The Suitability of Selected Multidisciplinary Design and Optimization Techniques to Conceptual Aerospace Vehicle Design

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Olds, John R.
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Aerospace vehicle conceptual design is dominated by interactions among various traditional engineering disciplines. Aerodynamics, propulsion, performance, weights, sizing, and others are usually highly coupled, and complete vehicle analysis requires an iterative process with efficient methods of communication among the disciplines. Progress to computerize the analysis process has been fast in recent years, producing analysis tools such as NASA-Langley's AVID and EASIE. Given a configuration, the capability exists to quickly analyze it in order to determine its overall characteristics and performance. However, the vehicle designer/ integrator still largely depends on intuition to make systems level changes to the configuration and components in order to improve or optimize the overall design. "What if" studies are typically performed by perturbing the design variables one at a time in an attempt to locate a better design. A complete reanalysis of the entire system is then required for each variable change. This method is a time consuming process that may or may not lead to a more desirable vehicle design. Several mathematically based design techniques have recently emerged that could help the system designer make necessary improvements. These new methods serve to bridge the gap between analysis and design. This paper attempts to give a brief overview of four such techniques, system decomposition, sensitivity analysis, Taguchi methods, and for comparison, classical optimization. References to examples of successful uses of each technique are provided. The goal of this paper is to assess the pros and cons of each technique and their applicability to aerospace vehicle conceptual design.
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