power, material processing, and other applications.