Trajectory Optimization Strategies For Supercavitating Vehicles
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Supercavitating vehicles are characterized by substantially reduced hydrodynamic drag with respect to fully wetted underwater vehicles. Drag is localized at the nose of the vehicle, where a cavitator generates a cavity that completely envelops the body. This causes the center of pressure to be always ahead of the center of mass, thus violating a fundamental principle of hydrodynamic stability. This unique loading configuration, the complex and non-linear nature of the interaction forces between vehicle and cavity, and the unsteady behavior of the cavity itself make the control and maneuvering of supercavitating vehicles particularly challenging. This study represents an effort towards the evaluation of optimal trajectories for this class of underwater vehicles, which often need to operate in unsteady regimes and near the boundaries of the flight envelope. Flight trajectories and maneuvering strategies for supercavitating vehicles are here obtained through the solution of an optimal control problem. Given a cost function and general constraints and bounds on states and controls, the solution of the optimal control problem yields the control time histories that maneuver the vehicle according to a desired strategy, together with the associated flight path. The optimal control problem is solved using the direct transcription method, which does not require the derivation of the equations of optimal control and leads to the solution of a discrete parameter optimization problem. Examples of maneuvers and resulting trajectories are given to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed methodology and the generality of the formulation.