SAWE RP A-3, 2016: Mass Properties Control for Space Systems


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The International Society of Allied Weight Engineers, Inc. (SAWE), a major source of Mass Properties Engineering (MPE) Subject Matter Experts, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) to jointly develop both a revised mass properties standard and a revised recommended practice (RP). SAWE wishes to acknowledge the efforts of the AIAA Mass Properties Engineering Committee on Standards (CoS) in developing these revisions. The new revisions, designated as AIAA/ANSI S-120A-2015 and SAWE RP A-3, are intended to fully replace AIAA S-120-2006 and SAWE RP-11C.

The revised standard, AIAA/ANSI S-120A-2015, is intended to convey the minimally acceptable mass properties requirements for space systems, while the associated SAWE RP A-3 provides guidance for implementation of a program-specific mass properties control plan. Together, the two documents may also be used to establish requirements during preparation of acquisition contracts and program-specific documents.
These documents are useful for all companies wishing to control and manage vehicle mass properties and are especially useful for new companies, companies unfamiliar with mass properties requirements or companies without dedicated Mass Properties Engineers (MPEs).


This recommended practice (RP) defines terminology and establishes uniform processes, procedures, and methods for the management, control, monitoring, determination, verification, and documentation of mass properties during the design, development, and operational phases of space systems, including their components and subsystems.

This RP contains mass properties control guidance for both space vehicles (SVs) and launch vehicles (LVs). A distinction between SVs and LVs is made because, in certain areas, mass properties analyses, control, and verification techniques can vary significantly between these two space system classes. Where significant differences in recommended practices exist between these two space system classes, the applicable space system class is specified.


This document is intended as a complement to AIAA-S-120A-2015, Mass Properties Control for Space Systems. Whereas AIAA-S-120A-2015 defines the minimum mass properties mission requirements (the “what”), this document explains “how to” best meet those requirements using recognized industry best practices.

This document may be used as a reference to specify mass properties control for SVs (satellites, satellite payloads, interplanetary vehicles, or reentry vehicles) and LVs (launch vehicles, upper stage vehicles, injection stages, or exoatmospheric missiles). For these applications, the term space system is to be interpreted as the applicable vehicle.
Note: AIAA/ANSI S-120A-2015 contains tailorable requirements, while this document contains best practices; therefore, the use of “should” in this document is appropriate unless in direct conflict with AIAA/ANSI S-120A-2015. Inclusion of an SAWE RP in a document, standard, on contract by a company or agency is a voluntary act.