ANSYS’ simulation software recently took part in a galactic mission, helping to interpret weather data received from the Phoenix Mars lander by creating a virtual environment of the planet’s unique atmospheric conditions.
Via this simulation, a team at the University of Alberta was able to determine that heat and radiation from the lander itself could affect the daily weather readings, including atmospheric pressure, wind velocity and temperature. Well before the Phoenix spacecraft launch, the team developed the lander’s meteorological station (MET), which would collect key measurements that would complement other data critical to the mission. The university embraced a virtual testing process with ANSYS’ computer fluid dynamics (CFD) offering because design and calibration experiments were difficult and too expensive to perform. Based on their CFD work, the team was able to determine that under certain wind conditions, heat emitted from the spacecraft could cause a temperature sensor to show higher-than-atmospheric values. Because there’s only one shot at getting things right, the findings helped prevent any minor flaw that could have resulted in catastrophic losses for the space mission, including years of preparation and hundreds of millions of dollars.