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Fuselage Loads

The first step is to identify loads. The particulars come from flying your vehicle through its mission. But we can identify two load cases that occur in almost every design. These are pure compression and bending of the fuselage. To begin our analysis, we will look at the boost phase of a rocket. This case is interesting because the forces in the fuselage are due to dead-weight loads as well as inertial loads due to acceleration. The loads are primarily compressive in this situation. purposes we will treat it as a scalar equation. Newtons 3rd Law of Motion for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction will also be used in this discussion. The examples used in these discussions will make use of the Delta rocket shown below. Lets start off with Newtons 2nd Law. Its obvious that the vehicle is experiencing forces that are propelling it upwards. Something has to be pushing up on the rocket to make it go up. This is simply a statement of the vector form of F = ma (a points up so F has to also). But its obvious that the exhaust is going down. So whats pushing up? The exhaust exerts a pressure on the surrounding air. Because of Newtons 2nd Law, this pressure is transmitted back into the exhaust nozzles. I dont want to go into a rigorous proof of this, but the force pushing up on the rocket is this pressure applied over the projected horizontal area of the nozzles. In the solid rocket boosters, this pressure is applied across the bottom face of the solid fuel and to the top inside surface of the casing. Also note that the pressure applied to the air surrounding the rocket is transmitted to the ground. Although the pressure increase on the ground is very weak, it is applied over a wide area. The same is true of wings producing lift. So every time we fly an airplane or launch a rocket, the earth is being pushed out of the way. Of more immediate concern to us are the compressive stresses inside the rockets structure. These stresses will determine how much material we use in the structure to prevent the material from reaching its crushing strength and to prevent buckling.
F = ma , or Newtons 2nd Law of Motion, is a vector equation. However, for our

Lets now look at the stresses in an arbitrary location in the rocket. Lets start by calling the upper section m1 and the lower section m2. As drawn, the upper section has less mass than the lower section. If you write out a free-body diagram you get the forces as shown to the right. If the forces are summed on the upper section, the following equation is obtained:
F1 = m1a + W1

W1 F1 F1

Doing the same for the lower section gives

T = m 2 a + F1 + W2

If F1 is substituted into the 2nd equation

T = W1 + W2 + ( m1 + m 2 ) a
Examining the equation for each force, the forces in the structure are clearly largest at the bottom of the rocket. Dont forget that W = mg. As the rocket gains altitude the weight becomes less and less because g decreases. F1 tells us how the forces in the rocket vary along its length. If we were to draw the cut lower, both m1 and W1 would increase. Although this expression is exact, the way that this force is distributed at a given cross section is not known. However, at the early stages it is OK to assume that this force is evenly distributed. One parameter that always comes up is the loading parameter. It is defined as the load per length or width. In the case of a circular cross section, the loading parameter for pure compression can be written as N= F1 D F2


which is simply the load applied over the circumference.

The second load case is bending. The bending of a fuselage can be due to the dead weight of the payload inside, accelerations, or externally applied forces such as the tail loads necessary for trim or maneuvering. Pure bending almost never occurs in fuselages. The bending moments are usually a result of shear forces acting at some distance from a support. Bruhn uses a typical aircraft as an example in Chapter 5 of Analysis & Design of Flight Vehicle Structures.

Usually the fuselage is broken into stations where the shears and moments are computed. The weights or other forces must be distributed to these stations in some physically consistent manner. The way to do this is to ensure that the moments about some reference point are the same before and after. There is another consideration. The reactions at the front and rear wing spars can not be arbitrarily assigned. They need to be computed by summing the forces and moments. This gives two equations and two unknowns, the wing reaction forces. For a wing with more than two spars, the system is indeterminate and other methods such as Castiglianos theorem must be used. Note that if you draw in the lift forces due to a hypersonic aerodynamics calculation, the moments may not balance. This is probably because you are forgetting that the vehicle needs to be trimmed. You are missing the force due to the control surface that is trimming the vehicle.

We can make a table to help us remember how to make the shear and bending moment diagrams. Station 11 50 73 80 116 120 170 200 230 260 290 315 Load w -893 -388 1780 -307 775 -409 -311 -76 -10 -21 -118 -22 Shear = w 0 -893 -1281 499 192 967 558 247 171 161 140 22 x 0 39 23 7 36 4 50 30 30 30 30 25 = V x 0 34827 29463 -3493 -6912 -3868 -27900 -7410 -5130 -4830 -4200 -550 Moment 0 -34827 -64290 -60797 -53885 -50017 -22117 -14707 -9577 -4747 -547 3

In algorithm form,
Vi +1 = j V
j= 1 i


=V x d

M i +1 = M i +Vi xi

1500 1000

Shear (lbs)

500 0 -500 -1000 -1500




80 11 6 12 0 17 0 20 0 23 0 26 0 29 0 31 5

Station (in)

Moment (in-lb)

-10000 -20000 -30000 -40000 -50000 -60000 -70000





116 120




Station (in)
For more information, it is suggested that you consult the references. Several key effects have been ignored for the launch case. They are probably not important for a vehicle being carried as payload on top of a launch vehicle. Examples of these effects include the bending moments due to cross winds, angle-of-attack, and angular accelerations due to gimbaling. Bruhn gives a good discussion on this. References 1. Bruhn, Elmer. Analysis and Design of Flight Vehicle Structures. 2. Bruhn, Elmer. Analysis and Design of Missile Structures.