Title:
Host vehicle rocket launcher connectivity system
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A host vehicle, rocket launcher and rocket assembly connectivity system that automatically determines inventory of plural rocket assemblies of different types randomly loaded in plural rocket launcher tubes in multiple host vehicle rocket launcher installations, manages pre-launch functions for new guided rocket-types, manages fuze setting of time-set fuzes, fires selected guided and unguided rocket assemblies using stored inventory information automatically acquired directly from rocket assemblies and verifies rocket-away after firing command, while maintaining compatibility with legacy US military time-set fuzes, warheads and Rocket Management Systems (RMS).


Inventors:
Grigg, Tommy (Little Rock, AK, US)
Application Number:
12/587524
Publication Date:
03/15/2012
Filing Date:
10/08/2009
Assignee:
GRIGG TOMMY
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F41F3/04
View Patent Images:
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Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A rocket launcher and rocket connectivity system adapted to be connected to a host vehicle for launching rockets, the system comprising: means for automatically determining launcher presence and type; means for providing standby and arming power to the host vehicle's Rocket Management Launcher; means for communicating commands, data and status between the host vehicle Fire Control System and host vehicle Launcher Interface Assembly through the host vehicle Local Area Network; means for automatically determining on-board rocket inventory by type and location of a plural number of different rocket assembly-types randomly loaded in a plural number of rocket launcher tubes by way of Rocket Identification; means for providing pre-launch switched standby power to the Seeker-Guidance Section of guided rockets; means communicating pre-launch commands, status and data to the Seeker-Guidance Section of guided rockets; and, means for enabling a launch of said rockets.

2. The system as defined in claim 1 further comprising means for communicating data to future rocket assembly Digital time-set Fuzes, setting legacy Analog time-set Fuzes

3. The system as defined in claim 1 further comprising means for testing, safeing, arming and firing Rocket Motor Squibs of selected rocket assembly types in various firing modes as commanded by the host vehicle Fire Control System and sensing misfires by way of Misfire Detection through rocket launcher/rocket assembly.

4. The system as defined in claim 1 further comprising means for means for testing, safeing, arming and firing of Seeker-Guidance Section Thermal Battery Squibs.

5. A host vehicle, rocket launcher and rocket connectivity system for automatically determining the rocket inventory directly from a rocket assembly comprising a plurality of guided and legacy unguided rockets of different types randomly loaded in a plurality number of multi-tube rocket launchers controlled by a Fire Control System and Launcher Electronics Module having a guided rocket Seeker-Guidance Section, the system comprising: means for connecting a rotating rocket motor or rotating rocket assembly once fired to a stationary rocket launcher while maintaining electrical connectivity between a Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector and the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector; means for communicating with the Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection circuits within said rocket electronics module to monitor the status of said rockets and develop an inventory of stored data; means for providing standby operating power and arming power to the Launcher Electronics Module; means for providing serial communication commands, status and data between the host vehicle through a host Local Area Network; means for providing pre-launch legacy airburst time-set Analog Fuze signals; means for setting future airburst time-set Digital Fuzes; means for providing pre-launch guided rocket standby operating power, serial communication commands, status and data between the Launcher Electronics Module and guided rocket Seeker-Guidance Section; means for testing, safeing, arming and firing guided rocket Seeker-Guidance Section Thermal Battery Squibs; and, means for testing, safeing, arming and firing Rocket Motor Squibs of selected rocket assembly types in various firing modes as commanded by the host vehicle Fire Control System using data from said stored inventory to sense misfire from the Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection circuits once a given rocket assembly has been commanded to be fired. establishing connectivity between the host vehicle, new guided rocket assemblies and legacy unguided rocket assemblies, while maintaining compatibility with service branch legacy rocket launchers, warheads, fuzes and Rocket Management Systems;

6. The system according to claim 5, wherein said common Rocket Management Launcher connectivity comprises a Launcher Interface Assembly.

7. The system according to claim 6, wherein said Launcher Interface Assembly comprises Launcher Interface Panel(s), Launcher Interface Module, Launcher Electronics Module and Rocket Interface Module rigid Printed Wiring Assembly connected by discrete wiring and/or Flex Cable.

8. The system according to claim 7 wherein said Launcher Interface Panel comprises a removable and replaceable panel, similar in form to existing art, which is attached to the launcher skin in the approximate location as legacy Launcher Interface Panels are currently located, and includes two forms for each US service branch, wherein one is compatible with service branch host Fire Control System Local Area Network, and one is compatible with service branch legacy Rocket Management System; whereby, each can be replaced with an environmentally sealed cover when not in use:

9. A host vehicle, rocket launcher and rocket assembly connectivity system arrangement which is capable of automatically determining rocket inventory directly from the rocket assembly by way of Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection from a plurality of new guided and legacy unguided rocket assemblies of different types randomly loaded in a plural number of multi-tube rocket launchers; providing pre-launch power to the Launcher Electronics Module; providing serial communication commands, status and data between the host vehicle Fire Control System and Launcher Electronics Module by way of the host Local Area Network; providing pre-launch switched operating power to new guided rocket Seeker-Guidance Sections; providing pre-launch legacy airburst time-set Analog Fuze signals; provisioning for setting future airburst time-set Digital Fuzes; serial communication commands, status and data between the Launcher Electronics Module and new guided rocket Seeker-Guidance Section; testing, safeing, arming and firing of guided rocket Seeker-Guidance Section Thermal Battery Squibs; testing, safeing, arming and firing of Rocket Motor Squibs of selected rocket assembly types in various firing modes as commanded by the host vehicle Fire Control System using said stored inventory derived directly from said rocket assemblies and sense rocket assembly misfire by way of Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection once; wherein, said connectivity system arrangement comprises: a common rocket launcher connectivity arrangement for all US military service branches, which includes all required connectivity between the host vehicle, new guided rocket assemblies and legacy unguided rocket assemblies, while maintaining compatibility with service branch legacy rocket launchers, warheads, fuzes and Rocket Management Systems; and, a Launcher Interface Assembly comprising Launcher Interface Panel(s) and Wiring Assemblies including Launcher Interface Module(s), Launcher Electronics Module and Rocket Interface Module interconnected by discrete wiring, Printed Wiring Assembly connectors and Flex Cable.

10. The system according to claim 9 including a rocket assembly connectivity arrangement having means for connecting a rotating rocket motor or complete rocket assembly to a rocket launcher while maintaining said electrical connectivity between the Rocket Housing Connector Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector and the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector during pre-launch.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is based upon prior U. S. provisional application Ser. No. 61/195,552, entitled Host Vehicle Rocket Launcher Connectivity System, Filed Oct. 09, 2008 by inventor Tommy Grigg, and priority based upon said provisional application is hereby claimed.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

I. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to air-to-air and air-to-ground rocket launch systems. More particularly, my invention relates to rocket assembly connectivity arrangements for adapting rockets to multiple launch platforms.

