Analysis of Ares Crew Launch Vehicle Transonic Alternating Flow Phenomenon


A transonic wind tunnel test of the Ares I-X Rigid Buffet Model (RBM) identified a Mach number regime where unusually large buffet loads are present. A subsequent investigation identified the cause of these loads to be an alternating flow phenomenon at the Crew Module-Service Module junction. The conical design of the Ares I-X Crew Module and the cylindrical design of the Service Module exposes the vehicle to unsteady pressure loads due to the sudden transition between a subsonic separated and a supersonic attached flow about the cone-cylinder junction as the local flow randomly fluctuates back and forth between the two flow states. These fluctuations produce a square-wave like pattern in the pressure time histories resulting in large amplitude, impulsive buffet loads. Subsequent testing of the Ares I RBM found much lower buffet loads since the evolved Ares I design includes an ogive fairing that covers the Crew Module-Service Module junction, thereby making the vehicle less susceptible to the onset of alternating flow. An analysis of the alternating flow separation and attachment phenomenon indicates that the phenomenon is most severe at low angles of attack and exacerbated by the presence of vehicle protuberances. A launch vehicle may experience either a single or, at most, a few impulsive loads since it is constantly accelerating during ascent rather than dwelling at constant flow conditions in a wind tunnel. A comparison of a windtunnel- test-data-derived impulsive load to flight-test-data-derived load indicates a significant over-prediction in the magnitude and duration of the buffet load. I. Introduction On

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