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LAUNCH PAD
Moog offers "SoftRide" for enhanced spacecraft protection during launch
by Staff Writers
Dublin, Ireland (SPX) Feb 19, 2015


If SoftRide is included early in the design phase, the benefits can be far-reaching, a gentler launch environment means that less support material is required to protect sensitive instrumentation on the spacecraft. This leads to a simpler design and lower mass or enhanced capability-both critically attractive for the space industry.

Moog's Dublin facility has announced the commencement of a European Space Agency (ESA) technology transfer program to protect spacecraft by reducing harsh vibration experienced during launches.

The program will make Moog Dublin the European supplier of Moog's patented SoftRide, a vibration control technology that has already provided launch load alleviation for 34 satellites. Moog Dublin will provide end-to-end engineering support for all phases of SoftRide; from concept development, design, and qualification, to launch support.

The high energy dynamic environment experienced by a spacecraft during launch generated by various events; the rocket engines produce extreme mechanical vibrational shaking and acoustic loading; the aerodynamics further increase acoustic loading; and various stage separation events generate harsh shock into the spacecraft. Satellites may also be extra sensitive to particular frequency bandwidths, further reducing their robustness to the launch environment.

The SoftRide hardware is stationed between the launch vehicle and satellite to damp the vibration transferred to the spacecraft. Each mission is fitted with a tailored solution that is as simple as it is effective.

Lead engineer for the program at Moog Dublin, Mr. Jim White, explains: "One of the great benefits of this technology is that it is passive, meaning that there are no electronics or power required-it relies on a precision-designed system of springs and dampers mounted between the launch vehicle and the spacecraft to manipulate and dissipate the vibration energy."

Several compelling examples exist for satellite providers to install SoftRide: to reduce the mass, cost or risk in the mission design and to facilitate late changes in launch vehicle design.

If SoftRide is included early in the design phase, the benefits can be far-reaching, a gentler launch environment means that less support material is required to protect sensitive instrumentation on the spacecraft. This leads to a simpler design and lower mass or enhanced capability-both critically attractive for the space industry.

ESA's Technical Officer for the technology transfer, Dr. Mark Ayre, recently illustrated a specific ESA example. "ESA is currently in the planning stage of the next European X-ray telescope mission called ATHENA. The science instrumentation for the mission is extremely delicate and, as such, any advantage the Agency can utilize to reduce risk is being considered. SoftRide is especially interesting given that it is a proven technology and is now locally sourced."

"The technology being provided by Moog is yet another example of how an expanding base of Irish firms are supplying key technologies to the European space programs," explained Dr. Bryan Rogers of Enterprise Ireland, which manages Ireland's involvement in ESA.

"It also reflects the national strategy of supporting technology development by Irish companies for the global space market."

SoftRide can also provide flexibility to satellite providers as they change their launch vehicles late during a mission. Changes in design can cause serious problems for mission planners as satellites designed for a specific launch vehicle and may well be incompatible with other rockets. SoftRide allows for simple transfers between different launchers, saving millions of euros in testing and delays.

While Moog's SoftRide product has reduced risk on nearly three dozen U.S. missions over the past 20 years, it has been only used by one European launch vehicle. This is an opportunity for the Irish industry. "We believe there is real growth potential for our Company," said Dr. Ronan Wall, Program Manager at Moog Dublin.

"SoftRide has had many successful launches and its heritage is a benefit to the European space community. It is a passive technology that requires a minimum, if any, changes to conventional design approaches. For the highly risk-adverse space industry, we believe it is a compelling enhancement to any mission."

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