II. Description of the Prior Art

Modern US Army, Air Force and Navy 2.75-inch rocket launchers have advantages over the prior art in terms of relative simplicity, reliability, and cost. However, legacy designs for such launch systems lack certain internal electronic control and interface circuitry that is typically integrated within the host vehicle. With the exception of electro-mechanical intervalometers located internally of US Air Force LAU-130/A and LAU-131/A legacy rocket launchers and US Navy LAU-61C/A and LAU-68D/A legacy rocket launchers, all US service branch legacy Rocket Management System (RMS) components are located aboard the host vehicle. Some limited Rocket Management System/launcher designs are more dexterous. For example, the US Army-type Rocket Management Systems manage multiple rocket launchers (M260 and M261) with multiple warhead-types (Hydra-70). The latter Rocket Management Systems can also control airburst warheads with electronic time-set fuzes (M439) in addition to standard 2.75-inch rockets.

Legacy US Army M260 and M261 rocket launchers interface with plural Hydra-70 warheads including several that employ M439 time-set Analog Fuzes (AFZ), which require the loader to connect rocket warhead umbilical cables to mating connectors located on the face of the rocket launcher Forward Floating Bulkhead (FFB). The umbilical cables provide electrical connectivity from the rocket warhead M439 fuze to the host vehicle Rocket Management System by way of the rocket launcher internal wiring and host vehicle electrical cabling. During launch, rocket spin is imparted to the rocket assembly by the rocket motor fluted nozzle providing spin stabilization until aerodynamic fin stabilization is achieved. The umbilical cable assembly is designed such that it accommodates rocket spin and disconnects from the launcher mating connector as the rocket moves forward with minimal interference.

Legacy US Army Rocket Management Systems, such as the M138 for example, provide rocket assembly inventory and management using a system known as “Zone-Fire” which comprises multiple rocket launcher tubes grouped into pre-defined zones or patterns. A corresponding number of zone thumbwheel switches, or equivalent, are located on the face of the cockpit Control and Display Unit (DU), to provide rocket assembly identification encoding for a plurality of different types of rocket assemblies loaded in each rocket launcher zone and Rocket Motor Squib (RMSQ) interrogation to determine the quantity of rocket assemblies loaded in each zone. The Rocket Motor Squib interrogation process takes place on Rocket Management System power-up, and the inventory (quantity of a given rocket assembly-type per zone) is stored in processor memory and presented (displayed) to the crew for firing program selection and management of rocket assembly fuze setting and fire control.

With the development of multiple warheads (Hydra-70) for unguided 2.75-inch (70mm.) rockets, and more recently, the development of precision guided 2.75-inch rockets (Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System-APKWS II; Low-cost Optically-Guided Imaging Rocket-LOGIR, and Direct Attack Guided Rocket-DAGR) it seems desirable to relocate certain host vehicle Rocket Management System components internal to the rocket launcher structure and to modify the interfaces between the host vehicle, rocket launchers and rocket assemblies by providing launcher interface electronics and new rocket assembly electrical connectivity.

A new and improved rocket launcher, hereinafter referred to as a Rocket Management Launcher (RML), is suggested. An improved Rocket Management Launcher should incorporate a Launcher Interface Assembly (LIA), and will provide the following characteristics:

  • 1) bi-directional serial communication, according to such standards as Mil-Std-1553, Mil-Std-1760 or Ethernet, with the host vehicle Fire Control System (FCS);
  • 2) pre-launch, guided rocket Seeker-Guidance Section (SGS) switched standby power;
  • 3) pre-launch, bi-directional serial communication, according to standards such as EBR-1553, for example, between the Launcher Electronics Module (LEM) and rocket assembly Seeker-Guidance Section;
  • 4) testing, safeing, arming and firing of Seeker-Guidance Section Thermal Battery Squibs (TBSQs);
  • 5) serial communications provisions between the Launcher Electronics Module (LEM) and future warhead time-set airburst Digital Fuze (DFZ);
  • 6) legacy warhead time-set airburst Analog Fuze setting;
  • 7) automatic Rocket Assembly Identification (RID) for inventory and management purposes;
  • 8) Rocket Misfire Detection (MFD);
  • 9) testing, safeing, arming and firing of Rocket Motor Squibs; and,
  • 10) sense launcher presence and type.

In addition to all the Rocket Management Launcher features described above it is desirable that the Rocket Management Launcher maintain compatibility with host vehicle legacy Rocket Management Systems, which control legacy rocket launchers such as the US Army M260 and M261 light-weight rocket launchers with 26-pin Rocket Motor Squib and 23-pin Analog Fuze interface connectors, US Air Force LAU-130/A and LAU-131/A and US Navy LAU-61C/A and LAU-68D/A rocket launchers with guarded safety switches and 5-pin aircraft interface connectors. A cost effective and improved host vehicle, rocket launcher, rocket assembly connectivity system is desired that implements the above described features and improvements.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A host vehicle, rocket launcher and rocket assembly connectivity system according to the invention is capable of automatically determining launcher presence and type; providing standby and arming power to the Rocket Management Launcher; communicating commands, data and status between the host vehicle Fire Control System and Launcher Interface Assembly by way of host vehicle Local Area Network; automatically determining on-board rocket inventory by type and location of a plural number of different rocket assembly-types randomly loaded in a plural number of rocket launcher tubes by way of Rocket Identification; providing pre-launch switched standby power to the Seeker-Guidance Section of guided rockets; communicating pre-launch commands, status and data to Seeker-Guidance Section of guided rockets; testing, safeing, arming and firing of Seeker-Guidance Section Thermal Battery Squibs; communicating data to future rocket assembly Digital time-set Fuzes; setting legacy Analog time-set Fuzes; and testing, safeing, arming and firing Rocket Motor Squibs of selected rocket assembly types in various firing modes as commanded by the host vehicle Fire Control System and sensing misfires by way of Misfire Detection through rocket launcher/rocket assembly connectivity.

In accordance with the present invention the Rocket Management Launcher (4-tube, 7-tube, 19-tube, etc.) provides the portion of the connectivity system that interfaces the host vehicle to the rocket assembly. The Rocket Management Launcher connectivity is provided by the Launcher Interface Assembly, which includes a: 1) Launcher Interface Panel (LIP); 2) Launcher Interface Module (LIM); 3) Launcher Electronics Module (LEM); 4) Rocket Interface Module (RIM) and 5) interconnecting Flex Cable (FC) and discrete wiring where the LIM, LEM and RIM are printed wiring assemblies (PWA).

To accomplish these objectives, the invention includes two different Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assemblies for US Army-type applications and two different Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assemblies for US Air Force/US Navy-type applications where the different assemblies may be easily removed and replaced as required. When a given Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assembly is not used, a cover with an environment seal can be used in its place.

One embodiment of the US Army-type Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assembly includes a single electrical connector, which is compatible with the host vehicle Mil-Std-1553/Mil-Std-1760 Local Area Network serial multiplex data bus, and which connects to the Launcher Electronics Module preferably by electrical connector(s).

The second embodiment of the Launcher Interface Panel /Launcher Interface Module assembly includes two electrical connectors, which are compatible with the US Army legacy M260 (7-tube) and M261 (19-tube) rocket launchers. Also, the latter embodiment includes a Launcher Interface Module, which bypasses the LEM relay matrix by disconnecting the Launcher Electronics Module relay matrix from the Rocket Interface Module, and connects the Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assembly directly to the Rocket Interface Module by way of the Launcher Electronics Module and Flex Cable maintaining compatibility with legacy Rocket Management System, which controls US Army-type legacy rocket launchers.

