Modeling the interaction of proximal fragments for destructive atmospheric entry analysis

Fábio Morgado, Marco Fossati, Dániel G. Kovács

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The destructive atmospheric entry process is distinguished by the formation of several fragments due to the severe aerothermal loads encountered during the descent. The proximity of debris leads to shock wave interactions and collisions between bodies, influencing the overall dynamics of the fragments and affecting the prediction of demise and ground impact location. To account for these effects, the use of computational fluid dynamics is introduced to resolve the shock interaction patterns by employing a quasi-steady approach, and the use of a simple rigid-body collision model is introduced to represent the dynamics of fragments in the cloud of debris. The quasi-steady approach is assessed and validated by comparative analysis with a few studies in the literature. One of these examples is the rebuilding of the VKI’s experiment of a free-flying ring crossing a shock wave generated by the presence of a stationary cylinder. The impact of explicitly modeling collision dynamics in the trajectory of fragments and ground spread distance is validated by considering a set of relevant test cases from the literature and tested them for destructive atmospheric reentry of the Attitude Vernier Upper Module, the launcher VEGA upper stage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2008-2023
Number of pages16
JournalAIAA Journal
Issue number6
Early online date25 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • Shock Wave Interaction
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics
  • Aerodynamic Coefficients
  • Adaptive Mesh Refinement
  • Uncontrolled Space Vehicle Reentry
  • Interactional Aerodynamics
  • Multi-body collision
  • Hypersonic Aerodynamics
  • Quasi-Steady States


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