Modeling of associative ionization reactions in hypersonic rarefied flows Journal Article uri icon



  • When vehicles reenter the Earth’s atmosphere from space, the hypersonic conditions are sufficiently energetic to generate ionizing reactions. The production of a thin plasma layer around a hypersonic vehicle can block radio waves sent to and from the vehicle, leading to communications blackout. For Earth entry from orbit, the maximum energy involved in molecular collisions requires only associative ionization of air-species to be considered. In the present study, the modeling of such reactions is considered in detail using the direct simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method. For typical Earth entry conditions, with a velocity near 8km∕s, it is shown that the average ionizing reaction probabilities are small. Special numerical techniques must therefore be used in the DSMC technique in order to numerically resolve these reactions. Additional simulation problems arise from the relatively small mass of the electrons in comparison to the other atoms and molecules in these flow fields. Artificially increasing the electron mass greatly increases computational efficiency, and the viability of this approach is investigated. Simulation results are presented for conditions corresponding to the RAM-C II hypersonic flight experiment that gathered measurements of electron number density. It is demonstrated that simulation results for electron number density in this energy regime are relatively insensitive to the mass of the electrons. Direct comparison of DSMC results with the RAM-C II measurements for electron number density shows excellent agreement. These satisfactory comparisons represent the first direct verification of the ability of the DSMC technique to successfully predict the weak plasma generated around a hypersonic vehicle.

publication date

  • September 1, 2007

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • August 13, 2019 12:10 PM

Full Author List

  • Boyd ID

author count

  • 1

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1070-6631

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1089-7666

Additional Document Info


  • 19


  • 9