One embodiment of US Air Force/US Navy-type Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assembly includes a single electrical connector, which is compatible with the host vehicle Mil-Std-1553/Mil-Std-1760 Local Area Network serial multiplex data bus, and connects to the Launcher Electronics Module preferably by Printed Wiring Assembly electrical connector(s). The above described Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assembly embodiment can be used with the second Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assembly embodiment, which includes the legacy guarded safety switch and 5-pin connector, and is compatible with US Air Force legacy LAU-130/A and LAU-131/A rocket launchers and US Navy legacy LAU-61C/A and LAU-68D/A rocket launchers. The second US Air Force/US Navy-type embodiments connect their respective Launcher Interface Module to the Launcher Electronics Module preferably by way of discrete wiring routed forward through the two structural bulkheads to the Launcher Electronics Module by way of conduit for protection and ease of installation. For the latter embodiment of the US Air Force/US Navy-type Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assembly, the Launcher Electronics Module senses this configuration, automatically adjust its control algorithm and functions as an electronic intervalometer emulating the electro-mechanical intervalometer internal to legacy LAU-130/A, LAU-131/A, LAU-61C/A and LAU-68D/A rocket launchers maintaining compatibility with US Air Force/US Navy-type legacy Rocket Management Systems, which control said legacy rocket launchers.

The Launcher Electronics Module can include a single, multiple or stacked assembly of Printed Wiring Assembly located in the upper, forward section of the rocket launcher just aft of the Rocket Interface Module and Forward Floating Bulkhead, and is mounted to the upper rocket launcher tubes by way of Printed Wiring Assembly mounts, which are attached to the upper rocket tubes via rocket tube tension-bands, welding or adhesive for example. The preferred Launcher Electronics Module Printed Wiring Assembly embodiment comprises a center module located on the top of the upper tubes and up to one or two modules located adjacent to said center module located on either side of said center module.

The Launcher Electronics Module Printed Wiring Assembly comprises a Processor-Communications section and a Relay Matrix section. The processor-communications section includes the electronics required to interface the Rocket Management Launcher to the host vehicle, a plurality of new guided rockets, legacy unguided rockets, legacy time-set Analog Fuzes, Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection and provisions for future time-set Digital Fuzes. The Relay Matrix section provides all rocket assembly Thermal Battery Squib, Rocket Motor Squib, legacy Analog Fuze arm and safe connectivity and Built-In Test. The Launcher Electronics Module and Rocket Interface Module are connected electrically by way of discrete wiring or preferably Flex Cable.

The Rocket Interface Module includes all the electrical connectivity between the Launcher Electronics Module and all rocket assemblies including Seeker-Guidance Section pre-launch power, serial communications, Thermal Battery Squib; Analog Fuze; future Digital Fuze; Rocket Motor Squib and Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection. One embodiment of the invention can include a small number of electronic components mounted on this module in addition to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connectors. Rocket Motor Squib wiring connects directly to the aft side of the Rocket Interface Module, and is routed aft through the launcher within the triangular volume between rocket tubes, preferably by way of conduit, which extends aft from the Rocket Interface Module through the two structural bulkheads to the rocket assembly fin and nozzle assembly contact band and signal return just forward of the Aft Floating Bulkhead. Depending upon tube location, a plural number of rocket squib/ground pairs may be routed through a given conduit.

The Rocket Interface Module is mounted just aft of the Forward Floating Bulkhead and directly to the rocket launcher tubes or preferably to the Forward Floating Bulkhead. The Launcher Rocket Interface Connector mounts directly to the forward side of the Rocket Interface Module and extends forwardly through the Forward Floating Bulkhead into the recessed area located on the forward side of the Forward Floating Bulkhead, as described below, enabling the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector or Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector to mate with the Rocket Connector Housing Rocket Launcher Interface Connector.

Since the face of the rocket launcher is exposed to extreme heat and residue from rocket motor gases, and various guided rockets may use different interface connectors, the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector includes an optional removable and replaceable Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector, which mounts between the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector and the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector located in the Rocket Connector Housing assembly. The Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector mates with the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector by way of contacts located on its aft end and mates with the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector by way of contacts located on its forward end. The Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector assembly attaches mechanically to the forward-side of the Forward Floating Bulkhead for easy removal and replacement.

The Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector attaches mechanically to the Forward Floating Bulkhead in a recessed or counter-sunk area of the face of the Forward Floating Bulkhead located either in the triangular volume between rocket launcher tubes or outer edges of the Forward Floating Bulkhead, depending upon tube location. Countersinking the Forward Floating Bulkhead provides protection for the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector, Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector and associated guide-pins, if any. Also, the recessed area provides initial guidance for mating Rocket Launcher Interface Connector to Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector and guide-pins for accurate terminal mating of connector contacts. Additionally, the recessed area and guide-pins provide structural support to hold the Rocket Connector Housing assembly stationary as the rocket motor or entire rocket body spins during launch.

However, accurate construction of the Forward Floating Bulkhead recessed area and rocket assembly Rocket Connector Housing can provide sufficient connector contact mating accuracy eliminating the need for guide-pins. Because of residue build-up on the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector forward contacts over multiple rocket firings, it is desirable that the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector contacts be arranged such that they provide a scraping or cleaning action to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector contacts when mated and un-mated. Also, the mating contact length of the contacts of the mating connector pair must be sufficient to accommodate slight differences in distance from the mating connector pair to the rocket tube detent. Additionally, the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector use insulation material, such as Teflon for example, to function in the above mentioned intense heat environment.

The final element of the connectivity system invention is the rocket assembly connectivity portion. The rocket assembly connectivity can include three embodiments: one embodiment includes a combination of fixed Rocket Connector Housing assembly and Rotor-Stator (RS) assembly or collectively Rocket Connector Housing/Rotor-Stator assembly; a second embodiment includes a combination Rocket Connector Housing and Tension-Belt (TB) assembly or collectively Rocket Connector Housing/Tension-Belt assembly; and a third embodiment includes a combination of the Rotor-Stator assembly and Rocket Connector Housing/Tension-Belt assembly or collectively Rotor-Stator/Rocket Connector Housing/Tension-Belt assembly.

Since spin is imparted to the rocket assembly on launch, all embodiments provide a means to couple a rotating device (rocket assembly) to a stationary device (Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector), while maintaining electrical connectivity between the launcher electronics and rocket electronics during pre-launch.

The first embodiment of the invention inserts a Rotor-Stator assembly between the rocket motor and the forward rocket assembly using conventional threaded barrel/receiver rocket section connection means, enabling the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector to be mated to a stationary Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector. Since guided rocket warheads, extenders and Seeker-Guidance Section are new; a fixed Rocket Connector Housing assembly may be built into or attached to these assemblies.

The rotor and stator mechanism uses a unique bearing design to couple the barrel/receiver mechanisms. The barrel mechanism functions as the rotor, and the receiver mechanism functions as the stator. The rotor bearing, similar in shape to a wheel and shaft mechanism, is inserted into the stator aft cavity and held captive by either an end-plate attached to the aft stator outer edges using fasteners or a threaded end-plate that screws onto the aft barrel mechanism firmly holding the wheel/shaft-like bearing inside the receiver mechanism stator cavity. The stator bearing cavity, stator end-plate, rotor end-plate forward surface and rotor bearing surfaces are coated with a hard material with low coefficient friction such as Teflon for example, i.e., all rotor/stator surfaces that make contact are coated with a Teflon-like material. Both surfaces may be lubricated to further decrease friction. Although the rotor bearing may be coated with a Teflon-like material, it may be fabricated wholly from a solid Teflon-like material.

