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Launch and Test Range System

The Launch and Test Range System (LTRS) is managed by the Spacelift Range System Division within the Launch and Range Systems Directorate of the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, Calif.

LTRS consists of ground-based command destruct, communications, data handling, flight safety, optical, planning & scheduling, radar, surveillance, timing & sequencing, telemetry, and weather subsystem assets located at the Eastern Range (Patrick AFB, Fla.), and the Western Range (Vandenberg AFB, Calif.), used to support spacelift and test missions. The LTRS mission is to provide DoD, NASA, Missile Defense Agency, national and commercial customers a highly reliable, integrated system to support spacecraft launch, ballistic missile, and aeronautical testing.

The LTRS performs the following functions:

Range Safety - protecting people, property and the environment
Launch Vehicle Tracking and Assessment - supporting DoD, civil, commercial, and national sub-orbital, orbital and interplanetary launches with optics, telemetry, and radar assets
Positive Control - collecting, processing and distributing data for command and control
Communications - linking instrumentation sites, control centers, ranges, facilities and range customers
Weather - providing mission-tailored processes and products supporting launch and test activities
Area Surveillance - ensuring situational awareness for safe launch and test operations

LTRS is composed of eleven interrelated subsystems:

Command Destruct
Data Handling
Flight Safety
Planning & Scheduling
Timing & Sequencing

Command Destruct Subsystem

The Command Destruct subsystem allows the Mission Flight Control Officer to destroy flight vehicles which violate Range Safety specific guidelines established by Range Safety for an operation. Command Destruct is necessary to minimize damage to people, property, or the environment. Command Destruct provides central control of command transmission stations. When the MFCO issues a flight termination command, a command transmission station generates the needed command and transmits it to the flight vehicle. When Command Destruct detects failure to transmit, it performs an automatic fail-over to a backup transmission station(s). Command Destruct records, plays back, archives, and retrieves flight termination data. Upgrades to the command destruct transmitters, antennas and central command systems are underway on both the Eastern and Western Ranges.

Communications Subsystem

The Communications subsystem transports voice, video, and data to and from remote and local Range System instrumentation and control stations through landlines, fiber optics circuits, and radio communication links (including microwave and satellites). Typical instrumentation stations are long-range Consolidated Instrumentation Facilities, imaging stations, weather stations, and surveillance stations. Communications connects Range Users, Range System operators, he Western Range Operations Control Center, the Morrell Operations Center and others into a single network. Communications transports video from launch facilities, instruments, and remote stations for operations control, and to Range users for monitoring launch operations. Communications centrally controls and configures its assets; automatically monitors its assets health and status; detects and isolates asset failures within the network; and provides short and long-term archiving and retrieval of video and voice data for post-operation review and analysis. Major upgrades are in the planning phases to implement netcentric, IP-based, security hardened, and flexible communications systems on both the Eastern and Western Ranges which allow service-oriented architecture implementation.

Data Handling Subsystem

Data handling includes functions such as data formatting and Automated Data Processing Equipment. Infrastructure contains the ADPE and Local Area Networks within the control centers. It provides user data product generation and generic processing software services for application software in all subsystems, including data logging, alarm alerting, and pre- and post- mission data products. The Data Handling subsystem controls the execution of operations. Data Handling controls start-up, set-up of assets, tests, calibrations, flight operations and shut down of assets. Data Handling determines health of the Range System by collecting health data from other subsystems. The health data includes status, performance data and failure data. Data Handling records, plays back, archives, and retrieves operation data.

Flight Safety Subsystem

Safety performs flight operations and flight analysis functions necessary to protect people and property. Range Operators use this function to make decisions as to the safe operation of vehicles on their respective ranges.

The Safety subsystem performs pre-operation, operation, and post-operation safety analyses which include computation of trajectories, generation of flight plans including instrumentation coverage and generation of Safety display data and destruct criteria for MFCOs. The MFCOs use display data to make real-time decisions on flight termination of the launch vehicle if needed during anomalous conditions. Safety calculates probability of risks to the public in the form of expected casualty and rates for people and property, and develops blast overpressure and toxic dispersion models based on current weather data for launch. Safety initiates hold-fire. Safety generates alarms if surveillance, weather conditions, or vehicle behavior are abnormal. Safety uses telemetry data to assess the performance of vehicles. Safety processes metric data and determines estimates of vehicle position and predicts instantaneous impact points. Safety uses telemetry, metric and optic data and to generate designate data for tracking objects. Safety records, plays back, archives, and retrieves safety data. The Mission Flight Control Center on the Western Range is undergoing operational testing leading to operational acceptance and use.

Optics Subsystem

The imaging subsystem collects optical imagery and metric data of spacelift vehicles, missiles, and aeronautical test vehicles and their background from liftoff through staging and fairing separation. This includes sensors at both fixed and mobile sites. The Optics subsystem provides video and film images of launch vehicles, space objects, and aeronautical vehicles. Optics provides pointing direction, video, and film image data to Range Safety. Optics records, plays back, archives, and retrieves image data. Projects are underway to install high definition imagery and infrared capabilities on both the Eastern and Western Ranges.

