Amore efficient structural verification process for small satellites has been demonstrated. This new process eliminates the need for payload-specific coupled loads analysis (CLA) and simplifies structural testing while not increasing mission risk. The process entails the following:

  • Derivation of appropriate physical constraints for the satellite (launchvehicle payload) or the satellite’s payload, including mass, center of gravity, envelope, and natural frequencies.
  • Up-front, rapid performance of multiple cycles of CLA for one or more launch vehicles and selected combinations of the payload’s variable physical properties within the derived constraints. (This analysis is referred to as “variational CLAs.”)
  • Derivation of equivalent, single-axis load cases that are at least as severe as the max/min results of the variational CLAs, for design and sine-burst testing of the payload’s primary structure.

This process can be applied to multiple launch vehicles and variable combinations of small satellites in rideshare missions to provide flexibility, enable rapid integration, and accommodate late manifest changes. The process also can be extended to provide a loads envelope for spacecraft equipment or to reduce risk for large spacecraft.

The benefits of this process are simplified structural verification, reduced cost and schedule time, and reduced programmatic risk during hardware development.

This work was done by Tom Sarafin of Instar Engineering and Consulting, Inc., and Gerald Murphy of Design Net Engineering LLC for Marshall Space Flight Center. For more information, contact Ronald C. Darty, Licensing Executive in the MSFC Technology Transfer Office, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to MFS-33157-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the March, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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