OCT 2018


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OCTOBER 2018 76 CompositesWorld FOCUS ON DESIGN Composite container protects satellites โ€” on the ground Bubble wrap won't work, but composites will. ยป Space satellites are built to painstaking specifications using specialized materials, and represent huge investments. But, before they experience the vibrations of launch and the rigors of the space environment, they first must be delivered โ€” intact โ€” to the launch pad. How do you ship a large space satellite that is simulta- neously bulky, yet extremely fragile? A range of satellite shipping methods exist, consisting of off-the- shelf enclosures like steel shipping containers, modified modular construction trailers or very costly custom solutions. Orbital ATK, now part of Northrop Grumman (Dulles, VA, US), had consid- ered such options for the GEOStar-3 geosynchronous satellite bus structure that it builds at its Dulles facility. But, says lead cognizant systems engineer on the project Steve Hood, the company decided that it could build a better box in-house, at a lower cost, that could be tailored with the features it needs for protection during shipment, typically on an Antonov cargo plane, to launch locations like Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. To aid Hood's in-house engineers, Pagnotta Engineering Inc. (PEI, Exton, PA, US) was brought on board to assist in the mechan- ical design process. Northrop Grumman and PEI brought in indus- trial composites specialist Ershigs (Bellingham, WA, US), a maker of tanks and vessels, piping, industrial scrubbers and other large- scale industrial applications, to fabricate this critical structure. "With a $100 million satellite, you don't want any damage during shipping," says Hood, with not a little understatement. Exacting requirements e task was not trivial. A GEOStar-3 satellite can weigh up to 3,200 kg (depending on its mission), and has dimensions of 3.9m (max) by 2.1m by 2.3m. In addition, its shipping container had a long list of performance requirements, says PEI's vice president John Callahan. "e container had to be shippable by truck, rail or aircraft, and specifically, had to fit inside an Antonov 124-100 cargo aircraft." In addition, Northrop Grumman required that it be large enough to accommodate current as well as future spacecraft, By Sara Black / Senior Editor Ready for transport A GEOStar-3 geosynchronous satellite bus structure, safely cocooned within a custom satellite container, is loaded into an Antonov cargo plane for shipment to its launch location. The container required considerable design and careful fabrication. Source: | Northrop Grumman

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