Nuclear subsurface explosion modeling and hydrodynamic fragmentation simulation of hazardous asteroids

Premaratne, Pavithra
Major Professor
Bong Wie
Committee Member
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Aerospace Engineering
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Aerospace Engineering

Disruption and fragmentation of an asteroid using nuclear explosive devices (NEDs) is a highly complex yet a practical solution to mitigating the impact threat of asteroids with short warning time. A Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle (HAIV) concept, developed at the Asteroid Deflection Research Center (ADRC), consists of a primary vehicle that acts as kinetic impactor and a secondary vehicle that houses NEDs. The kinetic impactor (lead vehicle) strikes the asteroid creating a crater. The secondary vehicle will immediately enter the crater and detonate its nuclear payload creating a blast wave powerful enough to fragment the asteroid.

The nuclear subsurface explosion modeling and hydrodynamic simulation has been a challenging research goal that paves the way an array of mission critical information. A mesh-free hydrodynamic simulation method, Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) was utilized to obtain both qualitative and quantitative solutions for explosion efficiency. Commercial fluid dynamics packages such as AUTODYN along with the in-house GPU accelerated SPH algorithms were used to validate and optimize high-energy explosion dynamics for a variety of test cases. Energy coupling from the NED to the target body was also examined to determine the effectiveness of nuclear subsurface explosions. Success of a disruption mission also depends on the survivability of the nuclear payload when the secondary vehicle approaches the newly formed crater at a velocity of 10 km/s or higher. The vehicle may come into contact with debris ejecting the crater which required the conceptual development of a Whipple shield. As the vehicle closes on the crater, its skin may also experience extreme temperatures due to heat radiated from the crater bottom. In order to address this thermal problem, a simple metallic thermal shield design was implemented utilizing a radiative heat transfer algorithm and nodal solutions obtained from hydrodynamic simulations.