Optimization and Automated Data Correlation in the NASA Standard Thermal/Fluid System Analyzer

SINDA/FLUINT (Ref 1-7) is the NASA-standard heat transfer and fluid flow analyzer for thermal control systems. Because of its general formulation, it is also used in other aerospace specialties such as environmental control (ECLSS) and liquid propulsion, and in terrestrial industries such as electronics packaging, refrigeration, power generation, and transportation industries. SINDA/FLUINT is used to design and simulate thermal/fluid systems that can be represented in networks corresponding to finite difference, finite element, and/or lumped parameter equations. In addition to conduction, convection, and radiation heat transfer, the program can model steady or unsteady single- and two-phase flow networks. CRTech's SinapsPlus® is a complete graphical user interface (preand postprocessor) and interactive model debugging environment for SINDA/FLUINT (Ref 8, 9). SinapsPlus also supports the C language in addition to the traditional choice of Fortran for concurrently executed user logic. This paper describes revolutionary advances in SINDA/FLUINT, the NASA-standard heat transfer and fluid flow analyzer, changing it from a traditional point-design simulator into a tool that can help shape preliminary designs, rapidly perform parametrics and sensitivity studies, and even correlate modeling uncertainties using available test data. Innovations include the incorporation of a complete spreadsheet-like module that allows users to centralize and automate model changes, even while thermal/fluid solutions are in progress. This feature reduces training time by eliminating many archaic options, and encourages the performance of parametrics and other what-if analyses that help engineers develop an intuitive understanding of their designs and how they are modeled. The more revolutionary enhancement, though, is the complete integration of a nonlinear programming module that enables users to perform formal design optimization tasks such as weight minimization or performance maximization. The user can select any number of design variables and may apply any number of arbitrarily complex constraints to the optimization. This capability also can be used to find the best fit to available test data, automating a laborious but important task: the correlation of modeling uncertainties such as optical properties, contact conductances, as-built insulation performance, natural convection coefficients, etc. Finally, this paper presents an overview of related developments that, coupled with the optimization capabilities, further enhance the power of the whole package.

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IECEC 1998
Brent A. Cullimore