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Missile Plume Analysis and Modeling for Generation of Missile Profiles Used in Missile Warning


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Space Platforms 

OBJECTIVE: Generate improved validated plume phenomenology models based on key evolving or new missile threat signature characteristics. Integrate models into codes that can be used to create missile threat profiles (time, radiometric intensity, and flyout) for ultimate use in Missile Warning architectures. 

DESCRIPTION: Develop, integrate, test, validate, apply and transition modeling and simulation capability for prediction of key characteristics of evolving and new missile threats. These capabilities may include, but are not limited to, characteristics associated with: – Propulsion, combustion and performance – Body, plume, and wake flow fields – Passive and active signatures – Post boost phenomena and countermeasures As an example, current capabilities may not effectively address new or evolved missile characteristics such as spatially non-uniform or temporal signatures. Further, anticipated new propellant formulations may alter typical missile signature spectral characteristics potentially affecting current launch detection and tracking functions. Proposals that ultimately increase the capability in these areas either through improved models, databases, or calculation methodologies are sought. The research may incorporate laboratory or "real world" sensor observation data. Additional sensor or laboratory data can be used to provide initial validation. This will ultimately be used as part of a larger modeling effort to generate accurate and timely missile signature profiles for use in missile warning and battlespace architectures. The new capabilities, including models and any preliminary signature profiles will undergo evaluation/validation at NASIC and/or Project West Wing, and performance assessment by the USSTRATCOM Missile Warning Functional Manager’s Office (MWFMO) performance subgroup. Validated models and missile profiles generated as a product of the model may be transitioned to the Government TAP Room Laboratory in Boulder, CO for future capabilities development, then the SBIRS OBAC or Missile Warning Operations center for operational assessment. The improved models or signature prediction codes are expected to be made available to the larger user community for other related signature assessments and analysis efforts. 

PHASE I: The phase I work will focus on development and initial demonstration of improved plume phenomenology modeling and simulations tools. Demonstrating the technology as part of the current signature prediction capability (i.e., the next generation plume flowfield and signature models) is highly encouraged. Analysis results of real world missile phenomenology and thermal characteristics can be utilized to drive the modeling work and determine (with government input) phenomenon priority. The work may involve innovative physics models, algorithms, or correlations as necessary to address relevant aspects of missile threat identification (such as capabilities listed in the Topic Description.) Output from the model(s) will be formatted in approved/coordinated formats. 

PHASE II: Refine and implement design from Phase I. Incorporate any needed fundamental quantities such as reaction rates, cross sections, optical properties, etc. obtained by laboratory measurements or theoretical calculation. Conduct comprehensive testing and analysis with focus on validation using actual sensor observations. Testing under “real world” scenarios in approved facilities is required. Transition preliminary capability to NASIC, Project West Wing, and other organizations for evaluation and further validation 

PHASE III: Demonstrate and evaluate the developed threat profiles generated by the modeling algorithms. Developers may request to utilize the SMC/RSX TAP room to investigate unique, innovative fusion techniques, traditional and non-traditional data for use in modeling missiles. Alternative sources of data may serve to validate/increase confidence, accuracy of otherwise single source data and/or increase spectral, spatial and/or temporal resolution validation of modeling algorithms. Transition full capability to NASIC, Project West Wing, and other associated government organizations to support current and future missile profile development for the missile warning and battlespace awareness missions. 


1: Simmons, Frederick, Rocket Exhaust Plume Phenomenology, The Aerospace Press, El Segundo, CA, 2000.

2:  G. Sutton and O. Biblarz. Rocket Propulsion Elements, Seventh Edition, Wiley Interscience, 2001.

3:  Crow, D., C. Coker, B. Smith, and W. Keen, "Fast Line-of-sight Imagery for Target and Exhaust-plume Signatures (FLITES) Scene Generation Program", SPIE Defense and Security Symposium 2006, Technologies for Synthetic Environments, Hardware-in-the-Lo

4:  W. Wolfe and G. Zissis, The Infrared Handbook, Environmental Research Institute of Michigan, 1985. In particular, chapters 2, 21, and 22.

KEYWORDS: Missile Plume Analysis, Missile Signature Data, Plume Modeling, Missile Warning, SBIRS, OPIR, Missile Thermal Signatures 


Marty Venner (AFRL/RQRS) 

(661) 275-5091 

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