The rotor bearing shaft just aft of the bearing wheel-like surface is circular in shape (or shoulder), larger in diameter than the remainder of the shaft and fits tightly within a circular opening in the stator mechanism end-plate. The following shaft surface is shaped hex-like, which fits into a hex-like opening in the rotor mechanism forward end-plate. The aft end portion of the shaft is threaded and screws into a threaded hole, which is just forward of the threaded receiver mechanism. The hex-shaped opening in the receiver mechanism end-plate holds the shaft preventing it from rotating while the receiver mechanism end-plate and threaded shaft end are screwed onto and into the receiver mechanism.

As described below, the second embodiment of rocket assembly connectivity includes a unique, inexpensive means of connecting a rotating device to a stationary device mechanically and electrically. Although this embodiment can be used with both guided and unguided rocket assemblies, it is especially useful with legacy unguided rockets and includes Analog Fuze and Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection connectivity. A Rocket Connector Housing/Tension-Belt assembly slips over the warhead, extender or Seeker-Guidance Section. The Rocket Connector Housing provides a means to adjust the tension of the Tension-Belt, which when tightened, affixes the assembly to the warhead, extender or Seeker-Guidance Section at a position on the rocket assembly, which is external to the rocket tube, securing the assembly at the appropriate position, enabling easy attachment to guided rockets, extenders or legacy warheads without undesirable modification to stockpiles of existing warheads. The Tension-Belt is adjusted such that it provides sufficient tension to hold the Rocket Connector Housing assembly firmly in place as the rocket is loaded into the rocket tube and the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector (internal to the Rocket Connector Housing assembly) mated with the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector.

A third embodiment of the rocket connectivity assembly includes a Rotor-Stator/Rocket Connector Housing/Tension-Belt assembly. This combination provides an advantage for guided rockets in that the Rotor-Stator assembly isolates motor spin from the Seeker-Guidance Section simplifying the guidance solution. Additionally, the Rocket Connector Housing/Tension-Belt assembly provides the electrical connectivity between the launcher electronics and rocket Seeker-Guidance Section electronics, while providing a safety feature, which allows the Tension-Belt to slip or rotate should the Rotor-Stator assembly fail stuck or frozen causing the entire rocket assembly to rotate preventing potential damage to the rocket launcher and guided rocket.

The Tension-Belt can be fabricated from a high-strength, stretch-resistant material, such as steel for example, and can be coated with a low coefficient of friction material, such as Teflon-brand plastic, for example, or can include a plural number of discrete bearings attached to and spaced the length of the inner surface of the Tension-Belt, with provisions for adjusting the tension of the belt, preferably while mounted to the extender, warhead or Seeker-Guidance Section. While the Tension-Belt holds the Rocket Connector Housing firmly in place as the rocket is loaded into a rocket launcher tube and the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector mated to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector, this embodiment, when coupled with the Rocket Connector Housing bottom-side bearing described below, allows the rocket assembly to rotate inside the surrounding Tension-Belt as the rocket assembly spins on launch. With this design the Tension-Belt functions as a bearing, permitting the rocket assembly to rotate, while the Rocket Connector Housing remains stationary and connected to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector until the rocket moves forward. Once the rocket motor achieves sufficient thrust to break free from the rocket launcher tube detent and moves forward sufficiently to disconnect the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector from the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector, the Rocket Connector Housing/Tension-Belt assembly is held firmly in place and rotates with the rocket assembly avoiding interference with legacy rocket assembly fins or guided rocket assembly guide-vanes.

The Rocket Connector Housing assembly embodiment can include up to three connectors, preferably linked by a Flex Cable: a Rocket Launcher Interface Connector mounted to the aft end of the Rocket Connector Housing, which mates with the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector, a Seeker-Guidance Interface Connector mounted to the bottom of the Rocket Connector Housing, which mates with the said Seeker-Guidance Connector and an Analog Fuze Interface Connector mounted to the forward end of the Rocket Connector Housing, which mates with the M439 Analog Fuze umbilical connector. Also, the Rocket Connector Housing assembly provides Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection connectivity.

In addition to providing Seeker-Guidance electrical connectivity the Seeker-Guidance Connector, which is attached to the bottom of the housing, functions as a low coefficient of friction bearing, and can be manufactured from such material as Teflon for example. Attached to the bottom of the housing, the Seeker-Guidance Connector contacts the rocket assembly surface. The combined housing bearing and Tension-Belt enable the rocket assembly to rotate smoothly within the surrounding Tension-Belt and connector bearing, while the Rocket Connector Housing assembly remains stationary and connected to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector until the rocket assembly is fired and moves forward.

The above mentioned low-friction Rocket Connector Housing bearing functions both as a bearing and insulator for the housing Seeker-Guidance Section Interface Connector contacts. Said bearing surface is embedded preferably with flat or groove-type contacts, which run in the direction (axially) of rocket assembly rotation once fired. The Seeker-Guidance Section Connector, which can be fashioned from the same material as the Seeker-Guidance Section Interface Connector, preferably uses spring-loaded contacts, which mate with said Seeker-Guidance Section Interface Connector contacts once the Rocket Connector Housing is secured to the Seeker-Guidance Section. A compliant environmental seal can be embedded in the bearing surface of either the Seeker-Guidance Section Interface Connector or Seeker-Guidance Section.

Electrical contact between the launcher electronics and rocket assembly electronics is required only prior to launch. Once pre-launch data has been transferred to the Seeker-Guidance Section, and the Thermal Battery Squib fired, electrical contact is no longer required. Subsequent to that sequence, the rocket assembly is free to rotate on the bearing surfaces.

Whether built into the Seeker-Guidance Section, extender, warhead or part of the Rocket Connector Housing/Tension-Belt assembly, the final shape, number and spacing of electrical and non-electrical housings of the Rocket Connector Housing assembly may require changes to optimize aerodynamic qualities known to those who practice the art.

Electrical connectivity to the APKWS II-type and LOGIR/DAGAR-type guided rockets require different connectivity arrangements due to the two different Seeker-Guidance Section and warhead assembly arrangements: the Seeker-Guidance Section is mounted aft of the warhead in the case of the APKWS II-type; whereas, the Seeker-Guidance Section is mounted forward of the warhead in the case of LOGIR/DAGAR-type.

Automatic Rocket Identification (RID) is an important element of the disclosed invention, which is necessary for automated inventory and rocket management. Rocket Identification can be arranged in multiple ways such as digital strapping (or hardwired discrete parallel connectivity), resistor weighting (different resistor values) or serial communication.

The preferred embodiment in this invention uses a single resistor to accomplish Rocket Identification, since it requires only one connection between the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector and the Rocket Connector Housing/Rocket Launcher Interface Connector, and can encode a large number of different rocket assembly-types given the appropriate Launcher Electronics Module excitation source and signal conditioner; whereas, digital parallel strap encoding requires multiple connections depending upon the number of different rocket assemblies desired (for example thirty two different assemblies require five connections plus signal ground). The Rocket Identification resistor is included as part of the Rocket Connector Housing Flex Cable assembly.

