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High-Resolution Accelerometer Package

This experiment uses an orthogonal, triaxial set of sensitive linear accelerometers to take accurate measurements of low-level (down to micro-g's) aerodynamic accelerations along the orbiter's principal axes during initial re-entry into the atmosphere, i.e., in the rarefied flow regime.

The aerodynamic acceleration data from the HiRAP experiment, output on existing ACIP channels, have been used to calculate rarefied aerodynamic performance parameters and/or atmospheric properties pertaining to several flights, beginning with the STS-6 mission. These flight data support advances in predicting the aerodynamic behavior of winged entry vehicles in the high-speed, low-density flight regime, including free molecular flow and the transition into the hypersonic continuum. Aerodynamic performance under these conditions cannot be simulated in ground facilities; consequently, current predictions rely solely on computational techniques and extrapolations of tunnel data. For improvement or advances, these techniques depend on actual flight data to serve as benchmarks, particularly in the transition regime between free molecular flow and continuum flow.

Advancements in rarefied aerodynamics of winged entry vehicles may also prove useful in the design of future advanced orbital transfer vehicles. Such OTVs may use aerodynamic braking and maneuvering to dissipate excess orbital energy into the upper atmosphere upon return to lower orbits for rendezvous with an orbiter from the space station. A key aerodynamic parameter in the OTV design is the lift-to-drag ratio, which is measured directly in the HiRAP experiment. Furthermore, an OTV may require a flight-proven, sensitive onboard accelerometer system to overcome uncertainties in the upper atmosphere. The experience gained from the planned multiple HiRAP flights may provide valuable test data for the development of future navigation systems. In addition, the experiment provides data on key atmospheric properties (e.g., density) in a region of flight that is not readily accessible to orbital vehicles or regular meteorological soundings.


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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