Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aerospace Engineering

Committee Director

Drew Landman

Committee Member

Colin P. Britcher

Committee Member

Peter A. Parker

Committee Member

Robert L. Ash


A variable acceleration calibration system that applies loads using gravitational and centripetal acceleration serves as an alternative, efficient and cost effective method for calibrating internal wind tunnel force balances. Two proof-of-concept variable acceleration calibration systems are designed, fabricated and tested. The NASA UT-36 force balance served as the test balance for the calibration experiments. The variable acceleration calibration systems are shown to be capable of performing three component calibration experiments with an approximate applied load error on the order of 1% of the full scale calibration loads. Sources of error are indentified using experimental design methods and a propagation of uncertainty analysis. Three types of uncertainty are indentified for the systems and are attributed to prediction error, calibration error and pure error. Angular velocity uncertainty is shown to be the largest indentified source of prediction error. The calibration uncertainties using a production variable acceleration based system are shown to be potentially equivalent to current methods. The production quality system can be realized using lighter materials and a more precise instrumentation. Further research is needed to account for balance deflection, forcing effects due to vibration, and large tare loads. A gyroscope measurement technique is shown to be capable of resolving the balance deflection angle calculation. Long term research objectives include a demonstration of a six degree of freedom calibration, and a large capacity balance calibration.