Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne solves your toughest engineering problems.
Engineering analysis is usually performed to support the design of hardware where the underlying physics are fairly well known, and both the design and analysis models are grounded in those physics. The engineering analysis required to support failure investigations often needs to be significantly different from the design and analysis since the physics of the failure are often unintended and poorly understood. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) extreme engineers have a long history of acclimating to "extreme" physics and successfully analyzing failure scenarios.
Columbia Accident Investigation
As a NASA contractor and Space Shuttle team member, PWR was a critical part of the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation. One of these efforts was the analysis of the flow around the vehicle, and inside the wing under atmospheric reentry conditions. Using out-of-the-box thinking, the PWR team rejected the decoupled internal/external assumption and developed a coupled model which focused on the wing leading edge flowfield. External solutions were used as interpolant bases to map data onto small “glove” regions encompassing only the area of interest on the leading edge.
Also, rather than use a conventional structured grid CFD model, they used a hybrid-viscous unstructured grid technology along with the PWR ICAT flow solver. This unstructured approach was validated, producing solutions at a throughput eight times faster than traditional approaches. Ultimately, it was the PWR solutions that were used by the investigation board to make the determination that a wing leading edge breach hole was the cause of the accident.