Monte Carlo Modelling of Spacecraft Re-Entry

Direct Simulation Monte Carlo Modelling of Spacecraft Re-Entry


Planetary vehicles such as the space shuttle typically operate in rarefied gas environments at the outer limits of the atmosphere. During re-entry such craft are subject to extremes of velocity and altitude, so it is important that the aerodynamic and thermal loads on the vehicle are properly characterised if the feasibility of the vehicle design is to be accurately assessed. Researchers in the Multi Scale Flows Research Group and The Centre for Future Air-Space Transportation Technology (cFASTT) at the University of Strathclyde have been developing computational chemistry models for hypersonic flow applications in rarefied gas conditions. These models have been developed within the numerical technique known as the Direct Simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method. In the DSMC approach, individual gas particles are represented as clusters of real atoms or molecules which interact with each other on a probabilistic basis. Due to the particulate nature of the DSMC method it is computationally intensive and HPC resources are normally required for real-world, 3D geometries. Initial testing on simpler geometries has been undertaken (see figures) and further work will be carried out on future hypersonic spacecraft designs.


For more details please contact Dr Tom Scanlon (, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Strathclyde.
For a list of the research areas in which ARCHIE-WeSt users are active please click here.