Large rocket testing at altitude conditions has been a common occurrence at Arnold Engineering Development Complex’s state-of-the-art Large Rocket Motor Test Facility (J-6) for almost 20 years.
When ATKÆ recently tested their CASTORÆ30XL rocket in the J-6 facility, a team of engineers had completed an upgrade of the facility’s Test Unit Support System.
The result of the upgrade was the implementation of the new J-6 Facility Control System (FCS) which controls 16 major systems needed to conduct a rocket test in the facility.
The J-6 Facility provides ground-test simulations for solid-propellant rocket motors and it is used mainly for testing of stages II and III for both Minuteman and Peacekeeper ICBMs.
“A few of the critical systems are steam, gaseous nitrogen (GN2) and liquid nitrogen (LN2),” said Mickey Gipson, an Information Technology System Development manager. “Basically, the J-6 FCS is the heart of the J-6 test facility.”
A customer benefit that FCS provides is better control of automatic facility flow and pressure of steam, GN2 and LN2. Customers like ATK and the Minuteman program will also benefit from improved system calibration and pre-operations automation.
Gipson added that customers will also experience “Improved data logging and historian features and improved human machine interface and external interfaces using open standards.”
The improved interfaces will allow interaction with different manufacturer’s equipment, using a set standard, without developing special hardware or software for each test item.
System design, software design and installation were conducted by AEDC personnel.
“The original schedule of installation and checkout required nine months but our project (team) accomplished it in six months,” said Simon Choi, the Air Force project manager for the new system. “We had experienced designers and operators who are very familiar with the J-6 test process which provided technical consistency and excellent ideas.”
J-6 is designed to test Class 1.3 or 1.1 solid-propellant rocket motors capable of up to 500,000 pounds of thrust. Measuring 26-feet in diameter by 62-feet long, the horizontally oriented test cell is capable of testing rocket motors at simulated altitudes up to 100,000 feet.