Autonomous Flight Termination for Use in Submarine-Launched Missile Applications
Navy SBIR 2019.2 - Topic N192-135
SSP - Mr. Mark Hrbacek -
Opens: May 31, 2019 - Closes: July 1, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Autonomous Flight Termination for Use in Submarine-Launched Missile Applications

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, Sensors, Space Platforms ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Trident D5 Life Extension

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate an autonomous flight termination system that can be integrated with submarine-launched ballistic missile flight test hardware/software for use in future space-launches from Navy and Air Force ranges. The autonomous flight termination system must comply with all applicable space-launch range safety requirements.


DESCRIPTION: Flight Termination Systems (FTS) are an essential part of missile system development, testing, and validation. The FTS provides a means to prevent the missile from traveling outside the approved range boundaries, should the missile suffer an anomaly during the test event. Historically, FTS have included a remote command (human-in-the-loop) destruct capability that required significant range assets to monitor the missile's flight path. The command destruct portion of FTS relied on a human-in-the-loop to send a radio signal to destroy the missile, should it become unstable or deviate excessively from its expected flight path. Current range safety trends are moving to remove the command destruct capability from future FTS and replace them with an autonomous flight termination capability, often referred to as autonomous flight termination or autonomous flight safety system (AFSS). The AFSS is designed to monitor a flight body's position relative to a pre-programmed flight path and other flight rules. Should the flight body break the boundary of the approved flight path during its flight, or violate some other flight rule, the AFSS will automatically terminate the flight. Current AFSS have been primarily designed for pad-launched systems; however, submarine-launched missiles present some unique issues that must be considered when leveraging this existing technology. Some of the key differences that could impact how AFSS is implemented for submarine- launched systems include: a) the launch site is mobile and b) the launch will occur from a submerged environment resulting in signal loss / signal acquisition issues for sensors such as Global Positioning System (GPS). The limitations of a mobile submerged launch platform should be assessed and design architectures / technologies proposed must satisfy range safety requirements.


The following should be addressed by this topic:

1)   Assessment of the key differences between fixed-launch (terrestrial) and submarine-launched conditions that may affect AFSS architecture. Differences may include mobile launch platform location uncertainties, no / limited GPS access until water surface broach, and operation constraints that may prevent GPS lock (ephemeris load) for extended time periods.

2)   Identify and assess potential sensor technologies that can be used for AFSS vehicle position determination (GPS, Inertial Navigation, GPS aided inertial navigation, etc.).

3)   Identify sensor limitations and mitigations, e.g., GPS time to first fix (TTFF) from cold start, warm start, hot start; means to improve TTFF limitations, ephemeris load to improve TTFF, extended ephemeris load with system such as Furuno's "self-ephemeris."

4)   Identify potential threat concerns (GPS spoofing or jamming) and mitigations, e.g., Selective Availability Anti- Spoofing Module (SAASM) and GPS-aided inertial navigation.

5)   Identify any potential obsolescence concerns and mitigations for a system that could have a 30-year lifespan.

6)   Identify various AFSS approaches, e.g., GPS ephemeris load methods and limitations, inertial navigation system (INS) initialization and impacts (position load), and GPS SAASM key loading and key life.

7)   Assess system architectures to meet range safety requirements RCC-319 and AFSPCMAN 91-710 Volume 4, e.g., TTFF considerations after water surface broach, and time to autodestruct if valid fix is not obtained.

8)   Identify existing Commercial Off-the Shelf (COTS) electronics piece parts and/or sensors that can be utilized or if custom hardware / sensors must be developed.

9)   AFSS ability to survive typical missile launch and flight environments (e.g., shock, vibration, vacuum, short

duration <60 seconds of space radiation exposure) [Ref 7].

10)   Assessment of any other limiting factors or areas of concern.


PHASE I: Develop a proof-of-concept solution; identify candidate system architecture(s) to meet range safety needs for a submarine-launched missile with an autonomous flight termination capability. Conduct a feasibility assessment for the proposed application showing changes needed in existing systems. Address, at a minimum, the capabilities/limitations listed in the Description. At the completion of Phase I, document, in a Phase II plan, the design and assessment for Phase II consideration.


PHASE II: Design and demonstrate an autonomous flight termination system that meets the capabilities listed in the Description. Test the manufactured prototypes in a variety of simulated flight environments and collect performance data that may be used to characterize the capabilities of the design as defined by Navy TPOC. Define and demonstrate methods to initialize AFSS position, provide simulated sensor interruptions (e.g., GPS loss) and demonstrate ability to maintain safety during nominal and off-nominal system operation. Propose modifications to the Phase II design for use on multiple platforms.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Develop and demonstrate the proposed modifications to the Phase II design that may be used to create a range safety compliant AFSS that can be used for various platforms, to include Trident II (D5), submarine-launched cruise missiles, and submarine-launched intermediate range missiles.

Commercial applications may include SpaceX and/or Blue Origin launch vehicles, and other commercial space launch programs.



1.   Bull, James B., and Lanzi, Raymond J. “An Autonomous Flight Safety System.” American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 24 September 2007.


2.   “Autonomous Flight Termination System.” DARPA, April 2016.


3.   Valencia, Lisa; Morrison, Robert; and Zoerner, Roger. March 2016. “Autonomous Flight Termination System Reference Design Hardware.” Robotics, Automation & Control, March 1, 2016.


4.   Dean, James. “Only on Falcon 9: Automated system can terminate SpaceX rocket launches.” Florida Today, March 2017. system-afss-kennedy-space-center-florida-falcon9-rocket-air-force-military/98539952/


5.   Range Commanders Council RCC-319-4. “Flight Termination Systems Commonality Standard.” Range Commanders Council: Range Safety Group, September 2014. 14_Flight_Termination_Systems_Commonality_Standard/RCC_319-14_FTS_Commonality.pdf


6.   Air Force Space Command Manual 91-710_Volume 4. “Range Safety User Requirements Manual, Air Force Command Range Safety Policies and Procedures. https://static.e-


7.   MIL-STD-1540D. Product Verification Requirements for Launch, Upper Stage, and Space Vehicles:


KEYWORDS: Flight Termination; Autonomous Destruct; Command Destruct; Autonomous Flight Safety System; Range Safety; Flight Test


Vanessa Pietrzyk






Anthony Hawkins






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