Super-Orbital Re-entry in Australia: Laboratory Measurement, Simulation and Flight Observation
There are large uncertainties in the aerothermodynamic modelling of super-orbital re-entry which impact the design of spacecraft thermal protection systems (TPS). Aspects of the thermal environment of super-orbital re-entry flows can be simulated in the laboratory using arc- and plasma jet facilities and these devices are regularly used for TPS certification work . Another laboratory device which is capable of simulating certain critical features of both the aero and thermal environment of super-orbital re-entry is the expansion tube, and three such facilities have been operating at the University of Queensland in recent years . Despite some success, wind tunnel tests do not achieve full simulation, however, a virtually complete physical simulation of particular re-entry conditions can be obtained from dedicated flight testing, and the Apollo-era FIRE II flight experiment  is the premier example which still forms an important benchmark for modern simulations. Dedicated super-orbital flight testing is generally considered too expensive today, and there is a reluctance to incorporate substantial instrumentation for aerothermal diagnostics into existing missions since it may compromise primary mission objectives. An alternative approach to on-board flight measurements, with demonstrated success particularly in the ‘Stardust’ sample return mission, is remote observation of spectral emissions from the capsule and shock layer .
JAXA’s ‘Hayabusa’ sample return capsule provides a recent super-orbital reentry example through which we illustrate contributions in three areas: (1) physical simulation of super-orbital re-entry conditions in the laboratory; (2) computational simulation of such flows; and (3) remote acquisition of optical emissions from a super-orbital re-entry event.
KeywordsShock Layer Epoxy Coating Expansion Tunnel Expansion Tube Thermal Protection System
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