Plasma-Radiofrequency Interactions Around Atmospheric Re-Entry Vehicles: Modelling and Arc-Jet Simulation

R. Savino*, D. Paterna, M. De Stefano Fum, M. D’Elia
Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Naples “Federico II” (DIAS), Italy

© 2010 Savino et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Naples “Federico II” (DIAS), Italy; Tel: +39- 0817682357; Fax: +39-0817682351; E-mail:


An aero-thermo-chemical model is developed to simulate the flowfield, including ionization, around atmospheric re-entry configurations, and its interactions with radio-frequency communication signals (e.g. GPS). The model is successfully validated against literature in-flight measurements of the electron number density, and then applied to the re-entry of recently proposed concepts of slender configurations. The advantages of using sharp and slender geometries for re-entry applications, with respect to radio communication problems, are analyzed and discussed.

In addition, an experimental test-bed in an arc-jet plasma wind-tunnel has been setup to reproduce on ground the plasmaradiofrequency interaction. The capability to duplicate on-ground the ionization levels encountered during re-entry has been successfully demonstrated. A numerical model of an Argon plasma jet in chemical and thermal non-equilibrium has also been developed, for numerical rebuilding of the experiments. Both electron number densities and electron temperatures have been successfully correlated, demonstrating the ability of arc-jet facilities, integrated with proper numerical tools, to correctly deal with problems of communication attenuation/black-out.

Keywords: Hypersonic flow, atmospheric re-entry, communication black-out.