Reentry response of the light weight radioisotope heater unit resulting from a Venus-Earth-Earth Gravity Assist maneuver accident
Description: Reentry analyses consisting of ablation response, thermal response and thermal stress response have been conducted on the Light Weight Radioisotope Heater Unit for Galileo/VEEGA reentry conditions. Sequential ablation analyses of the LWRHU aeroshell, the fuel clad, and the fuel pellet have been conducted in reentry regimes where the aeroshell has been deemed to fail. The failure criterion for ablation is assumed to be recession corresponding to 50% of the wall thickness (the design criterion recommended in the DOE Overall Safety Manual). Although the analyses have been carried far beyond this limit (as presented and discussed herein), JHU/APL endorses the position that failure may occur at the time that this recession is achieved or at lower altitudes within the heat pulse considering the uncertainties in the aerodynamic, thermodynamic, and thermo-structural analyses and modeling. These uncertainties result mainly because of the high energies involved in the VEEGA reentries compared to orbital decay reentries. Risk evaluations should consider the fact that for shallow flight paths the unit may disassemble at high-altitude as a result of ablation or may remain intact until it impacts with a clad that had been molten. 80 refs., 46 figs., 16 tabs.
Date: October 1, 1988
Creator: Hagan, J.C.
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