CFD in Aerospace America’s Year in Review 2018

aiaa-yir-2019-cover-croppedWe’re already one month into the new year but I finally finished reading Aerospace America’s 2018 Year in Review issue, my favorite issue of AIAA’s magazine. I looked for CFD throughout the issue and here’s what I found.

Each year I remind you that the only issue of Aerospace America I keep (and I have them back to 1981 right after I joined AIAA as a student at Syracuse University) is the annual year in review issue. It’s my favorite issue because it provides a concise synopsis of the previous 12 months of progress in aerospace as reported by the institute’s technical committees (TC) and other committees. I’m sharing here some of the highlights so you can link through to the full article.


The cover image of Aerospace America’s December 2018 issue, the Year in Review. [Who thinks a rich guy’s stunt is a fitting representation of the year in aerospace?]

Materials TC

Not much CFD reported by the Materials TC but they did share news regarding the publication of NASA’s Vision 2040: A Roadmap for Integrated, Multiscale Modeling and Simulation of Materials and Systems. I’m looking forward to reading this and comparing it to the CFD Vision 2030 study.

Structures TC

Reading between the lines, it looks like the Structures TC reported on work done at Carleton University that revealed through simulation the first fluid-structure interaction mechanism by which an insect (in this case a caterpillar) produces sound. This caterpillar’s sounds arise from “flow exiting the caterpillar’s stomach into its mouth.” [In other words, it burps.]

Multidisciplinary Design Optimization TC

The MDO TC reported on several toolkits including NASA’s OpenMDAO and Mississippi State’s MAST, both of which have been used to couple fluids simulations with other tools.

Systems Engineering TC

Absolutely nothing about CFD in the System Engineering TC‘s write-up. However, their approach to dealing with increasingly complex systems – that risk making SE equally complex – got my attention. They have found an analogous discipline that involves all the hallmarks of complex systems but on shorter timescales: the arts. Painting, scoring a symphony, staging a play all feature networks and hierarchies of people, schedule, and cost but transpire across a timescale much shorter than an engineering project. That allows novel SE approaches to be tested on multiple artistic venture in the time it might be applied only to one engineering project.

Fluid Dynamics TC

The FD TC focused their write-up on progress made in large eddy simulation (LES). Here it is said that LES accuracy is highly dependent on the grid [I infer more than RANS]. An adaptive mesh approach to solving this problem is described as are several experiments designed to collect benchmark data. CFD is also cited as being used to simulate flow-control (versus deflecting control surfaces) for a UCAV.

Meshing, Visualization, and Computational Environments TC

The MVCE TC focuses on transforming aerospace simulation through achievement of the CFD Vision 2030 Study’s goals. Mesh adaptation promises accurate CFD solutions on meshes automatically adjust their fidelity to the needs of the CFD solver. Boeing’s Epic software cited as an example of this technology. Because adaptation requires moving and inserting mesh points on the geometry model, the U.S. Air Force is funding three SBIR Phase I efforts to add geometry support to CFD flow solvers. Generation of high-order meshes and the subsequent computations on them require meshing and visualization tools, both of which saw active research.


I’m missing a few issues in case anyone’s got a spare they care to donate.

Aeroacoustics TC

Quite a bit of computational work was cited by the Aeroacoustics TC driven by supersonic flight (not only shock waves at cruise but also during takeoff and landing), jet noise, and NASA’s planned launch of the SLS in 2019.

Applied Aerodynamics TC

The Applied Aero TC cites the CFD Vision 2030 Study as a catalyst for NASA’s recent experimental work to characterize the unsteady flow at the wing-body juncture. This dataset will be available for CFD validation. A meshing technique called strand meshing was shown to be quite successful at automating volume mesh generation and supporting accurate CFD computations. Simulation was also applied to parachute inflation and a C-130J in drop configuration.

Hypersonic Technologies and Aerospace Planes TC

In case you missed it, the Hypersonic Tech TC reminds us that hypersonics are big this year (and for the near future). This is worth reading if for no other reason than to raise your awareness.

Balloon Systems TC

Just this: a 60 million cubic foot balloon.

Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems TC

Quite a bit of simulation is applied to parachutes as reported by the Aerodynamic Decelerator TC. A lot is done by NASA for a mission to Mars in 2020 and by the Dept. of Defense. The latter’s work is done at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center where they are investigating low-altitude/high-weight drops and the drag from suspension lines. [Coincidentally, my lovely wife – not a CFDer – worked for a summer at what used to be called Natick Labs working on Army uniform designs.]

Computer Systems TC

The Computer Systems TC says “the way forward in computing is massive, highly orchestrated parallelism.” The fastest supercomputer is at Oak Ridge and scores 122 petaflops.

CFD Vision 2030 Integration Committee

Newly formed in 2018, the CFD 2030 IC is building momentum in advocating for the CFD Vision 2030 Study’s goals and monitoring progress toward those goals.  Progress is evidenced by a CUDA implementation of the FUN3D CFD code, several CFD validation experiments involving turbulence and other critical phenomena, and co-sponsorship of a workshop on future CFD technologies.

Inlets, Nozzles, and Propulsion Systems TC

The Inlets and Nozzles TC reported on a series of CFD simulations for a regional jet at high angle-of-attack and/or sideslip such as might occur near a loss-of-control event. At this conditions, the engines will likely be ingesting highly non-uniform flow. [I started my CFD career on inlet and nozzle flowfields so I enjoy reading about the latest work in this area.]

Weapons Systems Effectiveness TC

The Weapons Systems TC gives their take on what other TCs (see above) have mentioned: it’s all about hypersonics.


I’ve noticed that over the past several issues the acronym “CFD” appears with decreasing frequency. I think that’s a good thing because instead of an overt focus on the specific technology, simulation (in the form of CFD) has become a standard component of the aerospace engineer’s toolbox.

[A pet peeve of mine that gets irritated every year by this issue is engineers’ fondness for contrived acronyms. If you want to name something, give it a name. The name does not have to abbreviate an awkward euphemism. Except for the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (aka KRUSTY).]

If you read only one issue of Aerospace America each year, this should be the one. For me, when I’m done with the issue (including articles not cited here) I’m really excited to be working in a field where so much innovative work is being done.

If you’re interested in joining AIAA, see their Membership & Communities webpage.

If you’re already an AIAA member and want to become active in one of these committees, see their Committee & Working Groups webpage.

And if you find something CFD-related that I missed, let me know in the comments.

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6 Responses to CFD in Aerospace America’s Year in Review 2018

  1. Tim Tautges says:

    You should also highlight AIAA’s new e-Membership, a free one-year membership for those new to the community,

  2. Mahdi Hasan says:

    It is nice to know the rejuvenation of hypersonics again!

  3. bshuvayan says:

    This is really informative and I look forward for more on this. However, I am not quite sure as to why less frequent use of CFD is a good thing. Additionally, why isin’t there a mention of the artificial intelligence with regards to CFD, as I have read countless recent papers talking about it. Nevertheless, this article is otherwise very inclusive

    • John Chawner says:

      I was unclear in my statement. The acronym “CFD” doesn’t appear in many places. Instead, they use the term simulation. I infer that CFD is now so common and simulation of all kinds is used so frequently that everything gets lumped together under the term simulation. There’s no need to cite CFD in particular as though it’s special. I see this as a good thing. It’s just my opinion; I could be wrong.

      Thanks for reading.

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