Numerical Simulations of the Apollo 4 Re-entry Trajectory
Sample return capsules, as the Apollo Command Module have been widely used to ad- vance the knowledge and planning of manned lunar and planetary return missions. Such reentry vehicles undergo extreme thermal conditions, caused by shock-heated air during their super-orbital atmospheric re-entry. Such extreme conditions can result in failure of the aeroshell structure and loss of important payload. This technological challenge is ad- dressed by the use of ablative thermal protection systems (TPS), which dissipate the heat away from the vehicles front wall via ablative products release into the boundary layer. Additionally, such velocity and temperature magnitudes during reentry conditions intro- duce significant radiative heat loads, filling the shock layer with radiators that react with the ablative species injected by the capsule wall. Therefore, accurate numerical modeling techniques are required, so that the thermophys- ical, thermochemical environment of a reentry capsule can be successfully reproduced and predicted. The present work aims to numerically rebuild certain significant trajectory points, containing the peak heating points of the Apollo 4 terrestrial re-entry. This re- quires the coupling of the resolved flow-field with radiative and ablative effects in order to accurately predict the convective and radiative heat flux for each trajectory point. The results will be compared to previous calculations and existing flight data. The numerical simulations are performed in 2D thermal non-equilibrium with a compress- ible explicit Navier-Stokes solver, coupled to a radiation database and a thermal material response code to implement the ablative effects. The calculations are performed also in 3D, using a commercial implicit Navier-Stokes solver. The results will be used to reproduce the capsules trajectory and verify the accuracy of the associated Modeling Tools.