Sounding Rocket Guidance

RUAG Space offers a range of products for sounding rocket guidance and for sounding rocket payload attitude control.

Our systems are currently used for NASA/NSROC projects at White Sands Missile Range, NM, as well as for ESA’s MAXUS rocket launches at Esrange in Sweden. Well over two hundred successful launches have been performed. We have designed two types of systems:  

  • The S19 Family of Guidance systems: These systems use aerodynamic control surfaces (canards) as actuators in the forward end of the rocket. We have developed four generations of S19 type systems, beginning with an analog one and going digital around 1990. The latest generation is called S19L and uses ring laser gyros and accelerometers for attitude and position reference. It is currently designed for guidance, navigation and control of 17.26 inch diameter sounding rockets reaching apogee altitudes in the 300-500 km range. Of course, it can be adapted to other types of rockets too. 
  • The GCS Family of Guidance Systems: These systems use thrust vector actuators to deflect the rocket nozzle (the same method is used on launchers, such as Ariane, Delta, Atlas, and so on).

There are two generations of this digital control system, and just like the S19L it uses an inertial navigation unit as reference when providing guidance, navigation and control of a Castor 4B rocket which reaches over 700 km of apogeee altitude.

All these systems provide guidance for rockets that re-enter along with their separated payloads after completed science mission. Thus, the main task for the guidance system is to keep the rocket and its payload inside the borderlines of the rocket range, where it is used. The S19 family of guidance systems ensures very low impact dispersion and dramatically relaxes wind related launch restrictions, as compared to unguided rockets. Tailored trajectories also can be created by the guidance systems.

Regarding payload attitude control and exo-atmospheric guidance, please refer to the downloadable pdf brochure.