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Vibration tables shake up satellites - but not the office next door

On October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 was launched into space by the Soviet Union. The 23-inch, 184-pound satellite was the first ever launched, orbiting the earth 1,440 times before running out of power after three months.

In the 65 years since then, space has become increasingly crowded. By the end of 2022, the number of active satellites was 6,905 - 2,105 more than 2021. This growth in the satellite market has led to a significant expansion in test facilities, including vibration test systems. Such test systems typically consist of a vibration shaker mounted on a large block of concrete called a reaction mass. Under the reaction mass is isolation material that dampens vibration transmission to surrounding structures. Vibration testing is necessary to ensure that satellites can withstand the launch environment and still function afterward.

Ross Group has completed several aerospace and defense projects involving vibration / impact testing and associated reaction masses, including foundations, structures, and utilities. According to Ross Group Structural Engineering Manager Mark McKinney, there are two main parts to each of these projects:

  • Ensuring the dynamic performance of the reaction mass and shaker system

  • Limiting vibrations from the shaker to surrounding areas

“You don’t want your coffee cup walking off the desk,” Mark joked.

Ross Group recently completed the design of reaction mass systems for vibratory testing equipment at two separate locations. In both locations, the systems were installed in existing facilities and near other equipment and building foundations, so minimizing the vibration transmitted to adjacent structures was crucial. Ross Group engaged Burlington, Washington-based TEAM Corporation to complete a dynamic analysis, calculating the optimal size and shape of the reaction mass as well as the most effective isolation material. Ross Group then designed and created construction documents for the concrete, rebar, anchor bolts, retaining walls, isolation materials, and trenches for routing utilities to/from the shaker system. Our team also worked with the building engineers and architects to locate the reaction masses accurately within the existing building and to ensure utilities were brought to the shaker systems. We are always happy for opportunities such as these to solve complex problems for our clients across the globe!


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