A key goal of the current NASA ARMD Strategic Plan is to achieve Low Carbon Emissions through use of alternative propulsion systems such as electric/hybrid propulsion. In this regard, NASA’s STTR solicitation seeks innovative approaches in designing and analyzing Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) aircraft to support ARMD’s Strategic Thrust #3 (Ultra-Efficient Commercial Vehicles) and #4 (Transition to Low-Carbon Propulsion). Continuum Dynamics, Inc. (CDI) and The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) propose an STTR research effort that would address this need by developing DEP aircraft analysis tools able to accurately predict aerodynamic and aeroelastic performance, loads, stability, flight dynamics and acoustics in computational times commensurate with daily design work. The proposed approach would leverage and enhance existing V/STOL aircraft analysis and flight simulation software with new capabilities that address current gaps in technology identified by NASA and developers of DEP aircraft who are working with CDI in the analysis and design of future air taxi concepts. The new comprehensive DEP aircraft analysis will be built in a modular fashion, coupling flight simulation, aeromechanics, aeroelastic, acoustic, and power system components into both a stand-alone analysis and transportable software libraries easily coupled into alternate analyses and optimization tools. In Phase II, this coupling will be performed with NASA’s NDARC aircraft design code, OpenVSP aircraft model generation tool and Open Multidisciplinary Design, Analysis and Optimization (OpenMDAO) platform.
The DEP aircraft analysis developed would directly support NASA’s ARMD Strategic Thrust #3 (Ultra-Efficient Commercial Vehicles) and #4 (Transition to Low-Carbon Propulsion) to achieve Low Carbon Emissions through use of electric/hybrid propulsion. The software would be used by NASA to investigate DEP aircraft (like SCEPTOR) and Urban Air Mobility concepts. The modular approach would allow implementation within NASA’s OpenMDAO optimization environment, a great benefit given the broad possibilities afforded by multiple distributed props.
NASA and CDI are collaborating with aircraft manufacturers eager to see the new analysis capabilities required for modeling DEP aircraft developed and implemented for their use. The new software will improve analysis capabilities for not only DEP aircraft but for all Future Vertical Lift aircraft, supporting major military and urban air mobility airframe development programs.