Similar to Rocket Identification, Misfire Detection (MFD) is an important element in the connectivity arrangement, which is used to detect a misfire. Misfire Detection is accomplished using a single connection between the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector and Rocket Connector Housing/Rocket Launcher Interface Connector and the appropriate Launcher Electronics Module excitation source and signal conditioner. Misfire Detection connectivity is incorporated into the Rocket Identification connectivity using the same Rocket Identification resistor, connector pin, excitation source and signal conditioner.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) can be added to the Rocket Identification function to provide a convenient stock inventory feature, where the Radio Frequency Identification chip reads the identification provided by Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection. Similar to the Rocket Identification resistor, the Radio Frequency Identification chip can be located on the Rocket Connector Housing Flex Cable assembly.

Since various rocket assemblies differ in length, the overall rocket assembly length must be normalized for this connectivity embodiment to work by inserting an extender section using the existing threaded barrel/receiver mechanical connectivity arrangement.

Thus a basic object is to provide an improved Rocket Management Launcher system of the character described with the features and advantages detailed above.

Another object of the present invention is to use a common Rocket Management Launcher (4-tube, 7-tube, 19-tube, etc.) design for all service branches.

A basic object of the present invention is to use a common Rocket Management Launcher design for all US service branches.

Another basic object is to maintain compatibility with each service branch legacy Rocket Management System.

Another object is to provide an improved Rocket Management Launcher system with enhanced connectivity to the host vehicle.

Another object is to provide a new Rocket Management Launcher system for guided rocket assemblies such as the APKWS II, LOGIR and DAGAR.

A related object is to provide a Rocket Management Launcher system for legacy rocket assemblies such as the Hydra-70, while maintaining compatibility with service branch Rocket Management Systems.

Another object is to relieve the loader from connecting Analog Fuze umbilical cables to mating launcher connectors.

Another object of the Rocket Management Launcher is the elimination of the requirement for the loader to load rocket assemblies of a given type in pre-defined rocket launcher zones.

A related object is to permit the loader to load different rocket assembly-types randomly into any rocket launcher tube.

Another object is the elimination of the combination “Zone-Fire” and Rocket Motor Squib interrogation method to determine rocket assembly type and presence, which requires the Rocket Management System to unsafe the Rocket Motor Squib in order to source the necessary Rocket Motor Squib excitation to determine Rocket Motor Squib presence in a given rocket launcher “zone”.

Another important object is to provide a Rocket Management Launcher system that functions without substantial modification to legacy rocket assemblies.

These and other objects and advantages of the present invention, along with features of novelty appurtenant thereto, will appear or become apparent in the course of the following descriptive sections.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the following drawings, which form a part of the specification and which are to be construed in conjunction therewith, and in which like reference numerals have been employed throughout wherever possible to indicate like parts in the various views:

FIGS. 1, 2, and 3 are block diagrams of three embodiments of my host vehicle rocket launcher connectivity system, all illustrating a host vehicle rocket launcher and rocket assembly connectivity system for a multi-rocket launching system, and each diagram showing legacy US Air Force/US Navy-type vehicle Fire Control System connectivity to multiple rocket assemblies, a legacy US Army-type legacy Fire Control System, and a new US Army-type Fire Control system by way of the Rocket Management Launcher.

FIG. 4 is longitudinal sectional view showing the preferred Rocket Management Launcher, the Launcher Interface Assembly and installed rocket assemblies.

FIG. 4A is a frontal view of the Launcher Electronics Module Assembly taken along line A-A in FIG. 4.

FIG. 4B is a top plan view of the legacy US Air Force/US Navy-type Launcher Interface Panel taken along line B-B in FIG. 4.

FIG. 4C is a top plan view of the new US Air Force/US Navy/US Army-type Launcher Interface Panel, taken along line C-C in FIG. 4.

FIG. 4D is an enlarged sectional view of the Rocket Interface Module, Launcher Rocket Interface Connector, Launcher Rocket Adapter Connector and Forward Floating Bulkhead derived from FIG. 4.

FIG. 5 is longitudinal sectional view showing an alternative Rocket Management Launcher, the Launcher Interface Assembly and installed rocket assemblies.

FIG. 5B is a top plan view of the aft Launcher Interface Panel cover taken along line B-B in FIG. 5.

FIG. 5C is a top plan view of the legacy US Army Launcher Interface Panel, taken along line C-C in FIG. 5.

FIG. 6 is a series of simplified pictorial views of new guided and legacy Hydra 70 unguided rocket assemblies with various combinations of Rotor-Stator assemblies, Extenders, Tension Band and Rocket Connector Housing assemblies.

FIG. 7 is a side elevational view of the APKW II SGS/warhead assembly connectivity. FIGS. 8A and 8B show simplified drawings of two Rotor-Stator mechanisms. FIGS. 9A and 9B show simplified drawings of alternative two Rotor-Stator mechanisms.

FIG. 10 shows a simplified drawing of three views of the Rocket Connector Housing/Tension-Belt assembly.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In accordance with the present invention, FIGS. 1, 2 and 3 show simplified block diagrams of a host vehicle, rocket launcher and rocket assembly connectivity system 10 for a multi-rocket launching system.

FIG. 1 illustrates US Air Force/Navy-type legacy Fire Control Systems 100 connectivity to multiple rocket assemblies with my Rocket Management Launcher 10. Legacy Vehicle Fire Control Systems 100 connect to the aft Launcher Interface Module 12b legacy 5-pin interface connector 12c by way of Legacy Fire Control system wiring 100a. The forward Launcher Interface Module 11b1 electrical interface connector 11c is connected to a dummy electrical plug 11g. Power and signal connectivity from the aft Launcher Interface Module 12b to the Launcher Electronics Module 13 is by way of discrete wiring cable 16. This embodiment is sensed by the Launcher Electronics Module 13 processor on power-up, which then adjusts its control algorithms, and emulates legacy Air Force/Navy rocket launcher internal electro-mechanical intervalometers. Rocket Motor Squib and Fuze signals 13c are connected to multiple rocket assemblies 10b by way of the Launcher Electronics Module Relay Matrix 13, Launcher Interface Module 11b1, Launcher Electronics Module 13 interface connector 11f, Launcher Interface Module 11b1, Launcher Electronics Module 13, Flex Cable 15, Rocket Interface Module 14, Rocket Motor Squib 20 discrete wiring cables, Launcher Rocket Interface Connectors 19, Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connectors 24, Rocket Connector Housing Flex Cable 25e, Fuze Connectors 25d and Seeker-Guidance Connectors 25c. Existing US Air Force/Navy-type legacy Fire Control Systems do not have the capability of using Hydra 70 rocket warheads that use existing US Army time-set fuzes, but may do so with this embodiment by programming the processor of the Launcher Electronics Module 13 to set the fuzes for a fixed range.

