Range instrumentation systems include radar, optics, GPS (Global Positioning System), interferometer, and telemetry. These systems provide the range´s data collection capability. Special instrumentation support is also available.

Extensive instrumentation systems are available and are capable of measuring the following: acceleration, velocity, displacement, force, strain, pressure, temperature, and time sequence. A mobile instrumentation van is available to support tests performed at alternate locations.

Analog & Digital:
Field measurements of acoustic signature, events, pressures, sound pressure, strain, temperature, and vibration.

Analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) data conversion.
Digital data acquisition, recording and processing from computerized systems.

Support for atmospheric transmission, radiometry, photometry, thermal measurements, thermal signatures, lasers, laser characterizations, and image processing/analysis.

FM/FM, FM/PCM, PCM, RS-232, and MIL-STD-1553 data acquisition, recording, and processing.
Microwave transmission of data.

Video data acquisition, transmission, distribution, remote control, manprint, special effects, editing, digital still video, display and recording.

Photo: Range Instrumentation

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The Optical Instrumentation Suite consists of a variety of optical tracking systems and facilities throughout White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). The equipment and facilities are ultimately responsible for producing Time Space Position Information (TSPI), visual information and Radiometric analysis on a wide variety of aerial and ground targets. The Optics Branch (RO-DO) is part of the Range Operations Directorate, Data Collection Division and consists of both Government and Contractor support elements. The Government contingent operates remotely-controlled Kineto Tracking Mounts (KTM) as well as three Remote Instrument Control Systems (RICS) and the Optics Remote Control and Aquisition (ORCA); both are used to control the KTMs remotely. The Contractor personnel operate a group of KTMs and another Optics Remote Control and Aquisition (ORCA) system. The Contractor is also responsible for the operation of the non-track camera systems used primarily at launcher and impact sites, KTM depot-level maintenance, and the visual information and media transfer facilities.

The KTM systems are equipped with long focal length lenses, analog video cameras, high-speed digital cameras, infrared video systems, and digital recording systems. These systems are usually remotely operated at a hazard-safe distance from either an ORCA or RICS control van. Due to the size of WSMR and the number of missions executed, it is necessary to move the KTMs and their associated control systems around the range almost daily.  There are three different configurations of KTMs used at WSMR, each with a different number of sensor platforms and capabilities, the MAT, LAT and TPM.

The non-track or “fixed” cameras are used even more than the tracking systems. The non-track cameras are typically set up around the launcher and impact sites. The inventory of equipment includes high-speed digital, analog video and streak cameras as well as video streamers and recording devices. The cameras can be used to collect simple “event” type pictures or data that can be used produce TSPI solutions.

Recent modernization efforts for optics include the elimination of film and the digital conversion of optical systems to interface with the WSMR network. Use of film has been eliminated and replaced with digital cameras.  The effort is on-going to convert the KTMs and control systems to digital, making it possible to link them via a WSMR-wide network. Once completed this will increase the operational capabilities and make the setups more flexible because they will not be restricted to line-of-site connections.




Radar Branch operates eleven instrumentation tracking radars throughout the range. Two phased AN/MPS-39 Multiple Object Tracking Radars and ten AN/FPS-16 radars form the basic radar instrumentation network. These are supplanted by a special purpose CW Doppler radar.

The AN/MPS-39 Multiple Object Tracking Radars are White Sands Missile Range´s most modern instrumentation radars. WSMR operates two MOTR systems. They are phased array radars, each capable of simultaneously tracking up to 40 objects within a scan volume of 60 degrees by 60 degrees.

Each MOTR phased array antenna is mounted on an azimuth over elevation pedestal so that full hemispheric coverage is possible. The precision of the radar is 0.2 mils (approximately 0.2 milliradians) in angles and 1.5 yards in range. The peak power of the radar is one-megawatt, but a mix of six different waveforms provides for a total average transmitted power of 5000 watts, the highest of any of the WSMR radars. The MOTR is capable of tracking a six-inch sphere to a range in excess of 120 km.

WSMR also operates up to ten AN/FPS-16 instrumentation tracking radars. The FPS-16 is a pulsed radar that operates at C-Band frequencies between 5.4 and 5.9 GHz. It is capable of tracking a single target as small as a six inch sphere with a precision of better than 3 yards to a distance of almost 100 kilometers. The radar can track in two modes: echo, where the radar locks onto the reflected energy from a target, and transponder mode, where an active on-board device is used for the tracking signal. Normally, the FPS-16 requires a crew of three to four technicians.

The Continuous Wave CW Doppler Radar is a special purpose radar designed to record the Doppler Signature of a target. It is used primarily for measuring the exit velocity of ground launched missiles and muzzle velocity of direct fire weapons.

WSMR operates two C-band Radar Transponder shops. One is located at WSMR main post and the other is at HAFB. The transponder test facility provides and effectuates all transponder support on White Sands Missile Range, both on and off range, as to ensure positive, reliable, repeatable target tracking necessary to meet Missile Flight Safety and customer requirements.


Telemetry Data Center


The range is heavily instrumented with many types of sensors and data gathering equipment. The Telemetry System is one such type of sensor that collects information pertaining to a test vehicle´s direction, health and status. The manufacturer normally instruments the test vehicle at the factory with numerous sensors and guidance systems. Data from these systems is then transmitted, where telemetry tracking stations receive the information and relay it to the primary data processing station at WSMR, the Telemetry Data Center (TDC).

The TDC provides White Sands Missile Range with one of the premier telemetry data processing and display facilities within the Department of Defense. The data is processed and displayed for use by both external range customers, such as a missile manufacturer, and internal customers, such as missile flight safety. Missile flight safety officers depend on this information to tell them how the subject under test is performing according to predetermined parameters (including trajectory) and determine if the test should be terminated. Such constraints require that the telemetry system perform its duties flawlessly. The TDC staff includes recognized experts in mathematical analysis, real-time data processing, software development, systems engineering and real-time missile flight safety decision strategies. The purpose or mission of this organization is to collect, process, archive and display telemetry data in either preflight, real time or post flight mode. Consequently, TDC engineers are expected to design, specify and build telemetry ground stations, which perform the entire spectrum of operations. These systems are complex and dependent on a multitude of technologies.

The TDC is in the process of upgrading its current complement of processing and display systems. These upgrades will enhance mission support and data products for our customers. Such benefits include: improved processing, display, and data storage and access capability.

The TDC has begun the implementation of a software based telemetry processing system (versus the traditional hardware based systems) that extracts real time telemetry data and presents it in real time via PC based graphical displays and/or strip chart recorders. Considering that telemetry data can provide information concerning a vehicle´s position, status and health, the TDC uses telemetry data to depict real time visual information of a vehicle´s orientation and/or position using Modeling and Simulation tools. This visualization provides our customers with an intuitive grasp of the missile´s spatial situation.

With the new processing systems, TDC is capable of digitizing telemetry data in real-time and has the ability to offer its customers processed digital telemetry data products in a greater variety of large capacity archival media. The data products of the TDC consists of the following: Serial or Multiplexed Metrum Helical Scan Tapes, Sony 8mm tapes, Compact Disks, Digital Versatile/Video Disks and USB Hard Drives. In addition, the TDC provides customers with SVHS and VHS tapes, embedded telemetry seeker video displays, 2D/3D computer generated graphical representations of TM data and strip chart recordings.


This page was last updated on 9/13/2019 1:09 PM