3325. Mass Properties Measurement in the X-38 Project


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Wayne L. Peterson: 3325. Mass Properties Measurement in the X-38 Project. 2004, (L. R. ‘Mike’ Hackney Award).



This paper details the techniques used in measuring the mass properties for the X-38 family of test vehicles. The X-38 Project was a NASA internal venture in which a series of test vehicles were built in order to develop a Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) for the International Space Station. Three atmospheric test vehicles and one spaceflight vehicle were built to develop the technologies required for a CRV. The three atmospheric test vehicles have undergone flight-testing by a combined team from the NASA Johnson Space Center and the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. The flight-testing was performed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The X-38 test vehicles are based on the X-24A, which flew in the ?60s and ?70s. Scaled Composites, Inc. of Mojave, California, built the airframes and the vehicles were outfitted at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Mass properties measurements on the atmospheric test vehicles included weight and balance by the three-point suspension method, four-point suspension method, three load cells on jackstands, and on three in-ground platform scales. Inertia measurements were performed as well in which Ixx, Iyy, Izz, and Ixz were obtained. This paper describes each technique and the relative merits of each. The proposed measurement methods for an X-38 spaceflight test vehicle will also be discussed. This vehicle had different measurement challenges, but integrated vehicle measurements were never conducted. The spaceflight test vehicle was also developed by NASA and was scheduled to fly on the Space Shuttle before the project was cancelled.


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