Standardize Missile-Test Telemetry with Modular Systems
June 04, 2020 | BY: Paul Cook
Published in Microwaves & RF
An essential, but costly, element of any missile program is the telemetry package (telepack) used to acquire flight and performance data for flight test programs. During flight tests, the telemeter typically takes the place of the missile’s warhead. However, in cases where space warrants, smaller telemeters can co-reside in the missile shroud along with the explosives.
Telemeters are used in a wide variety of critical modern missile, pod, and bomb applications, including development testing, weapon simulation, pilot training, and lot sampling. A complete telemeter subsystem will integrate a mix of data-acquisition units (DAUs) to capture and format data; electronics to provide time, space, and position information; batteries; and other components that provide encryption, RF transmission, recording, flight termination, and tracking capabilities, as required (Fig. 1).
1. Shown is a cross-section view of a proposed fully integrated modular telemetry system in missile shroud. It’s completely designed with Curtiss-Wright components, including off-the-shelf data-acquisition modules.
Today’s telemeters are custom systems, specifically built by a prime contractor and often using components sourced by multiple vendors for each individual missile platform and test regimen. The different components must be integrated together, adding design and schedule risk.
The custom approach also adds unnecessary costs and program risk, which, by decreasing the affordability of missile programs, can become a hurdle to increased acquisition and deployment. Simply put, the lower the telemeter cost, the more missiles the government can buy. The more expensive the telemeter, the fewer missiles they will buy.
Going Modular to Cut Costs
A better, more cost-effective alternative to today’s custom telemeter designs is to leverage modular architectures based on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware to integrate a complete telepack system. An open-architecture approach using proven, pre-qualified data-acquisition modules will not only lower program costs, but will also ease and speed the deployment of telemeters for test programs. Even better, because the standard modules are employed by a wide customer base, it significantly increases telemeter reliability due to broad market feedback and ongoing product improvement.