TeleLaunchTwo — A Smaller Wireless Launch Controller

I've built a wireless launch control system for NAR and OROC. Those are both complex systems with a single controller capable of running hundreds of pads. And, it's also complicated to build, with each board hand-made by elves in our Portland facility (aka, my office).

A bunch of people have asked for something simpler, but using the same AES-secured two-way wireless communications link, so I decided to just build something and see if we couldn't eventually come up with something useful. I think if there's enough interest, I can get some boards built for reasonable money.

Here's a picture of the system; you can see the LCO end in a box behind the pad end sitting on the bench.

Radio Link

Each end has a 35mW 70cm digital transceiver (so, they run in the 440MHz amateur band). These run at 19200 baud with fancy forward error correction and AES security to keep the link from accidentally (or maliciously) firing a rocket at the wrong time. Using a bi-directional link, we also get igniter continuity and remote arming information at the LCO end.

The LCO Box

In the LCO box, there's a lipo battery to run the device, so it can be completely stand-alone. It has three switches and a button -- an arming switch for each of two channels, a power switch and a firing button. The lipo can be charged by opening up the box and plugging it into a USB port.

The Pad Box

The pad box will have some cable glands for the battery and each firing circuit. On top, it will have two switches, a power switch and an arming switch. The board has two high-power FETs to drive the igniters. That should be more reliable than using a relay, while also allowing the board to tolerate a wider range of voltages -- the pad box can run on anything from 12V to 24V.

The Box

Unlike the OROC and NAR systems, these boards are both designed to fit inside a specific box, the Hammond 1554E, and use the mounting standoffs provided. This box is rated at NEMA 4X, which means it's fairly weather proof. Of course, I have to cut holes in the box, but I found some NEMA 4X switches, will use cable glands for the pad box wiring and can use silicone around the BNC connector. The result should be pretty robust. I also found a pretty solid-seeming BNC connector, which hooks around the edge of the board and also clips on to the board.

Safety Features.

There's an arming switch on both ends of the link, and you can't fire a rocket without having both ends armed. That provides an extra measure of safety while working near the pad. The pad switch is a physical interlock between the power supply and the igniters, so even if the software is hacked or broken, disarming the box means the igniters won't fire.

The LCO box beeps constantly when either arming switch is selected, giving you feedback that the system is ready to fire. And you can see on any LED whether the pad box is also armed.