NASA Perfects Pyrotechnics for Space Flight

By Kara L. Gray

July 14, 2006

When Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface in 1969, he made more than a historic and enduring mark on the surface of the moon; he made a monumental impact on the collective imagination of the world. After nearly 40 years, NASA is preparing for another journey to the moon — and beyond — with a new class of explorers sure to strike a whole new generation with the same overwhelming sense of awe and wonderment.

In the volatile realm of space travel, pyrotechnics are both a necessary evil and a force to be reckoned with. An explosion on a monumental scale is essential during liftoff to achieve the extraordinary thrust required to break through and escape the earth’s gravity. However, any unexpected or unplanned pyrotechnics can be cataclysmic for the mission and its crew.

The Quest for Controlled Destruction

Few understand this pyro-proposition better than pyrotechnic engineer Christopher W. Brown at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Brown works with the team of engineers responsible for the design, testing and implementation of pyrotechnics for a variety of space exploration initiatives, including the Constellation Program, which will send human explorers back to the moon and onward to other unexplored parts of the solar system.

“Pyrotechnics is popular in aerospace when it comes to one-time actuation or separation,” Brown says. “One example is the frangible nut, which is used to separate the space shuttle from the external fuel tanks.”

The frangible nut, critical to the separation process, is designed to fracture when the command is given to activate explosive charges in order to achieve a clean and thorough separation of the external fuel tanks once their propellant is exhausted. The idea is to blow it apart when necessary, with as little collateral damage as possible.

“I call it controlled destruction,” Brown says. “There is a lot of shock and debris that need to be contained. It is a very tricky balance. We need to have the nut or the separation structure strong enough to hold the pieces together, but brittle and weak enough to fracture when commanded.”

The Test before the Test

In order to achieve the proper design of the components, determine the precise amount of combustion required without going overboard, and predict the behavior of the debris field to prevent incidental damage, NASA is using finite element analysis (FEA) software from MSC.Software in concert with visualization software by CEI, Inc. of Apex, NC. The goal is to produce 3D simulations of various test scenarios to ultimately design a means to control the end results.

Using MSC’s Dytran to model the various applications, NASA imports the results into CEI’s EnSight for post processing, where they are converted into graphical images and movies that can be shared with colleagues. Using this process, Brown’s team is able to simulate proposed design modifications and other variables to predict behavior under certain conditions before any “live” testing takes place. In the case of a shuttle launch, for example, the results can have life-altering implications.

“The simulations will give you an idea of what could happen,” Brown says. “We want to know as much about the possible outcomes before conducting a real test, to get a heads up on what to watch out for and what to avoid.”

In one such experiment, Brown and his team are working to perfect a newly designed back-up release mechanism for a new docking system to be put in place on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. Orion is expected to fly its first mission to the International Space Station by 2014 and carry the next generation of astronauts to the moon by 2020. The mechanism works by using a charge to apply pressure at one side, which engages a piston release system that allows the bolt to slip out, with no metal fracture.

Modeling this procedure allows thorough testing of each and every component to achieve the flawless operation critical for space travel. Before any testing took place, Brown was able to identify some hang-ups in the parts, modify the design and rerun the simulations until it worked. In the end, the live testing was quite successful.

In the case of the frangible nut, the objective is that the explosive allows the nut to break apart correctly instead of blowing the energy in the wrong direction. With two boosters on each side of the nut (the second in place only for redundancy), Brown tests one booster at a time.

“In one design test, the nut was shaped differently and the booster just blew out the frangible section without having the energy directed to separate the nut,” Brown says. “That analysis enabled us to change the design for the actual application from what was originally designed.”

Powerful Combination Yields Powerful Results

The one-two punch of MSC and CEI’s avant-garde software allows NASA to achieve accurate results in an easily viewable format. EnSight is able to seamlessly and quickly import the Dytran files for post processing. They can be viewed as motion pictures or frame by frame for thorough analysis.

