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Trevor Laughlin NASA GSRP Proposal

2010

Parametric Design and Analysis of a Blended Wing Body Pressurized Centerbody Motivation
Aircraft are traditionally configured as a “tube-and-wing” design where the main function of the tube, or fuselage, is containing the cargo or passengers and the wing is the mechanism for producing lift. This configuration has proven to be an effective and viable design and there has been little need for change. Throughout history, the aviation industry has been subject to a variety of challenges such as unstable fuel prices and more recently, more stringent environmental requirements due to an increased awareness and concern of aviation related emissions. Despite the challenges, the industry has persevered and the commercial aircraft fleet is expected to handle an increasing number of passengers as shown by the predictions in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Historical and Projected Oil Prices and Commercial Enplanements for 2009-2025[1, 2]

These demanding requirements and expectations have forced the aviation industry to continuously improve their designs and pursue enabling technologies, most of which have been concerned with weight reduction and improved engine performance. Aircraft weight reduction has so far been achieved by a transition from an aluminum structure to one consisting of composite materials which can result in a 15 to 20% weight savings[3]. This weight saving method, when combined with improvements in engine performance, results in the production of increasingly larger and fuel-efficient aircraft. An example of this methodology is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which consists of approximately 50% composite materials by weight and claims to use 20% less fuel than any other aircraft of its size[4]. This technique provides a tremendous amount of potential, but it is based on advancements in material technology which are then employed in the next tube-and-wing aircraft, and these advancements are more difficult to achieve successively over time due to physics-based limitations. Relying on advancements in material technology results in only small incremental improvements over time and may not keep pace with fluctuating economic conditions and demanding environmental regulations. The aircraft design space must be expanded to include revolutionary design concepts, such as the Blended Wing Body (BWB) or Hybrid Wing Body (HWB), which offer improvements that traditional tube-and-wing configurations are incapable of providing. The

while at the same time minimizing the invested resources. This technique is a valid approximation considering the structural layout is generally the same. Legacy computer programs. most of which has focused on optimizing the aerodynamic shape of the overall configuration. resulted in the BWB concept achieving 27 to 32% less fuel burn per seat mile[6]. both employing the same structural and engine technology and the only difference being the configuration. This is not the case with a BWB centerbody and legacy analysis codes are no longer capable of providing reliable and useful results. Notional BWB Aircraft[5] The basic concept resembles a flying wing design that originated years ago and was eventually made famous by the Northrop Grumman B-2 bomber and the lesser known Northrop YB-49. such as NASA’s Flight Optimization System (FLOPS). just different material density. Scale models of a BWB concept have recently been constructed and flown and a significant amount of multidiscipline design optimization (MDO) has been performed. . the resulting FLOPS aluminum wing weight is simply multiplied by 95% to approximate the use of composites. For example. Problem Description Revolutionary concepts such as the BWB are becoming more and more attractive as a result of their potential to outperform their current tube-and-wing counterparts. “technology dials” can be programmed internally to represent composite weight savings. The capability to fully evaluate BWB concepts in an efficient and accurate computerized physics-based environment is crucial in order to fully understand the problem and examine the trade space associated with such a concept. Even though FLOPS determines weight estimations based on an aluminum structure. With demanding future requirements and expectations the BWB concept should be included in the design space and investigated further to determine areas of technological challenge and overall feasibility. Preliminary studies that sized two aircraft using identical missions. are widely employed to rapidly evaluate traditional aircraft concepts and are partially based on empirical data gathered over a long history of tubeand-wing style construction. if the use of a composite material is expected to decrease the wing weight by 5%. Figure 2.BWB (Figure 2) concept is a blended-wing type configuration that merges high-lift wings with a wide airfoil-shaped fuselage which results in a higher lift-to-drag (L/D) ratio when compared to a circular fuselage. Aircraft weight estimation in FLOPS relies heavily on this historical data and presents a problem if applied to an unconventional concept such as a BWB.

