CFD in AIAA’s 2014 Year in Review

As I’ve mentioned before, my favorite issue of AIAA’s Aerospace America magazine is the annual Year in Review issue. It is, in fact, the only issue I keep and have every one of them since 1980, the year I joined AIAA as an undergrad at Syracuse University.

The issue consists of articles written by each of AIAA’s technical committees summarizing noteworthy accomplishments from the previous year. I like to read them all and see where CFD or things closely related to CFD are mentioned.


So here’s where I found CFD in the 2014 Year in Review.

Multidisciplinary Design Optimization

NASA’s OpenMDAO and the University of Michigan’s MDOlab collaborated on a satellite design optimization benchmark. In a journal article on their work you see an illustration of the satellite orbiting part of the Pointwise logo the earth.

Image from the U. Michigan paper cited above.

Image from the U. Michigan paper cited above.

Non-Deterministic Approaches

While there is nothing about CFD in their article (seems to be mostly about materials and manufacturing), I’m wondering whether they can contribute to the goal of quantifying uncertainty in CFD analysis as called for by the CFD 2030 Vision Study. “it has become increasingly important to quantify the uncertainties within these models and the impact they have on the accuracy of the models’ predictions.”

Spacecraft Structures

False alarm. the “fixed-mesh” reflector is actually a weight-saving antenna/dish design.

Applied Aerodynamics

The first sonic boom prediction workshop was held at SciTech 2014 in order to assess the state of the art in this particular area. Grid refinement and alignment techniques were of particular interest.

The DoD’s CREATE-AV program released Kestrel 5.0 (for fixed-wing aircraft) and Helios 5.0 (for rotorcraft).

AFRL and Lockheed Martin began a collaborative CFD study of aircraft distributed propulsion systems (i.e. 30 inlets and nozzles).

Fluid Dynamics

Advances in numerical methods led to a new volume of fluid approach for simulating fuel spray atomization for fuel injectors in gas turbine engines.

In the area of LES computation of turbulent flows, a new wall model has been used to predict both attached and separated high Reynolds number flow.

Ground Testing

NASA completed testing of Rotating Wake Improvement on the Advanced Noise Control Fan rig for the purpose of providing data for validation of computational aeroacoustic simulations.

Meshing, Visualization and Computational Environments

Advances cited in the field of mesh generation include strand meshing (Utah State, NASA, Army), integrated meshing and overset grid assembly (Pointwise), various improvements to CREATE’s Capstone.

In the area of visualization, FieldView evolved to better handle large datasets, Intelligent Light worked with VisIt, and Tecplot’s Chorus addressed the simultaneous visualization of multiple datasets.

AEDC continued their work on a computational environment for multidisciplinary simulations.

The MVCE technical committee is very committed to the aspects of the CFD Vision 2030 study that are within its sphere of influence. Accordingly, a panel discussion on this topic will be held at SciTech 2015.

Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems

NASA’s arc jet testing of ADEPT, a semi-rigid aeroshell entry system, showed excellent comparison with pre-test CFD.


If you’ve ever wondered what to do with your potentially valuable documents and artifacts, don’t leave them for your heirs to sort out and avoid the temptation to do it yourself. A trained archivist should look them over with you.

[Whose documents from the CFD world would you like to see?]

Legal Aspects

A sigh of relief as CFD isn’t mentioned here.


3-D printing is cited here as an affordable method for manufacturing with challenges in the areas of cost, time, and material properties that have to be addressed to determine how the technology can be best applied.

Computer Systems

Alas, the works cited here pertain to devices flown in aircraft and spacecraft, not number crunchers like we need in CFD. Although, I wonder if the latter are within this committee’s charter?

Intelligent Systems

Researchers From U. of Michigan, Iowa State, and Stanford are developing more accurate turbulence models with information derived from “big data” (higher fidelity simulations).

Hypersonic Technologies and Aerospace Planes

Better turbulence modeling has been cited as critical need for more accurate simulation of shock wave interaction with boundary layers in hypersonic flows.

High-Speed Air Breathing Propulsion

NASA’s Vulcan-CFD package now supports vibrational non-equilibrium and subgrid scale models.

Propellants and Combustion 

AFOSR’s efforts to collect experimental data on turbulent combustion at conditions normally encountered in aerospace systems will provide a great resource for validating and expanding the use of simulation for engine development.

Closing Thoughts

If you saw any CFD references that I missed, please cite them in the comment section below.

Based on 34 years of reading AIAA’s Year in Review issue, CFD is explicitly cited less and less. I actually think this is a good thing. Before, use of CFD was noteworthy because it was new, exotic, and cool. Now, it’s just another tool.

The lack of URLs to the works cited was extremely frustrating. Paradoxically, as much as I prefer reading paper magazines and books, I really want to have links to additional online content.

Each year I marvel at the breadth and depth of high-quality and exciting work being done in the aerospace industry. I recommend AIAA membership and, almost more importantly, active participation on a technical committee as your opportunity to help advance the field.

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