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MADIC/NASA Infrastructure Project Receives Funding

In collaboration with NASA and members of the MADIC (Multidisciplinary Analysis and Design Industrial Consortium), CRPC researchers will conduct a one-year study of NASA simulation programs to determine their effectiveness for pre-competitive use in a multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO) environment. MDO is an area of engineering that aims to improve product design by integrating the multiple factors involved in the design and production process. "With these design tools, industry will be able to design aircraft systems simultaneously," said Lee Holcomb, NASA's Director for High Performance Computing and Communications.

John Dennis, a principal investigator for the approved proposal, said, "This project is a significant step in organizing the government, academic, and industrial institutions whose enabling technologies can make MDO feasible for the aerospace industry." In addition to CRPC researchers from Rice University, Argonne National Laboratory, and Syracuse University, project researchers include scientists from NASA and most of the major aerospace corporations.

The project is a significant move for the CRPC in recognizing the possibilities that MDO can offer to engineering. According to CRPC Director Ken Kennedy, the other principal investigator for the project, "Multidisciplinary analysis and design will represent increasingly important applications for parallel computation and, if they can be done efficiently, they could eventually revolutionize the practice of engineering design."

The project will consider evaluating for industrial use 10-15 NASA simulation programs, known as solvers, which approximate physical phenomena involved with the design of aircraft (i.e., the lift or weight related to aircraft wings). Criteria for evaluation of these solvers will be developed and a plan will be formulated to detail how existing NASA solvers will be incorporated into the MDO framework. Out of these programs, seven will be selected for evaluation by a group of industry researchers. Parallel processing requirements will be developed for the software and hardware to be used for these programs.

The programs will also be evaluated to determine the sensitivities of simulation results with respect to selected parameters. These sensitivities are vital to the success of design optimization. With input factors constantly changing in the design process, their effect on the end results of product design must be accurately measured. The ADIFOR tool developed by CRPC researchers will play an important role in this analysis.

Three CRPC workshops will be conducted to establish specific technical goals. The first workshop, "Review of NASA Codes," will select the programs to be evaluated. Each workshop will bring together researchers from several fields in academia, industry, and government.

"The CRPC's involvement in the MADIC consortium really touches upon the center's commitment to collaboration with industry," commented Dennis. MADIC is a consortium of industrial members with a shared interest in developing pre-competitive software for multidisciplinary design systems on heterogeneous computer networks. Industrial members include Allison Gas Turbine, Boeing Helicopters, General Electric, Grumman, Lockheed, McDonnell-Douglas, Northrop, Rockwell-North American, Vought, and United Technologies. The CRPC is actively involved in this consortium through administrative duties and through the contribution of researchers and computational resources.

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