Numerical modeling of the CN spectral emission of the Stardust re-entry vehicle

Alexandre Martin, Erin D. Farbar, Iain D. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Re-entry vehicles designed for space exploration are usually equipped with thermal protection systems made of ablative material. In order to properly model and predict the aerothermal environment of the vehicle, it is imperative to account for the gases produced by ablation processes. In the case of charring ablators, where an inner resin is pyrolyzed at a relatively low temperature, the composition of the gas expelled into the boundary layer is complex and may lead to thermal chemical reactions that cannot be captured with simple flow chemistry models. In order to obtain better predictions, an appropriate gas flow chemistry model needs to be included in the CFD calculations. Although more arc-jet experimental data is becoming available for model comparison, very little fiight data exists for comparison and validation. However, because of the observation mission campaign led by NASA, data is available for the re-entry of the Stardust sample return vehicle, which employed a heat shield constructed of phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (PICA). Using a recently developed chemistry model for ablating carbon-phenolic-in-air species, a CFD calculation of the Stardust re-entry at 71 km is presented. The result demonstrates the need to account for different species in the flow field than the ones composing the pyrolysis gas. It is also shown that the main heat flux reduction phenomenon is through mass diffusion, and not through translational-rotational conduction, as is the case at higher altitude. The flow field solutions are also used to generate nonequilibrium radiation spectra, which are compared to the experimental data obtained during Stardust re-entry by the Echelle instrument. The predicted emission from the CN lines compares quite well with the experimental results, demonstrating the validity of the current approach.

Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - Jun 27 2011
Event42nd AIAA Thermophysics Conference 2011 - Honolulu, HI, United States
Duration: Jun 27 2011Jun 30 2011


Conference42nd AIAA Thermophysics Conference 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityHonolulu, HI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Numerical modeling of the CN spectral emission of the Stardust re-entry vehicle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this