An overview of twenty years of adjoint-based aerodynamic design research at NASA Langley Research Center is presented. Adjoint-based algorithms provide a powerful tool for efficient sensitivity analysis of complex large-scale computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. Unlike alternative approaches for which computational expense generally scales with the number of design parameters, adjoint techniques yield sensitivity derivatives of a simulation output with respect to all input parameters at the cost of a single additional simulation. With modern large-scale CFD applications often requiring millions of compute hours for a single analysis, the efficiency afforded by adjoint methods is critical in realizing a computationally tractable design optimization capability for such applications.

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