This program was developed to fill a need within the Wallops Flight Facility workflow for automation of the development of vertical plan limit lines used by flight safety officers during the conduct of expendable launch vehicle missions.

Vertical plane present-position-based destruct lines have been used by range safety organizations at numerous launch ranges to mitigate launch vehicle risks during the early phase of flight. Various ranges have implemented data submittal and processing workflows to develop these destruct lines. As such, there is significant prior art in this field. The ElLimits program was developed at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility to automate the process for developing vertical plane limit lines using current computing technologies.

The ElLimits program is used to configure launch-phase range safety flight control lines for guided missiles. The name of the program derives itself from the fundamental quantity that is computed — flight elevation limits. The user specifies the extent and resolution of a grid in the vertical plane oriented along the launch azimuth. At each grid point, the program computes the maximum velocity vector flight elevation that can be permitted without endangering a specified back-range location. Vertical plane x–y limit lines that can be utilized on a present position display are derived from the flight elevation limit data by numerically propagating ‘streamlines’ through the grid.

The failure turn and debris propagation simulation technique used by the application is common to all of its analysis options. A simulation is initialized at a vertical plane grid point chosen by the program. A powered flight failure turn is then propagated in the plane for the duration of the so-called RSO reaction time. At the end of the turn, a delta-velocity is imparted, and a ballistic trajectory is propagated to impact.

While the program possesses capability for powered flight failure turn modeling, it does not require extensive user inputs of vehicle characteristics (e.g., thrust and aerodynamic data), nor does it require reams of turn data after the traditional fashion of the Air Force ranges. The program requires a nominal trajectory table (time, altitude, range, velocity, and flight elevation) and makes heavy use of it to initialize and model a failure turn.

This work was done by Raymond J. Lanzi of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16692-1