Integrated Variable Fidelity Conceptual Aircraft Design

NASA has an ongoing need for conceptual design tools that are capable of performing multi-disciplinary analysis on unconventional or advanced concepts. Existing tools developed both within NASA and by commercial entities are not flexible enough to make this a reality. CADNexus proposed to explore an approach to achieve a variable fidelity conceptual design tool. The design tool would enable 3D geometry to be created up front from the early stages of the design process and evolve smoothly to a detailed design. The conceptual and detailed design would be ideally linked so that model changes could flow smoothly upstream and downstream in the design process. In addition, a methodology for estimating risk in the design process was coupled with the design tool to assist the designer to avoid design decisions which may not be achievable within some specified constraints such as cost, time or available technologies.

In a Phase 1 SBIR, CADNexus with support from NASA Glenn Research Center successfully demonstrated the design tool on a range of conceptual aircraft concepts. The aircraft concepts were synthesized using OpenCASCADE as a geometry kernel. The aircraft concepts were assembled as 3D solid models and appropriate geometric fidelity information was coupled with low and high fidelity analysis tools using our flagship product CAPRI CAE Gateway. Matlab was used as the overall execution and post processing environment. Coupled analysis and design iterations were performed to optimize the concepts. Since the 3D solid model was updated at every design iteration, consistency in geometric data was maintained between the different fidelity analysis tools. In addition, uncertainty analysis was coupled into the design iterations for payload and range objectives, with the notion of estimating the risk in meeting the design objectives.