FIG. 2 illustrates multiple rocket assembly 10b connectivity to legacy US Army-type Fire Control Systems 101 by way of the Rocket Management Launcher 10. Connectivity to legacy US Army-type Fire Control Systems 101 is achieved by way of legacy US Army-type Fire Control System 101 Squib 101a and Analog Fuze 101b wiring and two Launcher Interface Module 11b2 Connectors 11c and 11d. Connector 11c provides Rocket Motor Squib connectivity, and connector 11d provides analog time-set electronic fuze connectivity. Launcher Interface Module 11b/Launcher Electronics Module 13 interface connector 11f disconnects Rocket Motor Squib and

Fuze signals 13c from the Launcher Electronics Module 13 Relay Matrix to the Rocket Interface Module 14, and connects Rocket Motor Squib and Fuze signals 13c from the vehicle Fire Control System 101 to the Rocket Interface Module 14 by way of the Rocket Motor Squib connector 11c, Fuze signal connector 11d, forward Launcher Interface Module 11b2, Launcher Interface Module 11b/Launcher Electronics Module 13 interface connector 11f, Launcher Electronics Module 13 and Flex Cable 15. From the Rocket Interface Module 14, Rocket Motor Squib 20a signals are distributed to multiple Rocket Motor Squibs 20a by way of discrete wiring cable 20 and Fuze signals are distributed to multiple rocket assembly analog time-set fuzes 10c by way of Launcher Rocket Interface Connectors 19, Launcher Adapter Connectors 24, Rocket Connector Housing 25 Rocket Launcher Interface Connectors 25b, Flex Cables 25e and Fuze Interface Connectors 25d.

FIG. 3 illustrates new vehicle Fire Control System 102 connectivity for this Rocket Management Launcher 10 embodiment, which is provided by way of vehicle Fire Control System 102 Local Area Network 102a, such as Mil-Std-1553/1760 or Ethernet for example, to the forward Launcher Interface Module 11b1 using a single interface connector 11e; whereas, the aft Launcher Interface Module 12b electrical interface connector 12c is connected to a dummy electrical plug 12g. This embodiment is sensed by the Launcher Electronics Module 13 processor on power-up and adjusts its control algorithms to operate under the control of the vehicle Local Area Network 102a. Local Area Network 102a serial digital redundant bus signals, address strapping and power 102b are connected to the Launcher Electronics Module 13 by way of the single interface connector 11e, Launcher Interface Module 11b1 and Launcher Interface Module 11b1/Launcher Electronics Module 13 interface connector 11f. Rocket Motor Squib and Analog Fuze signals 13c are routed from the Launcher Electronics Module 13 Relay Matrix through the Launcher Interface Module 11b1/Launcher Electronics Module 13 interface connector 11f through the Launcher Interface Module 11b1 and back through the Launcher Interface Module 11b1/Launcher Electronics Module 13 interface connector 11f and through the Launcher Electronics Module 13. From the Launcher Electronics Module 13, Switched Seeker-Guidance 10d Power, Serial Communication (EBR1553 for example) and Thermal Battery Squib, Rocket Motor Squib and Fuze 10c, Rocket Identification and Misfire Detection 25u are connected to multiple rocket assemblies 10b by way of Flex Cable 15, Rocket Interface Module 14, Rocket Motor Squib 20a discrete wiring cables 20, Launcher Rocket Interface Connectors 19, Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connectors 24, Rocket Connector Housing Flex Cable 25e, Fuze Connectors 25d and Seeker-Guidance Connectors 25c.

The Rocket Management Launcher (RML) 10a provides the portion of the connectivity system 10 that connects the host vehicle to a plural number of different rocket assembly-types 10b randomly loaded in a plural number of rocket launcher tubes 35. The Rocket Management Launcher 10a connectivity includes the Launcher Interface Panels 11a1, 11a2 and 12a; Launcher Interface Modules 11b1, 11b2 and 12b; Launcher Electronics Module 13; Rocket Interface Module 14; interconnecting Flex Cable 15, interconnecting Launcher Interface Module 11b1, 11b2, 12b wiring 16 and Rocket Motor Squib wiring 20, where the Launcher Interface Modules 11b1, 11b2, 12b, Launcher Electronics Module 13 and Rocket Interface Module 14 are Printed Wiring Assemblies.

The invention includes two (2) different forward Launcher Interface Panel 11a1, 11a2 Launcher Interface Modules 11b, 11b2 assemblies for US Army-type applications and two (2) different Launcher Interface Panel (11a1, 12a)/Launcher Interface Module (11b1, 12b) assemblies for US Air Force/US Navy-type applications, where the different assemblies can be easily removed and replaced as required. When a given Launcher Interface Panel/Launcher Interface Module assembly is not used, a cover (not shown) with an environment seal can be used in its place.

The three Launcher Interface Panel 11a1, 11a2, 12a Launcher Interface Module 11b1, 11b2, 12b assemblies for each application enable compatibility with the host vehicle Local Area Network (LAN) 102a and host vehicle legacy Fire Control Systems 100, 101. One embodiment includes an arrangement that interfaces with the host vehicle Local Area Network 102a, such as Mil-Std-1553, Mil-Std-1760 or Ethernet for example; whereas, a second embodiment includes an arrangement that interfaces with legacy Fire Control System wiring 101a, 101b, such as the US Army M138 for example.

Rocket Management Launchers are connected electrically to the host vehicle by way of the Launcher Interface Module assemblies 11b1, 11b2 and 12b and their associated electrical connectors 11c, 11d, 11e and 12c.

One embodiment (FIG. 4) of the US Army-type Launcher Interface Panel 11a1/Launcher Interface Module 11b1 assembly includes a single electrical connector 11e, which is compatible with the Mil-Std-1553/Mil-Std-1760 serial multiplex data bus (LAN) 102a. The second embodiment (FIG. 5) of the Launcher Interface Panel 11a2/Launcher Interface Module 11b2 assembly includes the US Army M260 and M261 legacy rocket launcher 26-pin Rocket Motor Squib 11c and 23-pin 11d Analog Fuze interface connectors, which provide connectivity between

US Army legacy Fire Control System 101, such as M138 or equivalent for example, and a plurality of different rocket assembly-types, such as Hydra-70 for example. This embodiment bypasses the Launcher Electronics Module 13 Relay Matrix by disconnecting the Relay Matrix from the Rocket Interface Module 14 by way of the Launcher Interface Module 11b2 printed circuit connectivity, and connecting said legacy connections directly to the Rocket Interface Module 14 by way of the Launcher Interface Module 11b2, Launcher Electronics Module 13 and Flex Cable 15 maintaining compatibility with said legacy Fire Control System 101, which control said US Army-type legacy rocket launchers.

One embodiment (FIG. 4) of the US Air Force/US Navy-type Launcher Interface Panel 11al/Launcher Interface Module 11b1 assembly includes a single electrical connector 11e that is compatible with the Mil-Std-1553/Mil-Std-1760 serial multiplex data bus (LAN) 102a; whereas, the second embodiment (FIG. 4) of the Launcher Interface Panel 12a/Launcher Interface Module 12b assembly includes the US Air Force LAU-130/A and LAU-131/A legacy rocket launcher and US Navy LAU-61C/A and LAU-68D/A legacy rocket launcher 5-pin connector 12c and guarded safety switch 12d, which provide connectivity between the host vehicle Fire Control System 100 and rocket launcher internal electro-mechanical intervalometer (not shown). This embodiment is sensed by the Launcher Electronics Module 13 processor on power-up, adjusts its control algorithms, and emulates said electro-mechanical intervalometers. The second US Air Force/US Navy-type embodiments (FIG. 4) connect their respective Launcher Interface Module 12b to the Launcher Electronics Module 13 preferably by way of discrete wiring 16 routed forward through the two structural bulkheads 21 by way of conduit 18 for protection and ease of installation.

