The White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) Flight Safety Branch is separated into two sections: Flight Safety Engineering and Analysis Section. Branch responsibilities include safety management of the public and Range personnel, Range and customer assets for all unmanned open air/weapon systems testing, and training from system "first motion" to impact. Flight Safety Officers and Engineers (FSO/FSE) are also engaged in the safety management of weapon systems and depend on range instrumentation to determine real time flight vehicle (missile, aircraft, spacecraft, ect.) performance versus predetermined flight parameters (including trajectory) and determine if the test should be terminated.
Flight Safety Engineering Section
The Flight Safety Engineering Section provides personnel to aid in all aspects of the design, development, qualification testing and fielding of the Flight Safety Termination System (FTS) which is needed to ensure adequate safety management of airborne vehicles undergoing flight testing here at WSMR. The Section's engineering staff works closely with Range customers to develop FTS concepts in accordance with established WSMR policy requirements. In addition, the section provides technical direction and leadership during the design and qualification phases of FTS development. The Section issues final approvals for the FTS usage and provides on-going field support during the life cycle of each flight termination system employed. Real-time mission support is also performed by Section personnel, who control and monitor the operation of the FTS and make critical safety decisions during prelaunch and launch activities.
In addition to the above activities, the Flight Safety Engineering Section provides a state-of-the-art computer automated FTS receiver Certification Facility, that performs detailed electrical testing of potential airborne FTS receivers in accordance with Range Commanders Council 313 test requirements. This service is maintained primarily to support flight test missions at WSMR, but we also can extend this certification service to other Government agencies and Contractors that flight test at other Test Ranges. Our FTS receiver Certification Facility is a recognized leader within the DoD.
Flight Safety Analysis Section
The Flight Safety Analysis Section's primary responsibility is managing the safety of all unmanned open air system testing at WSMR to include the testing of missiles, research rockets, bombs, lasers, and unmanned aerial systems (UAS). To manage safety, Flight Safety Officers (FSO) must consider the safety of the public, Range personnel, and Range and customer assets while still aiding the customer in achieving their testing goals. Flight Safety understands that all missions involve some level of risk and works to minimize this risk. The Analysis section provides two basic functions to accomplish this: mission planning and real-time mission support.
Mission planning is accomplished by working closely with Range customers and the instrumentation branches at the Range in order to aid in designing a test that meets customer goals and provides the best data possible while still maintaining safety. During planning, FSOs may suggest alternatives for tests and how they best fit on the Range and remain on the Range in the instance of a failure. In some cases, upon determination that a system will exceed Range boundaries if it were to fail, the FSO can require utilization of a Flight Termination System (FTS). At this point, the Engineering Section under the Flight Safety Branch will become involved.
Real-time mission support is provided on the day of test to ensure that testing is accomplished safely. In this role, FSOs monitor the test and may have to make split-second let-fly or terminate decisions about a test article during flight. The terminate decision is typically due to unacceptable hazards impacting Range boundaries, evacuation areas, personnel, equipment, or stemming from erratic flight, or loss of data.