A professor and graduate student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are working to develop better methods to predict where fragments from a warhead strike will fly, reducing the risk of collateral damage.
Currently, predictions of how warhead fragmentation will occur are determined using static tests in which test warheads are detonated in the desert with no flying involved. Although some numerical simulations have also been used as predictors of warhead fragmentation, they often fail to account for factors such as gravity and aerodynamic forces.
Thanks to a grant of $442,508 from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, aerospace engineering Professor Riccardo Bevilacqua and graduate student Katharine Larsen will merge static test data with advanced simulation capabilities, taking into account factors such as a warhead’s speed and orientation and using artificial neural networks and other machine learning tools to provide better estimates.
“Being able to predict the behavior of these systems is a way to save money and be more accurate,” Bevilacqua said. “Having a better model of where the fragments will go will make innocent people safer.”
Bevilacqua said the technology being developed could also be applied in the event of collisions or explosions in space that throw out fragments of space debris. Being able to predict where this debris will go could prevent active satellites from being damaged.
Tasos Lyrintzis, Emeritus Professor and President of the Department of Aerospace Engineeringsaid the grant represents the largest single-investigator Air Force award received by the department.
“It shows how much the Air Force values research,” Lyrintzis said.
Larsen, who wins a master in aerospace engineeringwill help create models from data provided by the US Air Force and simulations provided by the United States Naval Air Warfare Center. Having recently decided to pursue a doctorate, Larsen would like to work for the Department of Defense and would one day like to be involved in the design and manufacture of satellites and their control systems for scientific research.
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