DOE's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative

May 14, 1998

The goal of the Center for Simulation of Advanced Rockets at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as described by center director Michael Heath in the accompanying article, is the development of "an integrated rocket simulation tool capable of detailed, whole-system simulation of solid-propellant rockets under both normal and abnormal operating conditions." In accomplishing a mission so vast, CSAR, which is funded by the Department of Energy for five years, is developing simulation tools that will be useful for many design problems involving complex components and requiring similar levels of system integration.

CSAR is one of five university centers (the others are at Caltech, Stanford, and the Universities of Chicago and Utah), each with a different application focus, funded by DOE's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) with the goal of advancing the state of the art in computational simulation. Part of DOE's Stockpile Stewardship Program, ASCI is a key element in DOE's plan to replace underground testing of nuclear weapons with computational simulations.

The purpose of these simulations is to help verify the safety, reliability, and performance of the existing stockpile as the weapons age, rather than the development of new weapons. As reported in the press, critics of the program have questioned the appropriateness of the university activities and the motivation of DOE. In response, Heath points out that while nuclear weapons are the immediate concern of DOE, they are not addressed by any of the university centers, and, in fact, the capabilities demonstrated by the centers will have much broader impact. None of the university centers is doing any classified work, Heath says; participation is not restricted to U.S. citizens, and all results are published in the open scientific literature.

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