Text Size
Safe, Low-Cost Ground Vibration Testing Without Critical Lifts
December 15, 2010

    › Benefits
    › Applications
    › Technology Details
    › Partnering Opportunities
    › For More Information
    › Download PDF

NASA invites aircraft manufacturers to use Starr Soft Support for accurate, cost-efficient testing


This innovative technology developed for ground vibration testing (GVT) enables an aircraft to float in mid-air without the need for a critical lift, significantly reducing testing risk, time, and costs. Invented by Starr Ginn, Deputy Chief of the Research and Engineering Directorate Aerostructures Branch at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, the Starr Soft Support 1-Hertz isolation system incorporates an automatically reconfigurable aircraft jack into NASA's existing isolators. The 60,000-pound capacity isolation system is used for weight and measurement tests, ground vibration tests, surface free-play tests, and structural mode interaction tests without the need for any major reconfiguration, often saving weeks of time and significantly reducing labor costs. The Starr Soft Support technology adds the most advanced aircraft testing isolation method available to the state-of-the-art ground testing capabilities at Armstrong - a world leader in aircraft ground and flight testing.



  • Safe: Eliminates the need for critical lifts during GVT and other aircraft tests, drastically reducing risks to personnel, testing equipment, and the aircraft itself
  • Accurate: Enables aircraft to float in mid-air with a 1 Hertz isolation, enabling highly accurate and relevant test results
  • Adaptable: Reconfigures automatically to meet changes in aircraft height and hardware configurations, significantly reducing testing time and costs
  • Streamlined: Requires only one simple set-up for all phases of GVT, helping ease data analyses


This technology can be used for all types of aircraft tests:

  • Ground vibration tests
  • Weight and balance measurements
  • Complete inertia tensor measurements
  • Control surface free-play tests
  • Structural mode interaction tests

Technology Details


How It Works

The Starr Soft Support isolation system consists of an aircraft jacking device with three jacking points, each of which has an individual motor and accommodates up to 20,000 pounds for a total 60,000-pound capacity. The system can be transported to the aircraft by forklift and placed at its jacking points using a pallet jack. Electric actuators power the jacking point motors, raising the aircraft above the ground until the landing gear can retract. Inflatable isolators then deploy, enabling the aircraft to float in mid-air, simulating a free-free testing environment.


Why It Is Better

NASA has used inflatable isolators for years, enabling aircraft to float, unsupported, for highly accurate GVT. These isolators must be placed underneath the aircraft for this to occur. Traditionally, this is achieved by a critical lift-a very dangerous procedure in which a crane and critical lift rated cables are used to lift the aircraft. The aircraft then dangles in the air while personnel place the isolators underneath the plane and prepare the aircraft for testing. This situation is dangerous, expensive, and time consuming. Most GVT measurements must be taken with at least four configurations of the aircraft (e.g., landing gear in, landing gear out, etc.), requiring at least four lifts. This adds a tremendous amount of time, cost, and risk to the testing.

In contrast, the Starr Soft Support isolation system eliminates the need for critical lift by integrating the inflatable isolators into an aircraft jacking system. The system maintains vertical 1 mHertz and horizontal 0.8 Hertz isolating capabilities. The aircraft can be rolled onto the system, jacked up, and then the isolators can be inflated without any personnel needing to work underneath the aircraft. Also, the system accommodates changes in aircraft configuration, automatically adapting to changes in mass, and it can adjust the jacking height in one basic set-up.

Commercial Opportunity

Aircraft manufacturers are invited to test their current and new designs using the Starr Soft Support technology as well as other state-of-the-art capabilities in Armstrong Flight Research Center's Flight Loads Laboratory. Armstrong's is the premier aircraft testing facility in the United States:

  • Thermal, structural, ground vibration, and structural mode interaction testing of aircraft and aircraft structural components
  • All testing under one roof for convenience and efficiency
  • A large data acquisition and thermal control system
  • Up to 84 channels of hydraulic load control
  • Up to 320 accelerometers for large ground vibration tests
  • Systems for applying advanced instrumentation
  • A unique virtual laboratory system for remote, real-time monitoring of tests through a secure Internet connection
  • A highly skilled and experienced workforce of engineers and technicians
  • State-of-the-art tools to design and analyze test set-ups for testing one-of-a-kind items

Contact Information

If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA's technology transfer program, please contact:

Technology Transfer Office
NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center
PO Box 273, M/S 1100
Edwards, CA 93523-0273
Phone: (661) 276-3368
E-mail: DFRC-TTO@mail.nasa.gov

Image Token: 
Image Token: 
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: November 13th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator