Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

NASA Takes the Lift Out of Aircraft Testing

The Starr Soft Support isolation system incorporates a jacking system with NASA’s inflatable isolators, allowing an aircraft to “float” in mid-air without the need for a critical lift.

Advanced isolation system lets aircraft “float” in mid-air without a critical lift—for safer state-of-the-art ground vibration testing

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California is making ground vibration testing (GVT) a whole lot safer with its new Starr Soft Support isolation system—an automatically reconfigurable aircraft jack incorporated into aircraft isolators. The system lets an aircraft float in mid-air and eliminates the need for a critical lift during GVT. This goes a long way in reducing risk as well as cutting the time and cost required for these tests.

The system is the most advanced aircraft testing isolation method available for NASA missions and other organizations to use at Dryden’s state-of-the-art ground and flight testing facilities.

Named for inventor Starr Ginn, the system is:

  • Safe: Reduces risks to people, equipment and the aircraft by eliminating the need for critical lifts
  • Accurate: Enables highly accurate and relevant test results
  • Adaptable: Handles changes in aircraft height and configurations to lower the costs and time associated with testing set-ups
  • Streamlined: Makes data analysis easier by requiring only one simple set-up for all GVT

Isolators have been in use for years at NASA to make aircraft “float” for testing. But what makes the Starr Soft Support system unique is that it incorporates a jacking system so that the aircraft doesn’t need to be lifted in order to position the isolators under the craft.

Critical lifts are very dangerous—not to mention expensive and time consuming. Eliminating the need to have an aircraft dangling above personnel while they prepare for testing is indeed a welcome advance for safety that is also helping Dryden lower costs and shorten GVT schedules.

The system has been verified by real-life testing, too. Dryden used the technology to suspend the crew module for the Orion Project’s Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). It has also been tested on a G-III airplane and an F-15.

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–By Jack Spain