Coupled Digital Engineering Solutions in Podracing: More Bang for your Republic Credits!

Authors note:  While I have the utmost respect for die-hard Star Wars fans, I must confess that growing up, Episode I was my favorite. Perhaps it was the allure of Darth Maul’s dual lightsaber, the adrenaline-pumping Podracing on Tatooine, or Natalie Portman (no elaboration needed) that captivated my young mind. Although May 4th has already passed this year, my love of Episode I combined with my upcoming presentation at JANNAF had me thinking that perhaps it’s time to revisit the engineering behind Podracers.

In a previous blog post, we explored the possibilities of redesigning Anakin’s Podracer. Back then, we discovered that the movie’s turbine and compressor design fell far below the mark. However, poor Ani didn’t have access to the advanced AxSTREAM® software platform for designing turbomachinery systems and components, nor did he possess the financial means to acquire top-of-the-line hardware (let’s be honest, Watto’s junkshop hardly exuded luxury).

Figure 1 Watto’s junkshop in Mos Espa, Tatooine
Figure 1 Watto’s junkshop in Mos Espa, Tatooine. Source

Today, we revisit the exhilarating world of Podracing, determined to avoid the disastrous fate that befell Ben Quadinaros’ craft.

Ben Quadinaros' unfortanate start
Figure 2 Ben Quadinaros’ unfortunate start. Source 

Now, many factors could have contributed to that unfortunate incident. For example, frustration-induced control slamming is never advisable… However, the most plausible explanation is a failure at one of the subsystem interfaces. Why do I think so? Simply because this is a common issue with modern systems, including vehicles. Everyone involved means well and possesses the necessary technical prowess to perform their individual tasks. However, problems often arise when these meticulously designed parts and subsystems attempt to interface seamlessly. This is precisely where a coupled digital engineering solution comes into play! Close your eyes (then reopen them to keep reading) and imagine a place where all critical propulsion and auxiliary components can be modeled together, accommodating any desired conditions (including those we cannot run with physical hardware on a test bench).

Using this approach, we can examine Ani’s Podracer. The figure below showcases a potential simulation of coupled propulsion and auxiliary systems, utilizing 0D-1D elements. This model encompasses the turbojet (as seen in the previous post), the fuel supply system (complete with customizable fluids and materials so we can include the vaguely known properties of straight tradium activated with injectrine, for instance), the bearing lubrication system (complete with oil cooling), and the nozzle cooling system.

Figure 3 Coupled conceptual propulsion and auxiliary system of Anakin Skywalker’s redesigned Podracer
Figure 3 Coupled conceptual propulsion and auxiliary system of Anakin Skywalker’s redesigned Podracer

While there are numerous advantages to this coupled reduced-order modeling (0D-1D) approach, let’s focus on the key benefits:

  • Huge time savings (11x faster compared to using different software for separate modeling tasks)
  • Holistic optimization and parametric studies (everything within a single model and software)
  • Ability to analyze transient operations, identifying critical conditions to avoid during races or areas requiring redesign
  • Capability to virtually simulate the entire race track, evaluating system effectiveness
  • Ease of creating, modifying, and evaluating new concepts without the resource-intensive nature of 3D calculations

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If you’re eager to delve deeper into this type of coupled simulation, I invite you to join me at JANNAF in Pittsburgh this month. Attend my presentation, “Speeding Up the Process Of Rocket Propulsion And Auxiliary System Development Through Integrated Reduced-order Modeling” on Tuesday, May 23rd, during the 1:30-3:35 PM session. There, we will explore the intricacies of this methodology, with a specific focus on liquid rocket engines.

Reach out to info@softinway.com to learn more!

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