Payloads, such as satellites or spacecraft, which are mounted on launch vehicles, are subject to severe vibrations during flight. These vibrations are induced by multiple sources that occur between liftoff and the instant of final separation from the launch vehicle. A direct result of the severe vibrations is that fatigue damage and failure can be incurred by sensitive payload components. For this reason a payload adapter has been designed with special emphasis on its vibration isolation characteristics. The design consists of an annular plate that has top and bottom face sheets separated by radial ribs and close-out rings. These components are manufactured from graphite epoxy composites to ensure a high stiffness to weight ratio. The design is tuned to keep the frequency of the axial mode of vibration of the payload on the flexibility
of the adapter to a low value. This is the main strategy adopted for isolating the payload from damaging vibrations in the intermediate to higher frequency range (45Hz-200Hz). A design challenge for this type of adapter is to keep the pitch frequency of the payload above a critical value in order to avoid dynamic interactions with the launch vehicle control system. This high frequency requirement conflicts with the low axial mode frequency requirement and this problem is
overcome by innovative tuning of the directional stiffnesses of the composite parts. A second design strategy that is
utilized to achieve good isolation characteristics is the use of constrained layer damping. This feature is particularly effective at keeping the responses to a minimum for one of the most important dynamic loading mechanisms. This mechanism consists of the almost-tonal vibratory load associated with the resonant burn condition present in any stage powered by a solid rocket motor. The frequency of such a load typically falls in the 45-75Hz range and this phenomenon drives the low frequency design of the adapter. Detailed finite element analysis is used throughout to qualify the design for vibration isolation performance as well as confirm its static and dynamic strength.