For this Saturday’s Pathfinder launch (January 21st), Launch Pad #1’s new launch controller will feature a software update to fix a bug, and to add a new safety feature.

The software bug involved having the controller stay in the “lockout” mode after reset.  When this happened, issuing a second reset would clear the condition.  Since this did not compromise safety protocols, I went forward with the launches, and worked around the bug.

The bug has now been fixed.

A new safety protocol feature has been added.  If there is an igniter continuity problem at the launch pad, the launch controller will place itself in “lockout”, or “disarmed mode” until a manual reset is issued.  This prevents the possibility of an accidental launch should someone go to the pad to adjust or connect the launch  igniter leads with the launch controller armed.

Launch pad #2 is in the final planning phases.

Launch Pad2 will be my high power launch pad used to launch any 29mm or higher comosite motor based rocket, such as Nesaru and the 29mm Artemis Dual Deploy rockets.

Initially these rockets will fly on MTMA club pads until the new launch pad is done.  One of the key features will be a microcomputer based launch controller.  A version of which (LCC-100)  has just been completed for Launch Pad 1.

LCC-200 will be the designation of the controller being designed for Launch Pad 2.  Initially the launch pad will use the same electronic gear from Launch Pad #1, but by summer Launch Pad #2 will have its own system.

The long term plan is for the system to be totally wireless.

Of particular interest to me in this wireless scheme is an idea to design flight the computers for my high power rockets to also communicate on the wireless channels.   This will allow the rockets themselves to report back pre-flight status, and provide feed back for computer a determined GO / NO-GO status for launch.  This may eventually evolve to having real-time radio telemetry as well as audio / video from the rockets during flight.

All of this computer power in the launch control system means that the real capability to automate the launch of rockets my will be there.

There many schemes I’ve thought of, but the system I’m favoring is one where regular human intervention is required for the rockets to actually launch.  One way for this to happen is to have the controller “hold” the countdown at some regular interval, and wait for a human operator to press a button as a way to say “proceed – still GO for launch”.

Any abnormality that is detected during the automated  countdown sequence (such as bad igniter continuity) will either cause a countdown abort, or hold the countdown until the situation is resolved.

The #1 concern here is safety, and a list of checks and balances is being designed for incorporation into the system with the idea that it will be harder to launch the rocket than not.   You have to REALLY want to launch, or else the launch is scrubbed.

That is the status of the launch & recovery projects as of right now!

((( )))