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Autonomous Flight Termination Analysis and Real Time Subsequent Debris Impacts


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics 

OBJECTIVE: Develop a real-time debris pattern estimation and destruct prediction software which influences autonomous destruct decisions. Predictions are based on pre-flight rules, ground mapping and navigation information from multiple measured sources. 

DESCRIPTION: Long Corridor, extended range missile flights will outpace man-in-the-loop command destruct and Continental United States Major Range and Test Facility Base capability in the near future, primarily due to infrastructure lacking along multi-state corridors. Flight termination of errant ground launched missiles will rely on autonomous decisions from the munition itself. A software platform is needed that will take data from various and redundant missile inputs, for example inertial measurement units, global positioning systems and accelerometers, along with pre-loaded flight trajectories and calculate a real-time debris pattern overlaid onto a ground map that will depict debris fallout. Being a long corridor flight, a potential exists that the debris fallout will be within populated areas. The software should also provide calculations as to the real-time missile flight accuracy and the optimal timing of flight termination initiation that would result in minimal debris fallout and collateral damage over populated areas and roadways, to include the consideration of environmental effects (i.e. weather patterns). The software platform and resultant mapping will reside within the flight termination system on the missile itself and should be capable of fault tolerance. The associated graphical tool will be used to pre-populate certain criteria such as intended flight paths and measured debris effects. 

PHASE I: Develop a feasibility study that consist of a high level software concept that includes identification of necessary measurements, overall proposed functionality, and preliminary mapping solution along with identifying the data rate necessary for transmission of subsequent information to a ground based receiving station. 

PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate a prototype solution in a realistic environment. Conduct testing to prove feasibility over extended operating conditions. 

PHASE III: This software platform could be used in a broad range of military and civilian aeronautical applications where debris fallout and real time mapping and visualization are necessary for high altitude/rapidly accelerating trajectories – for example, in commercial air space and space vehicle launches. The test and evaluation phase of extended range munitions, such as Long Range Precision Fires, and subsequent stock pile reliability testing of fielded munitions will require this software platform. 


1: Bull, James B, and Raymond J Lanzi. "An Autonomous Flight Safety System." Defense Technical Information Center, NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION WALLOPS ISLAND VA WALLOPS FLIGHT CENTER, Nov. 2008,

2:  Range Commanders Council, "Global Positioning and Inertial Measurements Range Safety Tracking Systems' Commonality Standard," RCC 324

3:  Range Commanders Council, "Flight Termination Systems Commonality Standard," RCC 319

KEYWORDS: Autonomous Flight Termination, Extended Range Munition, Mapping Software, Debris Pattern, Visualization 


Whitley Mann 

(256) 842-8823 

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