In many computational fluid dynamics (CFD) applications involving a single rotating part, such as the flow through an open water propeller rotating at a constant rpm, it is convenient to formulate the governing equations in a non-inertial rotating frame. For flow problems consisting of both stationary and rotating parts, e.g. the stator and the rotor of a turbine, or the hull and propeller of a ship, the multiple reference frames (MRF) approach has been widely used. In most existing MRF models, the computation domain is divided into stationary and rotating zones. In the stationary zone, the flow equations are formulated in the inertial frame, while in the rotating zone, the equations are solved in the non-inertial rotating frame. Also, the flow is assumed to be steady in both zones and the flow solution in the rotating zone can be interpreted as the phase-locked time average result. Compared with other approaches, such as the actuator disk (body-force) model, the MRF approach is superior because it accounts for the actual geometry of the rotating part, e.g. propeller blades.
A more complicated situation occurs when the flow solver is coupled to the six degrees of freedom (6-DOF) equations of rigid-body motion in predicting the maneuver of a self-propelled surface or underwater vehicle. In many applications, the propeller is replaced by the actuator disk model. The current work attempts to extend the MRF approach to the 6-DOF maneuvering problems. The governing equations for unsteady incompressible flow in a non-inertial frame have been extended to the flow equations in multiple reference frames: a hull-fixed frame that undergoes translation and rotation predicted by the 6-DOF equations of motion and a propeller-fixed frame in relative rotation with respect to the hull. Because of the large disparity between time scales in the 6-DOF rigid body motion of the hull and the relative rotational motion of the propeller, the phase-locked solution in the propeller MRF zone is considered a reasonable approximation for the actual flow around the propeller. The flow equations are coupled to the 6-DOF equations of motion using an iterative coupling algorithm. The coupled solver has been developed as part of NavyFOAM. The theoretical framework and the numerical implementation of the coupled solver are outlined in this paper. Some numerical test results are also presented.