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Crane Scales in Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace is a large and important sector and comprises a significant segment of the U.S. economy—from military aircraft to defense, aviation, and of course space. The U.S. aerospace industry is the world’s largest, employing several hundred thousand people and supplying aerospace hardware to both civil and military entities around the world. “Rocket science” isn’t just complicated—it’s big business.

But it’s also a sector with little room for error, particularly in the high-tech industry of space where precision is of the utmost importance. The slightest miscalculation could damage valuable equipment, set a project back by countless hours and dollars, or even be a matter of life and death. This means that stringent quality controls for safety and high production standards are required at all times.

When it comes to the manufacturing of spacecraft, it should come as no surprise that big-name companies like Boeing, NASA, Ball Aerospace, and others use only the highest quality and most reputable equipment in the market. The complex engineering involved, coupled with the need for extreme precision, means there’s no room for compromise when it comes to quality and safety.

 

Nothing but the Best

Since aerospace applications often require a balance between precision and strength, the crane scales used in these applications need to meet the special requirements associated with the sector.

In aerospace, components used in the assembly of spacecraft are often both heavy and unconventionally shaped—sometimes it seems no two pieces are alike. This means having portable and versatile equipment will be advantageous. Having a weighing system with a small, lightweight body is beneficial for the type of lifts that aerospace companies conduct.

Achieving this mix of strength and size calls for using materials that are “aerospace grade.” These are usually a type of metal alloy designed to provide exceptional performance in strength, heat resistance, and resistance to fatigue. It’s likely that any crane scale you see being used in aerospace will be fatigue rated, meaning there are no limits to the number of lifts it can handle.

Other important qualities for crane scales in aerospace are precision, accuracy, and having strong wireless capabilities.

 

Crane Scales in Major Aerospace Projects

Originally named the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, Landsat 8 is an observation satellite—a collaboration between NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Launched in February of 2013, the satellite collects images of the Earth’s surface adding to and confirming those captured during the previous Landsat missions. The spacecraft carries two instruments, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS).

Major aerospace companies were involved in the mission: Ball Aerospace and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center constructed the spacecraft’s instruments and United Launch Alliance was contracted for the launch.

A 3-ton Eilon load cell was also used on the project. Our unique design with 90-degree offset shackle holes helped keep things steady during the lifting and weighing of the payload fairing, which was used to encapsulate the satellite. Today, the Landsat 8 is in orbit and sending back satellite images of Earth. We’re proud our wireless load cells were able to be part of this important contribution to the scientific community.

Another project that made use of our Ron Crane Scales is the OSIRIS-REx, a NASA mission to collect and return samples from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. If the groundbreaking mission is successful, it will be the first time a U.S. spacecraft returns samples from an asteroid. This will allow scientists to learn about the origins of our Solar System, how the planets formed, and perhaps the source of organic compounds that led to life on our planet. Amazing stuff!

In this project, an Eilon wireless load cell was used in the assembly of the Atlas V 411 rocket that launched the OSIRIS-REx into space. The OSIRIS-REx is set to return to Earth in 2023 with a sample of the asteroid. As you can imagine, this kind of high-stakes project calls for using only the highest quality and most reliable equipment on the market; we’re happy to see our crane scales were able to contribute to this important mission.

One last exciting project worth mentioning here is the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, a joint effort by Boeing and Bigelow Aerospace, along with NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Its main purpose is to transport crew to the International Space Station and perhaps to future private space stations as well.

Throughout this project, an Eilon Engineering multi-point weighing system was used in several applications. One was for the delicate and precise connecting of the upper and lower domes of the spacecraft itself.