Key Factors in Selecting Aerospace Load Cells

August 15, 2023 - "Industry Insight"

Custom Load Cells have always played a key role in Aerospace application designs, testing, manufacture, and operation. Load Cell measurements utilized throughout all these phases lead to increased mission success, in a seemingly unlimited number of applications. Custom Load Cells have been an integral and critical component throughout history and continue to be so today.

Strainsert has partnered with the Aerospace industry for over 60 years, developing Load Cells that meet the most stringent requirements. This partnership has allowed our engineers to work with many Aerospace companies worldwide and gain invaluable experience and knowledge that we use to develop best practices in Load Cell design and measurement.

Our Load Cells have been used in a wide range of applications. A few examples include Mars rovers, parachute deployments, launching pads, solar arrays, interstage attachments, satellites, landing gear, and rockets. When failure is not an option, custom Load Cells need to perform not only one time but every time. Below are a few factors to consider when deciding which custom Load Cell will satisfy your requirements:

Direct-to-Manufacturer vs Reseller/Distributor

For critical applications, it is preferrable to go directly to an AS9100 certified manufacturer. If a Load Cell fails in an Aerospace environment, the results can be costly and can lead to schedule delays or a potential catastrophe. Such cases can result in overall mission costs, which can be substantially higher when utilizing off-the-shelf Load Cells. Therefore, the up-front cost for Aerospace Load Cells can be well justified. Load Cell manufacturers should possess the proper in-house design and build capabilities necessary to ensure suitability for the application. For many applications, Load Cell resellers and distributors provide some valuable services to their customers. However, their designs are typically limited to general-purpose use cases and many times not customized for optimal performance in the specific application.

Durability in Harsh Environments

Aerospace Load Cells are often designed to withstand harsh environments. They must be extremely durable in a variety of loading conditions, including our planet's thermosphere, various orbitals such as near earth, the International Space Station (ISS), satellite exospheres, deep into space, during rover landings, and even on other planets. Aerospace Load Cells are designed to be robust and rugged enough to operate within these environments, as well as survive the launch and journey to their destination.

Customization Capabilities

Aerospace Load Cell customers must be very specific about their requirements. It is imperative that the manufacturer is capable of fully delivering on these requirements. Several questions should be asked prior to placing an order:

1.       Can the manufacturer provide Load Cell configurations for simultaneous or redundant measurement outputs?

2.       Can the manufacturer customize their Load Cell designs and specifications to fit the application (dimensions, output, weight, safety factor, materials)?

3.       Can the manufacturer interface directly with customer designs and special requirements?

4.       Does the manufacturer in-source their critical manufacturing processes? Which processes are outsourced?

5.       Can the manufacturer perform specific test requirements and documentation?

6.       Can the manufacturer use “Approved Sources” mandated by their customer?

Out-Gassing Requirements

Out-gassing may present problems in the harsh environment of space. Toxic gas release is also of great concern to occupant health within enclosed environments, such as the ISS. Materials such as organics or plastics may release gas or vapor. In some cases, onboard systems may not be able to properly remove these materials. Out-gassed materials may re-condense onto locations that must stay clean for proper performance, such as optical lenses, solar cells, electronics, or radiators. Understanding your specific application environment and out-gassing requirements will help identify materials that will fit your needs.

Parts, Materials, and Processes Controls

Proper design and fabrication should be controlled through Parts, Materials, and Processes (PMP) documentation. PMP control will ensure all unique Aerospace requirements are met by both the Load Cell manufacturer and its suppliers. Examples include:

1.       Customer approval of PMP document prior to manufacturing.

2.       Traceability and Authorized sourcing of Parts and Materials to ensure counterfeit mitigation.

3.       Material certification and traceability of Metallic materials.

4.       Monitoring and control of Non-metallic material stocks for shelf life, expiration, rotation, and correct handling. Prevention of material cross-contamination during installation.

5.       Overall control of processes starting with initial design all the way through delivery. Review and sign-off of requirements is essential prior to starting work. Not only must each process step be performed, but also testing and inspections must be done along the way. Finally, proper marking, packaging, and handling may be required.

CMMC Level 1 Cybersecurity Compliance

Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is an initiative of the Department of Defense (DoD). The goal is to address cybersecurity concerns at non-governmental organizations, such as manufacturers. At a minimum, you should ensure that the Load Cell manufacturer is certified to protect sensitive information through a program, such as NIST SP 800-171 and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC).

Work with a Trusted Partner

Strainsert Company is AS9100 and CMMC certified. Our Load Cell designs, and manufacturing can meet all the key requirements discussed above when required by the application. Since 1960, our partnerships with many Aerospace companies have been built on customer trust in our expertise, technical support, quality, and delivery.

We stand behind the reliability of our products by offering a two-year warranty, while many manufacturers’ load cell warranties are typically one-year.

Contact us to discover how our sensors can be designed to suit your precise Aerospace requirements.

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