Annotations can be included in the resultant images and adjust color contours to emphasize certain results or variables and achieve the desired graphical image. This output is then used for collaboration among fellow engineers and the test area.

Included in the EnSight suite is CEI’s EnLiten, a free 3D viewer used for analyzing and manipulating complex visualization scenarios. It can capture the results and display them in motion and from any angle without needing to be reprocessed from scratch. And it can be viewed on any computer without installing any extra software.

“Using a 3-D viewer provides a quick way of viewing motion and rotation at any angle without having to start the post processing all over again,” Brown says. “It allows you to view the animation, not just like a video, but something that you can rotate and move around.”

For more information

MSC.Software’s Dytran overview: http://www.mscsoftware.com/products/dytran.cfm?Q=396&Z=287&Y=387

Human Space Flight: The Shuttle — External Tank Separation System: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/reference/shutref/orbiter/sep/sepsystem.html

NASA Constellation Program: Orion Crew Vehicle: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/constellation/orion/index.html

MSC.Software signs agreement with CEI enhancing graphics visualization for SimXpert: http://www.ensight.com/msc.software-signs-agreement-with-cei-enhancing-graphics-visualization-for-sim.html

—–

Source: CEI Inc.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Supercomputers Streamline Prediction of Dangerous Arrhythmia

June 2, 2020

Heart arrhythmia can prove deadly, contributing to the hundreds of thousands of deaths from cardiac arrest in the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, many of those arrhythmia are induced as side effects from various medicati Read more…

By Staff report

Indiana University to Deploy Jetstream 2 Cloud with AMD, Nvidia Technology

June 2, 2020

Indiana University has been awarded a $10 million NSF grant to build ‘Jetstream 2,’ a cloud computing system that will provide 8 aggregate petaflops of computing capability in support of data analysis and AI workload Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been instrumental to AMD’s datacenter market resurgence. Nanomet Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputer-Powered Protein Simulations Approach Lab Accuracy

June 1, 2020

Protein simulations have dominated the supercomputing conversation of late as supercomputers around the world race to simulate the viral proteins of COVID-19 as accurately as possible and simulate potential bindings in t Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC Career Notes: June 2020 Edition

June 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

AWS Solution Channel

Computational Fluid Dynamics on AWS

Over the past 30 years Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has grown to become a key part of many engineering design processes. From aircraft design to modelling the blood flow in our bodies, the ability to understand the behaviour of fluids has enabled countless innovations and improved the time to market for many products. Read more…

Supercomputer Modeling Shows How COVID-19 Spreads Through Populations

May 30, 2020

As many states begin to loosen the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that have forced most Americans inside for the past two months, researchers are poring over the data, looking for signs of the dreaded second peak of t Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Indiana University to Deploy Jetstream 2 Cloud with AMD, Nvidia Technology

June 2, 2020

Indiana University has been awarded a $10 million NSF grant to build ‘Jetstream 2,’ a cloud computing system that will provide 8 aggregate petaflops of comp Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

COVID-19 HPC Consortium Expands to Europe, Reports on Research Projects

May 28, 2020

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium, a public-private effort delivering free access to HPC processing for scientists pursuing coronavirus research – some utilizing AI Read more…

By Doug Black

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers Read more…

By John Russell

Hats Over Hearts: Remembering Rich Brueckner

May 26, 2020

HPCwire and all of the Tabor Communications family are saddened by last week’s passing of Rich Brueckner. He was the ever-optimistic man in the Red Hat presiding over the InsideHPC media portfolio for the past decade and a constant presence at HPC’s most important events. Read more…

Nvidia Q1 Earnings Top Expectations, Datacenter Revenue Breaks $1B

May 22, 2020

Nvidia’s seemingly endless roll continued in the first quarter with the company announcing blockbuster earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Nvidia Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft’s Massive AI Supercomputer on Azure: 285k CPU Cores, 10k GPUs

May 20, 2020

Microsoft has unveiled a supercomputing monster – among the world’s five most powerful, according to the company – aimed at what is known in scientific an Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Contributors

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve Read more…

By John Russell

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This