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Tech Brief: Structural Engineering: Backbone of the Space Revolution

Structural engineering is the literal backbone of spacecraft design. It is frequently taken for granted. However, proper structural design, analysis and test is foundational for getting to space and vital for mission success. All aspects of a spacecraft are affected with loads driven by launch, extremes of temperatures, and the resulting gradients where traditional terrestrial technology frequently will not work.

Structural Engineers are involved in space missions right from the start all the way through to launch, on-orbit deployment and final handoff to the customer. They design and develop the bus that hosts the payload and ensure that the spacecraft would survive all the environments that it is likely to encounter from launch through to its release into the orbit.

With the high cost of getting mass into orbit, Structural Engineer’s role is to build the lightest spacecraft to carry the maximum payload. With the Return to Moon very much on the horizon, to be followed by the human landing on Mars and similar habitats, Space is exploding with commercial interest. New mission designs and systems requirements from this commercialization of are stretching existing technologies. That has also extended Structural Engineer’s responsibilities into new missions like on-orbit assembly, refueling of existing satellites, and inter-planetary habitats.

Besides the design and analysis, Structural Engineers are also involved in qualification and acceptance testing of structural components and systems. They also develop load requirements for electronic components and their verification by tests.

The Technical Talk will highlight the challenges faced by Structural Engineers in Space environment, give examples of varying loads to be considered in design, and the types of material utilized for optimum performance.

Tech Brief
Date: February 7, 2023 Time: 2:00 pm - 2:15 pm Nathaniel Rogers
Principal Aerospace Engineer

SC Solutions