This paper is an overview of recent spacecraft payload vibration isolation systems for further possible application to reusable launch vehicles sub-orbital missions. A summary of vibro-acoustic environment of Orbital Science and Kistler Aerospace’s small launch vehicles indicated a severe level of random vibrations, shock and acoustics that the payload must endure. The same level of random vibrations has been found for an entire family of sounding rockets: Black Brant, Orion, Nike-Orion, Taurus-Orion and Terrier-Orion. This paper also presents recent flight experiments designed to test either launch isolation or on-orbit isolation systems. While the on-orbit vibration isolation systems were active-passive systems, which lately used smart structures and new control algorithms including adaptive neural network-based, launch isolation systems evolved from passive to active-passive systems which were lately tested during the VALPE-2 experiment. Launch active-passive systems provided a vibration reduction 10 to 1 versus up to 5 to 1 provided by passive systems. Also, on-orbit active-passive systems provided a vibration reduction of about 10 to 1. Suborbital missions became very important due to the growing number of research projects dedicated to remote sensing of high resolution and effects of microgravity. The number of orbital and especially suborbital reusable launch missions is estimated to increase considerably in the near future as vehicles develop. The actual tendency is to reduce payload weight and mission costs, and to improve the payload environment. This requires more efficient vibration isolation systems that will guarantee payload safety and better operational performance for reusable launch vehicles.

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