Planning and Scheduling Subsystem

This subsystem provides for range resource scheduling and asset planning and tasking. This subsystem also includes the Network Management System. Range operations are scheduled and monitored from the control centers.

The Planning and Scheduling subsystem builds and maintains plans for operations, and updates asset allocations in response to current asset status. It constructs schedules for current and projected operations. Planning and Scheduling allocates assets to operations, and automatically identifies asset usage conflicts. Planning and scheduling scripts tell Range personnel what to do for particular operations. It records, plays back, archives, and retrieves planning and scheduling data.
Radar Subsystem

The Radar subsystem tracks launch vehicles, space objects, and aeronautical vehicles. Radar tracks debris, and provides images of debris or jettisoned items. Radar provides metric data and signature data to Range Safety. Radar provides space object data to Air Force Space Command. Radar records, plays back, archives, and retrieves radar data. Radar systems on both the Eastern and Western Ranges are being upgraded with new control systems, transmitters, and support equipment which will reduce sustainment costs and increase operational availability.

Surveillance Subsystem

Detects air, sea and Radio Frequency hazards within the controlled launch areas and controls hazard areas in support of operations. Also coordinates rail traffic through WR during LTRS operations. The Surveillance Subsystem provides data on activities around the launch area and along the resulting flight trajectory that could interfere with an operation.

Surveillance monitors hazard zones for aircraft, surface vessels, and trains. Hazard monitoring allows operators to assess the launch area for existing or potential entry by unauthorized personnel or vehicles. Surveillance instrumentation consists of air and surface sensors, tracking, and display assets on both ranges. Surveillance monitors Radio Frequency emissions. On the Western Range, Surveillance uses fixed and transportable Radio Frequency sensors. Surveillance records, plays back, archives, and retrieves surveillance data.

Timing and Sequencing Subsystem

The Timing and Sequencing Subsystem provides timing and sequencing services to the LTRS. Local timing sources as well as GPS are used to provide multiple sources of timing within LTRS. The Timing and Sequencing subsystem provides precise time and time interval signals and data to range instrumentation and to some Range Users. These signals include high accuracy time of year codes, decade repetition rates, communications system clocking rates, precision frequencies, and count status and Time of Vehicle First Motion data. Timing and Sequencing provides the capability for MFCOs to disable rocket ignition circuitry when launch conditions are unsafe. Timing and Sequencing provides accurate Coordinated Universal Time and generates count status data, including minus count, TVFM, and plus count.

Telemetry Subsystem

The Telemetry subsystem receives signals from launch vehicles, space objects, and aeronautical vehicles to determine object position and performance. Telemetry collects and processes the signals, and provides data to Range Safety and Range Users. Telemetry records, plays back, archives, and retrieves telemetry data.

Major upgrades are in work on both the Eastern and Western Ranges to develop, install, and test new telemetry antennas and equipment include new 44' and 20' apertures.

Weather Subsystem

The Weather subsystem collects meteorological data, images, and other products from local instrumentation and remote data sources (satellites and national centers). Weather analyzes data and images to formulate forecasts, advisories, warnings, and other products. Weather then disseminates these products to Range Users and Range Safety. The Range System uses weather data to assess impacts on launch and daily ground operations. Weather collects some data (such as local surface and upper-air observations) disseminates it to external elements without analysis. Weather provides services 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Weather records, plays back, archives, and retrieves weather data.

Lab / Simulator / Trainers

LTRS has built up a large body of range simulators and labs which allow sustainment personnel to check out planned modifications prior to installation into the operational range subsystems. This saves valuable test time and helps ensure an upgrade will function as expected when installed.

Modernization Efforts

The majority of the equipment supporting the ranges was installed during the 1960's and 70's. Multiple LTRS upgrade efforts are underway including the Range Standardization and Automation program, ongoing Instrumentation Modernization projects, numerous recapitalization efforts, and various depot support projects to reduce operations and sustainment costs. The current modernization efforts will replace approximately 20 percent of the system.

Range Standardization and Automation modernization projects provide enhanced capabilities for LTRS. This effort is in the final stages of delivery with completion targeted for early in fiscal year 2011.

Instrumentation Modernization projects provide enhanced capabilities for the telemetry and command destruct functions.

Numerous recapitalization projects are currently underway and planned for the future to provide newer technology hardware and software to improve the reliability and maintainability of the spacelift ranges.

Depot support projects enhance the existing systems on the ranges to reduce the operations and sustainment costs. For example, a metallization project replaces the paint on equipment exposed to the corrosive salt air on the coasts with a significantly more durable metallic coating reducing the costs of corrosion control.

To understand and satisfy customer requirements, the LTRS program office works closely with Air Force Space Command, the operational Space Wings at Patrick AFB and Vandenberg AFB, operators from other agencies and nations, and with satellite and launch development organizations. Early involvement allows developers to reach informed decisions on the most effective use of LTRS resources to accomplish the LTRS mission. Ongoing modifications to the LTRS accommodate changing requirements. Long-term capability needs are constantly factored into improvement and modernization plans.

Current as of December 2010