The Launcher Electronics Module 13 can include single, multiple or stacked Printed Wiring Assemblies located in the upper, forward section of the rocket launcher just aft of the Rocket Interface Module 14 and Forward Floating Bulkhead 23, and is mounted to the upper rocket launcher tubes by way of Printed Wiring Assembly mounts 17, which are attached to the upper rocket tubes via rocket tube tension-bands, welding or adhesive for example.

The preferred Launcher Electronics Module 13 Printed Wiring Assembly embodiment FIG. 4A comprises a center module located on the top of the upper tubes and one or two modules located adjacent to said center module located on either side of said center module preferably connected by way of flex cable.

The Launcher Electronics Module 13 comprises a Processor Communications section and a Relay Matrix section, where the Processor Communications section includes the electronics required to interface the Rocket Management Launcher 10 to the host vehicle Fire Control System 100, 101, 102 and a plural number of different rocket assembly-types 10b randomly loaded in a plural number of rocket launcher tubes 35.

The Rocket Interface Module 14 (FIG. 4D) comprises all electrical connectivity required between the Launcher Electronics Module 13 and all rocket assemblies 10b including Seeker 29a/Guidance 29b or collectively Seeker-Guidance Section 29 pre-launch power, serial communications, Thermal Battery Squib (not shown); Analog Fuze 10b; future Digital Fuze (not shown); Rocket Motor Squib 20a and Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection 25u. One embodiment of the invention can include a small number of electronic components mounted on the Rocket Interface Module 14 in addition to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19, which mates with the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b. Rocket Motor Squib 20a wiring 20 connects directly to the aft side of the Rocket Interface Module 14, and is routed aft through the launcher within the volume between rocket tubes, preferably internal to conduit 18, which extends aft from the Rocket Interface Module 14 through the two structural bulkheads 21 to the rocket assembly fin and nozzle assembly 22 Rocket Motor Squib 20a contact and signal return just forward of the Aft Floating Bulkhead 36. Depending upon tube 35 locations, multiple Rocket Motor Squib/ground pairs 20 can be routed through a given conduit 18.

The Rocket Interface Module 14 is mounted just aft of the Forward Floating Bulkhead 23 and directly to the forward rocket tubes, or preferably to the Forward Floating Bulkhead 23. Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19 (FIG. 4D) mounts directly to the forward side of the Rocket Interface Module 14 and extends forward through the Forward Floating Bulkhead 23 into a recessed area 26 located on the forward side of the Forward Floating Bulkhead 23, enabling the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19 to mate directly with the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b, or preferably mate with Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 described below. The forward end of the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19 attaches mechanically to the aft side of the Forward Floating Bulkhead 23.

Since the face of the rocket launcher is exposed to extreme heat and residue from rocket motor gases, the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19 includes an optional removable and replaceable Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24, which mounts between the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19 and the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b. The Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 mates with the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19 by way of contacts located on its aft end and mates with the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b by way of contacts located on its forward end.

The Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 (FIG. 4D) attaches mechanically to the forward side of the Forward Floating Bulkhead 23 in the aforementioned recessed or counter-sunk area 26 of the Forward Floating Bulkhead 23 located either in the triangular volume 27 between rocket launcher tubes 35 or outer edges 28 of the Forward Floating Bulkhead 23 depending upon tube 35 location. Countersinking the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 provides protection for guide-pins 30 and the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24. Also, the recessed or counter-sunk area 26 provides initial guidance for mating of Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b contacts to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 contacts, and provides accurate terminal guidance for the mating of Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b contacts to Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 contacts by way of guide-pins 30. Additionally, the recessed area 26 and guide-pins 30 provide structural support to hold the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b stationary as the rocket motor 33 or entire rocket body 10b spins during launch.

Because of residue build-up on the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 forward contacts over multiple rocket firings, it is desirable that the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b contacts be arranged such that they provide a scraping or cleaning action to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 contacts when mated and un-mated. Also, the mating contact length of the connector pair must be sufficient to accommodate slight differences in distance from the mating connector pair to the rocket tube detent. Additionally, the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 use a material, such as Teflon for example, which functions as a heat-resistant insulator in the above mentioned intense heat environment.

The final element of the connectivity system 10 invention is the rocket assembly (FIGS. 1, 4 and 6) 10b connectivity portion.

Shown in FIG. 6 are three embodiments of rocket assembly 10b connectivity: one embodiment 40, 50, 60, 70 includes a combination fixed or built-in Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly (which can be designed to shear or separate upon spin) and Rotor-Stator 31 assembly (or collectively Rocket Connector Housing 25a/Rotor-Stator 31 assembly), a second embodiment 40a, 50a, 60a, 70a includes a combined Rocket Connector Housing 25a and Tension-Belt FIG. 10-25f assembly (or collectively Rocket Connector Housing 25a/Tension-Belt 25f assembly) and a third embodiment 50b includes a combination of the Rotor-Stator 31, Rocket Connector Housing 25a and Tension-Belt 25f assemblies (or collectively Rotor-Stator 31/Rocket Connector Housing 25a/Tension-Belt 25f assembly).

Since spin is imparted to the rocket assembly 10b on launch, a means is provided to couple a rotating device (rocket motor 33 or complete rocket assembly 10b) to a stationary device (Launcher Rocket Interface Connector FIG. 4D-19 or Launcher Adapter Interface Connector FIG. 4D-24), while maintaining electrical connectivity between the launcher electronics and rocket electronics by way of the launcher and rocket interface connectors during pre-launch.

In the Rocket Connector Housing 25a/Rotor-Stator 31 embodiment 40, 50, 60, 70 of the invention the Rotor-Stator 31 assembly is mechanically separate from the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly (rocket electrical interface), and the Rotor-Stator 31 assembly is inserted between the rocket motor 33 and forward rocket assembly by way of conventional standard threaded barrel FIG. 8-37/receiver FIG. 8-38 rocket section connection means, which enables the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly to be connected to the stationary Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19 or Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24.

The preferred rotor-stator embodiment (FIG. 8) consists of rotor 31c and stator 31d mechanisms, which attach to the aft and forward rocket assemblies by way of conventional threaded barrel 37 and receiver 38 respectively, but uses a unique bearing 31e design to couple the barrel 37/receiver 38 mechanisms. The rotor 31c bearing 31e, similar in shape to a wheel and shaft mechanism, is inserted into the stator 31d aft bearing cavity 31f and held captive by either an end-plate 31g attached to the stator 31d aft outer edges using fasteners or a threaded end-plate FIG. 9-31p that screws onto the stator 31d aft mechanism firmly holding the wheel/shaft-like bearing 31e inside the stator 31d cavity 31f. The stator 31d bearing cavity 31f, stator end-plate 31g, 31p, rotor 31c end-plate 31h forward surface and rotor 31c bearing 31e surfaces are coated with a hard material with low coefficient friction such as Teflon for example, i.e., all rotor 31c/stator 31d surfaces that make contact are coated with a Teflon-like material. Rotor 31c and stator 31d surfaces may be lubricated to further decrease friction. Although the rotor 31c bearing 31e surface may be coated with a Teflon-like material, it may be fabricated wholly from a solid Teflon-like material.

