Projectile attitude determination

Employing affordable magnetometers instead of expensive rate gyroscopes in GN&C systems

Military Technology Electronics

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Magnetometers provide a cost-efficient method for projectile attitude determination in guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) systems. (Image Credit: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay)

An Army Research Laboratory scientist invented a more cost-efficient system of attitude determination for gun-launched munitions. The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Advances in digital signal processor (DSP) technology provide the capability for low cost, real-time processing of navigation sensor data. Generally, attitude determination is a critical element of guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) system, which can be implemented with DSPs.

The requirements for GN&C systems onboard gun-launched munitions typically exclude many traditional attitude determination systems. Such systems commonly use rate gyroscopes that are expensive and ill-suited to munitions with high spin rates. Spacecraft systems have used magnetometers for attitude determination in conjunction with sun sensors or star trackers. However, these systems have not been available for projectile GN&C systems, and there remains a need for an improved attitude determination technique for in-flight projectiles.

An ARL scientist invented an attitude determination system that employs magnetometers and angular rate sensors with a DSP to provide a complete solution for all three Euler angles that describe the attitude of a projectile. Unlike relying on costly rate gyroscopes, this method uses more cost-efficient magnetometers to stabilize drift errors.

The system comprises launching a projectile with several magnetometers arranged orthogonally to one another and multiple angular rate sensors nearby. Flight vector measurements taken by the magnetometers and the angular rate sensors are combined to estimate Euler angles of the projectile. Finally, determining the attitude of the projectile is based on the Euler angles.

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