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Selecting the correct altitude for a given peak hull temp with the Ravenstar.
by dgatsoulis 06182014, 08:19 PM
Before we start I'd like to thank Douglas E. Beachy and Steve "Coolhand" Tyler for creating one of the most amazing and fun to fly spacecrafts in Orbiter. Also an additional thanks to Doug for sharing a part of the Ravenstar's hull temperature code with us, without which this tutorial wouldn't be possible.
So, let's begin: One of the most important factors in a successful aerobrake/aerocapture maneuver with an XR2 is the periapsis altitude of the trajectory. Especially when you are approaching a planet with a high velocity. Too low and you'll burn up; too high and you won't get captured by the atmosphere. Many rely on experience to help them select the correct altitude at which to perform the aerocapture, but even the most experienced every once in a while come by a situation where they don't really know what to do. This tutorial will show you how to calculate in advance the lowest altitude that you can dive in an atmosphere, for a given hull temperature. The Ravenstar uses the following to calculate the hull temperature: Quote:
The atmospheric pressure is directly linked to the altitude. For most of the planets we can find the pressure for a given altitude by: (from Orbitersdk\doc\API_guide.pdf) Earth, Venus and Mars however, have custom atmospheric models, so we need a table with the static pressure at a range of altitudes that correspond to typical reentries. It is pretty easy to make one: Run a scenario in Orbiter. Pause Scenario Editor Bring in a DG and place it at the planet/altitude you want. Unpause and pause again (really quick, it's better to be at x0.1 time accel) Make a note of the STP from the Surface MFD Repeat the last three steps for the range of altitudes you want. Here is a table for the static pressures of all 3 planets at a range of altitudes that correspond to typical (and some not so typical) aerobrake maneuvers:
Let's rearrange the hull temp equation to find the static pressure. The maximum nose hull temperature for the XR2 is 2840°C. I don't recommend going higher than 2500°C, since any mistake near those temperatures will result in the loss of crew and ship. So for the hull temp we can use 2500°C = 2773.15°K All we need to know is the airspeed at periapsis, calculate the static pressure and look up the table to find the altitude. Here we need to remember that the hull temp is calculated using the airspeed, not the orbital velocity. For Venus, this doesn't pose much of a problem, since it rotates so slowly, but for Earth, you can have a difference of up to +/ 464 m/s depending on the direction of your trajectory at periapsis. For Mars the difference can be up to +/ 240 m/s. Since the airspeed is raised to the power of 3, such an error may have a big impact in our hull temp calculation. In Orbiter, the atmosphere rotates with the planet, so we can easily calculate the airspeed at periapsis, if we know the orbital velocity, latitude and heading at periapsis (all given by IMFD's Map program) Airspeed(Pe) = Where PeV = the periapsis orbital velocity, EqRot = planet's rotation velocity at the equator = 2*π*Radius/siderial day, lat = geographical latitude of periapsis, heading = heading at periapsis. The EqRot for Earth is 2*π*6.37101e6/86164.1 = 464.58 m/s The EqRot for Mars is 2*π*3.38992e6/88642.7 = 240.29 m/s Venus rotates so slowly that the difference of the orbital speed and the airspeed is negligible. So enough with the theory, let's try an example. We'll use the scenario from jroly posted here.  Quote:
Let's fire up the scenario in Orbiter and open IMFD's map program: Ok, we are less than 1/2 hour from periapsis, the periapsis alt is 12.74 km below the surface (we'll fix that) and the PeV is 12.58 km/s. From the heading, we can also see that we will be arriving in a retrograde direction (274.89°) and that the periapsis geo lat is going to be 46.869°N. Let's plug everything into the airspeed equation: Airspeed = sqrt(PeV^2 + (EqRot*cos(lat))^2  2*PeV*(EqRot*cos(lat))*cos(90heading)) = sqrt(12580^2 + (240.29*cos(46.869))^2  2*12580*(240.29*cos(46.869))*cos(90274.89)) = 12743.69 m/s Now let's plug the airspeed in the static pressure equation: STP = (2773.15 / (1.39466796e10*airspeed^3)) = (2773.15 / (1.39466796e10*12743.69^3)) = 9.607645 Pa Looking up the table we can see that for Mars, that static pressure corresponds to an altitude of slightly more than 38km. So our first action is to use the RCS thrusters and set the periapsis altitude at 38.5 km. This will ensure that our peak hull temp will not be higher than 2500°C. After the periapsis correction let's have another look at the Map program: The parameters changed a little bit, so let's redo the calculation. The difference should be small but we'll do it anyway for practise. Airspeed = sqrt(12570^2 + (240.29*cos(46.855))^2  2*12570*(240.29*cos(46.855))*cos(90275.14)) = 12733.67 m/s STP = (2773.15 / (1.39466796e10*12733.67^3)) = 9.630343 Pa So it's pretty much the same; there is no need to change our periapsis altitude. One thing to remember here, is that we won't instantly "pop up" inside the atmosphere at that altitude, but we'll go through the upper layers first. So our peak hull temp should be slightly less than the prediction (2500°C) for that altitude. Let's go to periapsis and check the temperature. We start inverted at ~40° AoA and watch the vertical velocity and vertical acceleration in SurfaceMFD. Our goal is to get the vertical acceleration close to zero when we reach a vertical velocity of zero at periapsis. To do that, we'll start lowering the AoA (while inverted) when the vertical velocity is about 300 m/s. Seems like we slightly overshot the periapsis. That's ok, by calculating the periapsis altitude for a hull temp of 2500°C we can afford to make such small mistakes, by giving ourselves a couple of hundred degrees room for error. Now all we need to do is hold this altitude (and drop lower as the airspeed decreases) until we are captured. About 10 minutes later: Welcome to Mars orbit.  This link will get you to a google spreadsheet that makes the hull temp calculation, so all you have to do is enter the variables from IMFD's Map program and you'll get the static pressure of the lowest altitude you can dive in for a given temperature. It's been preset to 2500°C, but you can change it if you want. When you go to the link, select File→Create Copy so you can keep your own copy of the spreadsheet. Otherwise you won't be able to use/edit it. One last thing to keep in mind, is that this calculation will only tell you the altutude at which you can dive inside a planet's atmosphere for a given peak hull temp. Whether you can actually perform an aerocapture at that altitude depends on other factors as well. Have fun, happy orbiting Last edited by dgatsoulis; 06182014 at 10:16 PM. Reason: Typo, thanks Ripley!  
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06202014, 11:50 AM  #2 
Orbinaut

thanks for the tutorial on hull temps at different altitudes! I reckon now if we can plot the maximum altitude needed to maintain hyperbolic orbit within the atmosphere vs the temperature suffered at those altitudes you/we can know what kind of approaches are and are not viable to certain celestial bodies.
Naturally this is limited by the maximum amount of lift a spacecraft (lets say the XR2) can sustain before breaking apart due to excessive wing load and maximum temperatures by aerodynamic heat flux. Fortunately wing load will not get near critical until after 50m/s Yaxis acceleration and this is enough to stay in inverted atmospheric hyperbolic orbits around celestial bodies with atmospheres. 
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12292017, 03:00 PM  #3 
Promoting vegetables in space

Hope this won't count as resurrecting an old thread. I found this post super interesting, but photobucket took a dump on the pictures, so here they are again from archive.org.
It might be more useful to edit the original post. Quote:
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