Space technology to soothe Roadster ride

Damping mechanism from Ariane reduces vibrations on convertable car
16 December 2008

Space missions are highly complex operations, not only because the satellites or space probes are unique pieces of top-notch intricate high-tech, but also because it is so challenging to get them to their assigned position in space without damage. The technology used is now being transferred to the car industry to increase comfort.

During its launch into orbit, a satellite is exposed to a number of extreme stresses. At takeoff the extremely strong engine vibrations are transmitted via the launcher structure to the satellite, which is also exposed to a high-intensity sound levels (140 dB and more). The increasing speed of the rocket also leads to aerodynamic strains that turn into a shockwave when the launch vehicle's velocity jumps from subsonic to supersonic.

Ariane 5 ECA V184 liftoff
Ariane 5 liftoff

That is not all. When the burned out rocket stages are blasted off and the next stage is fired up, the satellite is exposed to temporary impulsive vibrations. So how does the satellite survive earthquake-like vibrations, the forces of supersonic shock waves and the pressures of explosive blasts?

French company ARTEC Aerospace has developed a vibration and acoustic attenuation technology based on a damping mechanism within the structures, called Smart Passive Damping Device (SPADD®). The principle of the technology is to increase the natural damping of a structure by fixing a light energy-dissipating device to it, without modifying the structure's static behaviour.

SPADD struts (engine mount) and linear devices
SPADD struts

SPADD's damping system is so much superior to traditional dissipation devices that it is considered to be a technological breakthrough in the investigation and research of vibro-acoustics, the area of tackling noise and vibration problems such as those induced by powerful jets or rockets.

The SPADD technology is used on the Ariane launchers and also mounted on board a number of satellites such as Intelsat, Inmarsat, Integral and MetOp.

Space technology for the car industry

Based on this space technology, ARTEC Aerospace has developed tools for optimising the damping in non-space structures. ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO) supported the transfer of this technology to the car industry through its Technology Transfer Network (TTN).

MST Aerospace, technology broker and leader of TTPO's TTN, then brought ARTEC Aerospace and its SPADD technology together with German car manufacturer Daimler Chrysler AG.

SPADD damping struts in car
SPADD damping struts in car

The design of convertible vehicles is often based on sibling vehicles of the saloon or coupé line of cars. However, by taking off the top of a self-supporting structure, the convertible’s structure loses stiffness. This leads to torsion vibrations that apart from making for an uncomfortable ride, also make the rear view mirror and the steering wheel shake violently; up to 10 times more than in the saloon version.

At present, the way to correct this is to increase the shell weight of the body but this means that despite the missing top, a convertible weighs around 50 kg more than the saloon version. ARTEC Aerospace demonstrated to Daimler Chrysler that by using SPADD technology on a Mercedes CLK roadster, stiffening elements of 30 to 40 kg mass could be saved.

Successful road tests followed

Since then, Daimler Chrysler and ARTEC Aerospace have been working on implementing the SPADD technology in specific vehicle lines and finding suitable development partners. According to Daimler Chrysler and ARTEC, the results of the cooperation are very promising and have been demonstrated through successful road tests of models with different implementation of the technology.

SPADD has the potential to increase the performance of the structure, for geometrical simplification and for mass and cost savings.

ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO)

The main mission of the TTPO is to facilitate the use of space technology and space systems for non-space applications and to demonstrate the benefit of the European space programme to European citizens. The office is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies including the incubation of start-up companies and their funding. For more information, please contact:

ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office
European Space Agency ESA - ESTEC
Keplerlaan 1, 2200 AG, Noordwijk ZH
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 (0) 71 565 6208
Fax: +31 (0) 71 565 6635
Email: ttp @ esa.int
Website: http://www.esa.int/ttp

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