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  • Aspects of the finite element method as applied to aero-space structures

    Paper ID



    • J.H. Argyris
    • J. ST. Doltsinis
    • J.F. Gloudeman
    • K. Straub
    • K.J. William


    Imperial College of Science and Technology and Institut für Statik und Dynamik der Luft- and Raumfahrtkonstruktionen, Universität Stuttgart


    England / Federal Republic of Germany




    A unique combination of aero-spacecraft technology is necessary for the success of the ‘Space Shuttle Program’ which forms the next major manned space flight program in the Western World. The primary design objectives involve analytical problems of so far unseen complexity and magnitude. The parallel burn at lift off involves liquid and solid rocket engines which results in accelerations up to 1.5 g’s. Moreover, during the early atmospheric flight the vehicle will experience severe aerodynamic forces and induced aeroelastic effects due to its geometric characteristics. Having achieved Earth orbit, the Shuttle Orbiter will serve a number of functions, involving both low and high power thrusts for different maneuvers. The return flight to Earth is likely to be in the 8000 ms -1 range forming a severe challenge to the analysis since the large scale structure is exposed to extreme environmental conditions. Both the success of a given mission, and the system reliability for an envisaged 100-flight vehicle, depend on the solution of these problems. Following an appraisal of the shuttle in the first part some aspects of the finite element method will be reviewed when applied to the static and dynamic analysis of aero-spacecraft components. These techniques combined with interactive graphic capabilities in conjunction with the development of a central data bank form the prerequisite for the successful design of such a complex structure.