Redstone Test Center Reaches New Heights With Weapon Telemetry

Engineers at the Test and Evaluation Command's Redstone Test Center, or RTC, have successfully redesigned a new universal telemetry kit that can handle virtually all Hellfire data inputs from warhead replacement to tactical.

For nearly a decade, RTC telemetry and data management division engineers stayed vigilant in staying one step ahead in their quest to obtain every possible piece of data needed to evaluate several variations of telemetry instrumentation.

Since the early days of unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, weaponization, the telemetry, or TM, package has been through countless modifications to keep up with customers' data demands. When RTC Hellfire customers said, "We're going to shoot a Hellfire off of a UAV. And yes, we intend to hit the target," RTC began work to instrument Hellfire missiles to shoot, from an unmanned aerial vehicle platform, with target accuracy.

RTC engineers approached the challenge in three distinct phases: UAV weaponization; global positioning system integration; and the development of the Hellfire universal kit.

Though not originally designed for Hellfire, RTC engineers dusted off former instrumentation packages and integrated them into the warhead component of a Hellfire II missile, making improvements along the way. In 2001, a telemetry crew traveled to Nevada with a mobile telemetry van to support Hellfire's first unmanned aerial vehicle launches, which began RTC's long legacy with Hellfire UAV testing. Since then, RTC has provided TM kits to more than 100 flight tests from various UAV platforms.

When it became clear that Hellfire testing was here to stay, the telemetry division broke new ground in GPS instrumentation development by integrating GPS receiving capability into the telemetry package to enhance the data product provided to the customer.

RTC TM engineers worked diligently to get hardware delivered in time to meet the schedule and the first Hellfire telemetry GPS shots occurred at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in October 2005.

Although more GPS integration work was needed, telemetry engineers were ecstatic about demonstrating GPS capability that provided time, space and position information for missile flight test environments. Since those first shots, GPS capability has become standard on Hellfire telemetry packages. To date, RTC has provided GPS-equipped telemetry kits for more than 200 Hellfire flight test events with hundreds more on order.

After finding it difficult to track ever-increasing Hellfire missile variants and test data, the Telemetry Division designed an "all-in-one" consolidated system, the Hellfire Universal Telemetry Kit, to track and fit all variants.

In August 2012, RTC unveiled the second generation of the Hellfire universal telemetry package. RTC has designed and supported more than 250 telemetry-equipped Hellfire missiles flights since 2012.

Today, RTC engineers continue efforts to implement telemetry features, in anticipation of upcoming customer requirements. Due to the "all-in-one" system approach, RTC telemetry engineers have been able to maintain some degree of consistency in testing and assembly for three years.

RTC engineers have made the progression of Hellfire telemetry a reality by applying themselves with dedication to every change, modification and enhancement design of the telemetry kits for Hellfire missiles. As RTC telemetry engineers point out, nothing is truly off limits when it comes to seeking solutions and better methods for gathering data.

RTC, a subordinate command of the Army Test and Evaluation Command, provides technical expertise, state-of-the-art facilities, and capabilities to plan, conduct, analyze, and report the results of test on missile and aviation systems, sensors, subsystems and components.

By Bart Graham

Source: US Army
Date: May 6, 2015