Modeling the Transient Effects of High Energy Subsystems on High-Performance Aerospace Systems

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Virginia Tech

As directed energy technology continues to evolve and become a viable weapon alternative, a need exists to investigate the impacts of these applications without a "plug-and-check" method, but rather with an analysis governed by fundamental principles. This thesis examines the transient thermal loads that a high-energy weapon system introduces into a high performance aircraft using fundamental thermodynamic and heat transfer analyses.

The high-energy weapon system employed in this research contains power storage, power conditioning equipment, optics, and a solid-state laser. The high-energy weapon system is integrated into the aircraft by a dedicated thermal management system connected to the onboard air and fuel fluid networks. The dedicated thermal management system includes heat exchangers, thermal storage, microchannel coolers, valves, and pumps. Governing equations for the electric directed energy weapon subsystem and thermal management system are formulated for each system component and modeled in Mathwork's Simulink™. System models are integrated into a generic, high-performance aircraft model created as part of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Integrated Vehicle Energy Technology Demonstration (INVENT) program. The aircraft model performs a defined mission profile, firing the directed energy weapon during the high-altitude, transonic cruise segment.

When firing a 100-kilowatt directed energy weapon system operating at 16.9% efficiency, large thermal transients quickly heat downstream onboard systems. Real-time heat rejection causes temperature spikes in avionic and environment systems that exceed allowable operation constraints. The addition of thermal storage to the thermal management system mitigates thermal impacts downstream of the directed energy weapon by delaying the time thermal loads are rejected to aircraft, thereby reducing peak and average loads. Although thermal storage is shown to mitigate peak loads in downstream onboard systems, thermal closure is yet to be achieved.

This research presents a general and fundamental approach to investigating the thermal impacts of a directed energy weapon system on a high-performance aircraft. Although specific cases are analyzed, this general approach to model development and simulation is conducive to component and system customization for many other cases. Additionally, the supplementation of models with analytical, semi-empirical, and empirical data further tailors model development to each user's need while increasing the potential to enhance accuracy and efficacy. Without the material expenses of a "plug-and-check" method, component and system level modeling of the directed energy weapon system and high-performance aircraft provides valuable insight into the thermal responses of highly-coupled systems.

aerospace, thermal storage, directed energy weapon, solid-state laser