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Wireless Sensor Technology for Use in Missile System Applications



OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate a wireless instrumentation system that may be used as the baseline instrumentation system, or to augment a hard-wired instrumentation system for use in Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) systems and/or private sector space launch platforms such as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. 

DESCRIPTION: Instrumentation is a critical part of missile system development, testing, and validation. Instrumentation sensors provide data to inform a variety of missile performance parameters, to include temperature, pressure, vibration, acoustic, strain, and video monitoring. While instrumentation sensors have historically been “hard-wired” to a sensor data acquisition package, it is desirable to have wireless capability for some, if not all, sensors in the instrumentation suite. The cabling associated with wired systems yields a lack of system flexibility, as the cabling infrastructure would need to be changed to accommodate the addition or change to sensors and sensor locations. Eliminating or reducing the need for onboard cabling would promote greater flexibility of the sensor suite, and offer the opportunity to tailor the instrumentation according to the needs of a development and flight test program. Additionally, the reduction or elimination of an onboard cable infrastructure would reduce the weight of the missile system. A wireless system, or a hybrid wired/wireless system, can be advantageous to a variety of missile systems and commercial launch vehicles. The following capabilities should be addressed by the proposed solution: • Ability to add sensors to a baseline instrumentation system without the addition of wires • Ability to operate without external power for 60 days standby and 60 minutes operating time • Ability to survive typical missile launch environments (shock, vibration, vacuum) • Ability to remain fully operational through short duration (<60 minutes) space radiation environments • Ability to support multiple sensors (50+ temperature, vibration, pressure) at a variety of data rates (10Hz to 10kHz). • Ability to support high data rate sensors such as video (e.g., 30fps 1080p video—compressed) • Ability to transmit over a distance of 50 feet through various structure elements and through staging events (rocket motor case, rocket motor plume, propellant) • Assessment of wireless signal interface caused by transmission through various structure elements and staging events • Assessment of communication protocols, cost, reliability, size, weight • Assessment of limiting factors or concern areas 

PHASE I: Develop a proof-of-concept solution; identify candidate wireless protocols, sensors, data acquisition hardware, technologies, and designs. Conduct a feasibility assessment for the proposed solution showing advancements in contrast to standard off-the-shelf instrumentation devices. The feasibility assessment should address, at a minimum, the capabilities listed in the topic description. At the completion of Phase I the design and assessment will be documented for Phase II consideration. Phase I will include plans to develop a prototype during Phase II. 

PHASE II: Design and demonstrate a prototype wireless sensor system that meets the capabilities listed in the topic description. Develop and perform tests which demonstrate the performance of the manufactured prototypes in relevant environments, and collect performance data that may be used to characterize the capabilities of the design. Define and demonstrate methods to assign sensor addresses, set sensor data rates, define dynamic sensor sampling frame formats and gather/record sensor data. Define and demonstrate how to seamlessly handle sensor data dropouts. Propose modifications to the Phase II design for use on multiple platforms. 

PHASE III: Develop and demonstrate the proposed modifications to the Phase II design that may be used to augment a wired instrumentation system for multiple applications (e.g., Trident II (D5) Missile, SpaceX Falcon 9, aircraft instrumentation systems). 


1: "Wireless Sensing – the Road to Future Digital Avionics". (Article based on SAE technical paper 2014-01-2132 by Prashant Vadgaonkar, Ullas Janardhan, and Adishesha Sivaramasastry, UTC Aerospace Systems.) Aerospace & Defense Technology, February 2015.

2:  "Wireless Avionics Intra-Communications (WAIC)." Aerospace Vehicle Systems Institute, 2011.

3:  Sereiko, Paul and Werb, Jay. "Industrial Wireless Instrumentation Adoption Considerations" ISA Process Control and Safety Symposium 2014.

4:  Werb, Jay. "ISA Wireless Applications, Technology, and Systems – A Tutorial White Paper." ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute, November 2014.

KEYWORDS: Wireless; Instrumentation; Sensors; Telemetry; Tracking; Space Launch 


Vanessa Pietrzyk 

(202) 433-5842 

Neil Choudhary 

(202) 433-5710 

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