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Collier Research’s HyperSizer software was used to optimise the composite fuselage and wing structure of the Stratolaunch air-launch platform.
The Stratolaunch aircraft rolled out of the Mojave, California, US, Air and Space Port hangar this spring in preparation for ground testing. Last month the first phase of engine testing was completed.
The aircraft, the brainchild of Stratolaunch System Corporation founder Paul G. Allen, has two fuselages connected by a giant single wing and is powered by six engines that will enable it to take off from a runway carrying a payload of up to 550,000 lbs. The world’s largest aircraft by wingspan, it is almost entirely fabricated from composite materials, which provide light weight combined with high stiffness and strength. At the cruising altitude of a commercial airliner, Stratolaunch will release the space launch vehicle payload and return to the airport for reuse. The first launch demonstration is expected to take place as early as 2019.
Collier Research’s HyperSizer software was used by the aircraft’s manufacturer Scaled Composites to optimise the composite fuselage and wing structure. The first software package to be commercialised out of NASA, HyperSizer has been employed on a variety of aerospace and other industry projects fabricated with composite or metallic materials. The software performs design, stress analysis and sizing optimisation, and is reported to typically reduce the weight of structures by 20-40%.
“To ensure the most efficient use of materials in an all-composite structure of any size requires effective employment of design and manufacturing optimisation tools from the very earliest stages,” says Collier Research’s President Craig Collier.
For the massive Stratolaunch wing, deflection limits were a significant factor to be taken into account. The panels of the duel fuselages were sized for strength, stability and honeycomb sandwich failure modes. With HyperSizer, the stress team had access to a comprehensive set of automated failure analyses that includes rapid free-body analysis, discrete laminate sizing, ply-based composite failure analysis, honeycomb sandwich analysis methods such as wrinkling, core shear, flatwise tension and intracell dimpling, and scripting API to push in loads from Excel spreadsheets.
Collier is seeing continuing evolution in the integration of the toolsets used for composites design and manufacturing.
“HyperSizer software can provide insight into how producible a structure is and whether there might be any manufacturing issues,” says Craig Collier. “It can incorporate laminate fabrication preferences in early-stage design thought; ease-of-manufacturing is becoming a major influence with strength design of laminate structures.”
Image provided by Stratolaunch Systems Corp
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