First. as a passenger cabin. which is why one BWB centerbody concept considers using circular cylinders for the fuselage pressure vessel as seen below. it must be pressurized and support the pressure load in bending. the centerbody is estimated to be responsible for 20% of the aircraft’s overall lift[7] which results in highly coupled structural and aerodynamic interactions and tradeoffs. Figure 3. This work is much improved as compared to attempting to use the wing-and-tube estimations but its flexibility is limited. and as a wing. The most uncertainty is generated from the centerbody due to its revolutionary design and most of the research effort will be focused on reducing this level of uncertainty to an acceptable level. Proposed Research The proposed research task will focus on a parametric design and analysis tool for the structural weight estimation of a BWB centerbody. Circular fuselages efficiently handle cabin pressurization loads through hoop tension. assuming a typical wing structural layout. . where centerbody weight equations were regressed from finite element analysis (FEA) results assuming an integrated skin and shell design as seen in Figure 3. The new or improved model could be used to provide legacy analysis codes with more accurate weight predictions or used separately to explore the centerbody design space. This results in a need of a physicsbased analysis tool capable of accurately estimating the structural layout and weight of a BWB centerbody. could still be used for the outboard wing section incorporating advanced composite materials. it must carry the wing bending load. Previous work regarding this topic has been performed and integrated into more recent versions of FLOPS[8]. Second.The pressurized centerbody of a BWB presents a unique set of challenges as compared to the historical tube-and-wing. such as FLOPS. BWB Centerbody Pressure Vessel Concepts[6] Proper evaluation of a BWB concept will require that the centerbody be accurately represented based on its unique physical configuration. Legacy codes.

the first phase will also consist of an evaluation and comparison of the AVID tools and current BWB capabilities within FLOPS. The second phase will focus on using the results from the first phase to determine if previous work. Creating a modeling and simulation environment that can take an aircraft configuration and calculate the external aerodynamic loads for a given flight condition will be required to obtain the internal structural loads within the airframe. such as the work currently employed in FLOPS.The first phase of research will consist of an extensive literature search to gain a complete understanding of the problem. A review of previous BWB design methodologies and attempts will transition the focus to the BWB. Vehicle Sketch Pad (VSP) could be used to model the configuration and then used in conjunction with a panel method to determine the pressure coefficients across the external surface which could then be integrated to determine aerodynamic loads. It will also be important to examine the expected timeframe that a BWB concept could be introduced (2020) to determine what advanced material technologies and manufacturing processes could be utilized. the centerbody structural design space can be explored and a physics-based weight estimation can be obtained which can be fed into other analyses tools. can be utilized or expanded to achieve the desired results. The third phase will employ the environment created in the seconds phase to a BWB concept. This phase will result in an environment that can transfer aerodynamic loads to the internal structure. . with emphasis on the centerbody structural design and configuration. specifically the centerbody. After proper application of structural safety factors these loads can be used to determine a preliminary structural concept as well as an estimation of weight. At the same time. With this capability. aerodynamic loads. analyses codes to determine aerodynamic loads for a given configuration will need to be gathered and investigated to determine their limitations and capability to contribute to the given problem. Pending acquisition of newly developed BWB analyses codes developed by AVID. This design capability will be used to determine a preliminary centerbody structural layout and weight estimation given the external dimensions of the BWB centerbody. and the properties of the structural materials in use. A thorough understanding of traditional aircraft structural design will be important to identify what makes the BWB problem unique and what new variables and challenges are introduced.

respectively. Currently. The proposed research focuses on reducing that uncertainty by creating a parametric model that could supplement or replace the structural module of an existing aircraft sizing code or be used separately to explore the centerbody design space.Proposed Schedule Year 1 Task Research and understand traditional aircraft structural design Review past and current BWB designs Define design space associated with a BWB centerbody Gather analyses codes Establish design tool framework Year 2 Month 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Task Integrate analyses codes to obtain structural loads Assess capability on traditional configurations Modify codes to apply to a BWB configuration Apply code to a static BWB configuration Develop code to estimate structural weight Year 3 Month 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Task Determine independent design variables for parametric analysis Develop surrogate models of the design environment Integrate surrogate models into FLOPS Assess capability of BWB centerbody model Month 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Conclusions The goals set by NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project for the 2020 timeframe are a 50 and 75% reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. The revolutionary BWB design has the potential to significantly decrease both the fuel related operating costs as well as the environmental footprint attributed to aviation. This capability would further the understanding of the BWB design and contribute to the ERA’s top level goals. a major source of uncertainty related to the BWB is attributed to the design and weight estimation of the pressurized centerbody. .

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