Aerospace Structures: Design, Analysis, and Test


This new course provides a broad, systems view of aerospace structural engineering, bridging the fields of many specialists. Adapted from Instar’s course “Space Mission Structures: From Concept to Launch” (SMS), which originally was based on the instructors’ book (see below) and has evolved since 1995, the ASDAT course is a new version that is applicable to structures of all flight vehicles and their payloads.

If you are an engineer involved in any aspect of flight-vehicle structures, regardless of your level of experience, you will benefit from this course. Subjects include functions, requirements, environments, mechanics, loads analysis, stress analysis, fatigue, fracture mechanics, finite-element modeling, preliminary design and sizing, producibility, verification planning, quality assurance, and testing. The objectives are to improve your understanding of

structural functions, requirements, and environments
how structures behave and how they fail
how to develop flight structures that are cost-effective and dependable
Despite its breadth, the course goes into great depth in key areas, with emphasis on the things that are commonly misunderstood and the types of things that go wrong in the development of flight hardware. The instructors share numerous case histories and experiences from the space industry to drive the main points home. Calculators are required to work class problems.

Target Audience: Structural design engineers, stress and dynamics analysts, systems engineers, and others interested in the topic

Who should attend:

Structural design engineers, stress and dynamics analysts, systems engineers, and others interested in the topic.

Course Outline:

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of Aerospace Structures
    • Structural functions and requirements
    • How flight loading environments affect structures
    • Dispelling some myths
    • Top-level structural design criteria
    • Understanding verification
    • Relating verification to requirements
  3. Review of Statics and Dynamics
    • Static equilibrium
    • Dynamic equilibrium
    • The equation of motion
    • Transmissibility
    • Modes of vibration
  4. Flight Environments and How Structures Respond
    • Overview
    • Quasi-static loads
    • Transient loads
    • Sinusoidal vibration
    • Acoustics
    • Random vibration
    • Pyrotechnic shock
  5. Mechanics of Materials
    • Stress and strain
    • Accounting for strength variation
    • Interaction of stresses and failure theories
    • Bending and torsion
    • Thermal effects
    • Introduction to composite materials
    • Recognizing and avoiding weak spots in structural designs
  6. Assessing Structural Integrity: Strength Analysis
    • What it means to assess structural integrity
    • Understanding stress analysis and its dependence on test
    • An effective process for strength analysis
    • Common pitfalls and case histories
    • Failure modes for fastened joints
    • Buckling
    • Structural design criteria related to strength
  7. Fatigue and Fracture
    • Fatigue
    • Fracture mechanics
    • Damage tolerance and fracture control
  8. Overview of Finite Element Analysis
    • Idealizing structures
    • Introduction to FEA
    • Effective use of FEA
    • Quality assurance for FEA
  9. Preliminary Structural Design
    • A process for preliminary design
    • Deriving requirements from the configuration
    • Types of structures and forms of construction
    • Materials and methods of attachment
    • Using analysis to design efficient structures
    • Truss example
    • Monocoque sandwich cylinder example
    • Estimating weight and managing weight growth
  10. Designing for Producibility
    • Cost contributors
    • Minimizing parts
    • Designing an adaptable structure
    • Designing for the fabrication process
    • Dimensioning and tolerancing
    • Designing for assembly and vehicle integration
  11. Verification and Quality Assurance
    • Whose job is this?
    • Attending to details
    • Controlling the hardware configuration
    • Proactive verification
    • Verification methods and logic
    • Philosophies for product inspection
    • Establishing a test program
    • Common types of structural tests
    • Designing an effective test
    • Documenting and presenting verification
  12. A Case Study: The FalconSAT-2 Small Satellite
    • Overview of the FalconSAT program
    • Approach to structural design and verification
    • Designing and testing an engineering model
    • Designing the flight structure
    • Qualification and acceptance testing
    • Launch (and FalconSAT-2 today)
    • Process changes for FalconSAT-3
    • Conclusions
  13. Summary


  • Tom Sarafinhas worked full time in the space industry since 1979. He worked over 13 years at Martin Marietta Astronautics, where he contributed to and led activities in structural analysis, design, and test, mostly for large spacecraft. Since founding Instar Engineering in 1993, he’s consulted for NASA, DigitalGlobe, Lockheed Martin, AeroAstro, and other organizations. He’s helped the U. S. Air Force Academy design, develop, and verify a series of small satellites and has been an advisor to DARPA. He was a member of the core team that developed NASA-STD-5020 and continues to serve on that team to help address issues with threaded fasteners at NASA. He is the editor and principal author of Spacecraft Structures and Mechanisms: From Concept to Launch and is a contributing author to Space Mission Analysis and Design. Since 1995, he has taught over 200 courses to more than 4000 engineers and managers in the space industry.

  • Poti Doukas is vice president and senior consultant for a private consulting firm. He worked at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (formerly Martin Marietta Astronautics) from 1978 to 2006. He served as Engineering Manager for the Phoenix Mars Lander program, Mechanical Engineering Lead for the Genesis mission, Structures and Mechanisms Subsystem Lead for the Stardust program, and Structural Analysis Lead for the Mars Global Surveyor. Since joining Instar Engineering in 2006, he has consulted for Lockheed Martin, the U. S. Air Force Academy, AeroAstro, Design Net Engineering, and NASA. He’s a contributing author to Space Mission Analysis and Design and to Spacecraft Structures and Mechanisms: From Concept to Launch.

Request On-Site Quote