Journal Article

Open-source coupled aerostructural optimization using Python


J. P. Jasa, J. T. Hwang, and J. R. R. A. Martins


Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, 57(4):1815–1827, 2018



To teach multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO) to students effectively, it is useful to have accessible software that runs quickly, allowing hands-on exploration of coupled systems and optimization methods. Open-source software exists for low-fidelity aerodynamic or structural analysis, but there is no existing software for fast tightly coupled aerostructural analysis and design optimization. To address this need, we present OpenAeroStruct, an open-source low-fidelity aerostructural analysis and optimization tool developed in NASA’s OpenMDAO framework. It uses the coupled adjoint method to compute the derivatives required for efficient gradient-based optimization. OpenAeroStruct combines a vortex lattice method and 1-D finite-element analysis to model lifting surfaces, such as aircraft wings and tails, and uses the coupled-adjoint method to compute the aerostructural derivatives. We use the Breguet range equation to compute the fuel burn as a function of structural weight and aerodynamic performance. OpenAeroStruct has proved effective both as an educational tool and as a benchmark for researching new MDO methods. There is much more potential to be exploited as the research community continues to develop and use this tool.