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Smallsat Launch Adapter Structure


Space launch. Space-X Falcon 9 rideshare payload on May 25, 2022.

Previous Limiting Technology

Older aluminum structures were large, expensive, and heavy. By converting to a composite structure, the customer was able to allot more of their mass budget to orbital payloads rather than the adapter structure.


This is a launch adapter manifold that mounts an array of smallsat deployers to the launch vehicle. Fourteen (14) launchers are arrayed around the octagon and two (2) are mounted on the flat “top” to manifold together for a total of sixteen (16). The challenge was to a create a structure sufficiently stiff to meet minimum natural frequency requirements and shock loads. The orientation and weight of the “top” payload drove much of the structural needs and had to be closely coordinated with the customer. Fabrication challenges related to core shaping meant creating specialty core forming tools, validating, and implementing a new process.


Rather than using high-cost high modulus composite material, Rock West recommended standard modulus material with published material allowables to create a clear path to launch provider acceptance and cost avoidance.

Customers: SEOPS LLC and Quad-M Inc.

Spot our hardware in the lower left corner as the fairing is deployed.

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© Rock West Composites, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

© Rock West Composites, Inc. All Rights Reserved.