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Dynamic Instabilities in Slender Space Launch Vehicles under Propulsive Thrust and Aerodynamic Forces

M. Trikha1, S. Gopalakrishnan2, D. Roy Mahapatra2,1, R. Pandiyan1
ISRO Satellite Centre, Indian Space Research Organization, Bangalore 560017, India
Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, India

Computer Modeling in Engineering & Sciences 2009, 45(2), 97-140.


A mechanics based linear analysis of the problem of dynamic instabilities in slender space launch vehicles is undertaken. The flexible body dynamics of the moving vehicle is studied in an inertial frame of reference, including velocity induced curvature effects, which have not been considered so far in the published literature. Coupling among the rigid-body modes, the longitudinal vibrational modes and the transverse vibrational modes due to asymmetric lifting-body cross-section are considered. The model also incorporates the effects of aerodynamic forces and the propulsive thrust of the vehicle. The effects of the coupling between the combustion process (mass variation, developed thrust etc.) and the variables involved in the flexible body dynamics (displacements and velocities) are clearly brought out. The model is one-dimensional, and it can be employed to idealised slender vehicles with complex shapes. Computer simulations are carried out using a standard eigenvalue problem withinh-pfinite element modelling framework. Stability regimes for a vehicle subjected to propulsive thrust are validated by comparing the results from published literature. Numerical simulations are carried out for a representative vehicle to determine the instability regimes with vehicle speed and propulsive thrust as the parameters. The phenomena of static instability (divergence) and dynamic instability (flutter) are observed. The results at low Mach number match closely with the results obtained from previous models published in the literature.


launch vehicle, stability, flexible body, follower force, aerodynamic forces, propulsive thrust.

Cite This Article

Trikha, M., Gopalakrishnan, S., Mahapatra, D. R., Pandiyan, R. (2009). Dynamic Instabilities in Slender Space Launch Vehicles under Propulsive Thrust and Aerodynamic Forces. CMES-Computer Modeling in Engineering & Sciences, 45(2), 97–140.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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