Process control: Even rockets need regulation strategies


It only has to run for 8.5 minutes, but during that time the control system has to keep the space shuttle Endeavour’s booster rockets running properly to keep it flying true. The shuttle is equipped with three Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne main engines that use advanced health management system (AHMS) controllers to monitor overall performance during the short but critical firing period. The AHMS controllers monitor engine vibration and have the ability to detect real versus false signals. During the August 8 launch, for the first time, all three of the controllers were active and could have prompted actions in the engine systems if unacceptable vibration levels were detected during the firing of the engines.

The AHMS controller improves flight safety by offering near-instant and automatic response to potential problems in the event they occur. “This is a major upgrade for the engines,” says Jim Paulsen, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne space shuttle program manager, “and we’re excited to finally put the new AHMS into action after years of hard work from a dedicated team of NASA, Pratt & Whitney, and Honeywell personnel. Once again, the team has succeeded in introducing advancements that further enhance flight safety.”

The AHMS controller was developed in conjunction with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Honeywell International . Its enhancements are expected to improve flight safety by 23%, with real-time automatic response to potential issues. Endevco Corporation , a leader in sensing solutions for demanding vibration, shock and pressure applications, provided the advanced accelerometers for the engine controllers using 7704 series isoshear piezoelectric accelerometers.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s space shuttle main engine is the world’s only re-usable high performance liquid-fuel rocket engine. August’s successful launch brings the fleet total to 357 engine flights and nearly 183,000 seconds of flight operation. Upon return of Endeavour, the engines will be removed from the orbiter and prepared for future missions.

—Edited by Peter Welander, process industries editor, ,
Control Engineering Weekly News

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.