Before kicking off another busy year for the White Sands Missile Range Test
Center, the organization took advantage of its slow period to test their
data equipment's accuracy. The team tested their optics, telemetry, radar,
GPS and real-time display equipment Jan. 10 to 13.
"We take advantage of this down time to improve operational readiness," said
Director of Range Operations Gilbert Harding.
Lupita Soliz, WSMR program manager, said the week of testing allows them to
review all of their tracking data to ensure they don't have any "deltas" or
difference in results. She said if there is a "delta" during the week of
calibration they work to remove those "deltas" to be able to give the
customer the most precise data available.
"The instruments have to work together to give data," said Jason Shankle,
WSMR electronics engineer. "We advertise that we can reach a certain level
of accuracy so we need to test that level of accuracy regularly."
On Jan. 10 and 11 the team tested their equipment on T-38s coming out of
Holloman Air Force Base. The Jan. 12 and 13 mission was the first of its
kind, where model rockets were used to test their fixed, high speed and
surveillance cameras and tracking technology. The reason the rocket testing
was added to the calibration is because the center wanted to test their
ability of tracking a new Extended Area Protection and Survivability missile
that travels a lot faster than a standard missile.
"It gives us practice and helps us develop techniques to track it," Shankle
He said because the model rockets are so inexpensive, $80 for the rocket and
$40 for the motor, several rockets can be tested throughout the day. Eight
rockets were to be tested on the 12th and seven rockets were to be tested on
the 13th. Only two rockets were tested on the 12th due to issues with the
launchers, but the issue was corrected and all seven rockets where launched
on the 13th within 10 minute intervals.
"What they're doing is a no-cost approximation," Harding said. "We have been
challenged to track small, fast rockets off the launch pad and effectively
track them as soon as they launch. It helps them fine-tune their processes
and set-up before they get into EAPS tests."
The testing team is made up of over 200 employees who work on everything
from tracking missiles and aircrafts to ensuring the customer receives the
highest quality of footage and photos of the missile or aircraft.
"It is a big coordination effort with a lot of people on the field," Soliz
The testing also provided an opportunity to introduce newly hired employees,
who have taken over for recently retired employees, to the testing field.
Soliz said the newer employees were able to test their aircraft and missile
tracking skills during the mock rocket testing.
The calibration also allows the center to test new evolutionary software
upgrades that are usually developed in-house, Shankle said.
"It gives everyone an opportunity to try new things they've been working
on," Soliz said.
WSMR Navy also benefited from the testing as they were able to test their
Precision Acquisition System by tracking the aircrafts and missiles and
comparing the results with the Test Center. Soliz said the week of
calibration would not have been possible without the assistance of TRAX
Harding said these types of calibration tests are not only conducted at the
beginning of the year but are done as often as possible throughout the year
to ensure the center's accuracy. According to Chief of Range Scheduling
Mike Parsons, in 2016 there were 256 hot tests conducted and 283 tests with
lasers for a grand total of 539 tests.