The rotor 31c bearing 31e shaft just aft of the bearing 31e wheel-like surface is circular in shape (or shoulder) 31i, larger in diameter than the remainder of the shaft and fits tightly within a circular opening 31j in the stator 31d mechanism end-plate 31g, 31p. The following shaft surface is shaped hex-like 31k, which fits into a hex-like opening 311 in the rotor 31c mechanism forward end-plate 31h. The aft end portion 31n of the shaft is threaded and screws into a threaded hole 31o, which is just forward of the threaded barrel 37 mechanism. The hex-shaped opening 311 in the barrel 37 mechanism end-plate 31h holds the shaft preventing it from rotating while the barrel 37 mechanism end-plate 31h and threaded shaft 31n end are screwed onto and into the barrel 37 mechanism.

Depending upon the amount of the rocket assembly allowed to extend beyond the face of the Forward Floating Bulkhead 23, the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly may be attached just forward or aft of the guide-vanes 29c for certain guided rockets. Since guided rocket warheads 32, extenders 34 and Seeker-Guidance Section 29 are new; the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly (FIG. 6) may be built-in or structurally bonded to these assemblies.

For legacy warheads, the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly may be attached by way of welding or preferably adhesive, such as structural epoxy for example. Once stockpiles of existing legacy warheads are depleted, Rocket Connector Housing 25a assemblies can be built into new warheads.

The second embodiment 40a, 50a, 60a, 70a of rocket assembly connectivity includes a Rocket Connector Housing 25a/Tension-Belt 25f assembly, wherein the Tension-Belt 25f slips over the warhead 32, extender 34 or Seeker-Guidance Section 29, and the Rocket Connector Housing 25a provides a means for adjusting the tension of the Tension-Belt 25f. When tightened, the Tension-Belt 25f affixes the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly at the appropriate rocket assembly position external to the rocket launcher tube 35, enabling easy attachment to guided and unguided rocket Seeker-Guidance Section 29, extenders 34 or legacy warheads 32 without undesirable modification to stockpiles of existing legacy warheads. The Tension-Belt 25f is tightened such that it provides sufficient tension to hold the Rocket Connector Housing 25a firmly in place as the rocket is loaded into the rocket launcher tube 35 and the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b mated with the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24.

The third embodiment FIG. 6-50b of the rocket connectivity assembly includes the Rotor-Stator 31/Rocket Connector Housing 25a/Tension-Belt 25f assembly. This combination provides an advantage for guided rockets in that the Rotor-Stator 31 assembly isolates motor spin from the Seeker-Guidance Section 29 simplifying the guidance solution. Additionally, the Rocket Connector Housing 25a/Tension-Belt 25f assembly provides electrical connectivity between the launcher electronics and rocket Seeker-Guidance Section 29 electronics, while providing a safety feature that allows the Tension-Belt 25f to slip should the Rotor-Stator 31 assembly fail stuck or frozen causing the entire rocket assembly to rotate preventing potential damage to the rocket launcher and guided rocket.

The Rocket Connector Housing 25a may require changes in shape and number of non-electrical housings equally spaced around the circumference of the rocket to optimize aerodynamic qualities known to those who practice the art.

The Tension-Belt 25f can be fabricated from a high-strength, stretch-resistant material such as steel for example. FIG. 10 shows one Tension-Belt 25f embodiment, which includes a belt, which can be coated with a low coefficient of friction material, such as Teflon for example, having a means to attach 25g both ends of the belt to the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly with means to adjust the tension of the belt, while mounted to the extender 34, warhead 32 or Seeker-Guidance Section 29. While holding the Rocket Connector Housing 25a firmly in place as the rocket is loaded into a rocket launcher tube, and the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b mated to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24, this Tension-Belt 25f embodiment, when combined with the Rocket Connector Housing 25a bottom-side bearing 25c described below, allows the rocket assembly to rotate inside the surrounding Tension-Belt 25f as the rocket assembly 32 spins on launch, i.e., the Tension-Belt 25f functions as a bearing permitting the rocket assembly to rotate, while the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b remains stationary and connected to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 until the rocket moves forward. Once the rocket motor achieves sufficient thrust to break free from the rocket launcher tube detent and moves forward sufficiently to disconnect the Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b from the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24, the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly is held firmly in place and rotates with the rocket assembly 32 avoiding interference with legacy rocket fins 22 or guided rocket guide-vanes 29c.

FIG. 10 shows the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly embodiment, which can include up to three connectors preferably linked by a Flex Cable 25e: a Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b mounted to the aft end of the Rocket Connector Housing 25a, which mates with the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24; a Seeker-Guidance Interface Connector 25c mounted to the bottom of the Rocket Connector Housing 25a, which mates with the said Seeker-Guidance Connector 25i and an Analog Fuze Interface Connector 25d mounted to the forward end of the Rocket Connector Housing 25a, which mates with the M439 Analog Fuze 10c umbilical 47 connector providing Analog Fuze 10c connectivity. Also, the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly provides Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection FIG. 1-25u connectivity.

The combined housing bearing 25c and Tension-Belt 25f enable the rocket assembly to rotate smoothly within the surrounding Tension-Belt 25f, while the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly remains stationary and connected to the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Rocket Interface Connector 24 until the rocket assembly is fired and moves forward.

The above mentioned low-friction Rocket Connector Housing 25a bearing 25c functions both as a bearing and insulator for the housing Seeker-Guidance Interface Connector 25c contacts. Said bearing surface is embedded preferably with flat or groove-type contacts, which run in the direction (axially) of rocket assembly rotation once fired.

The Seeker-Guidance Connector 25i, which can be fashioned from the same material as the Rocket Connector Housing 25a bearing 25c, preferably uses spring-loaded contacts, which mate with said Seeker-Guidance Interface Connector 25c contacts once the Rocket Connector Housing 25a is secured to the Seeker-Guidance Section 29. A compliant environmental seal can be embedded in the bearing surface of either the Seeker-Guidance Interface Connector 25c or Seeker-Guidance Section 25i.

Electrical contact between the launcher electronics and rocket assembly electronics is required only prior to launch. Once pre-launch data has been transferred to the Seeker-Guidance Section 29 and the Thermal Battery Squib (not shown) fired, electrical contact is no longer required. Subsequent to that sequence, the rocket assembly is free to rotate on the bearing surfaces.

Once the rocket assembly 10b achieves enough thrust to break free from the launcher detent, the housing Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b separates from the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24, and the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly and Tension-Belt 25f slips or rotates with the rocket assembly 10b with the entire Rocket Connector Housing 25a/Tension-Belt 25f assembly held in place avoiding interference with the guided rocket guide-vanes.

Electrical connectivity to the APKWS II-type 40 and LOGIR/DAGAR-type 50 guided rockets require different connectivity embodiments due to the two different Seeker-Guidance Section 29 and warhead 32 assembly arrangements: the Seeker-Guidance Section 29 is mounted aft of the warhead 32 in the case of the APKWS II-type 40; whereas, the Seeker-Guidance Section 29 is mounted forward of the warhead 32 in the case of LOGIR/DAGAR-type 50.

According to the invention, the LOGIR/DAGAR-type 50 guided rocket embodiments connect their respective Seeker-Guidance Section 29 electronics directly to the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly, mounted outside the rocket tube, by way of the housing Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b and Seeker-Guidance Interface Connector 25c, since the Seeker-Guidance Section 29 is mounted to the forward end of the rocket assembly 10b; whereas, the APKWS II-type 40 guided rocket embodiment requires that said electrical connections be routed aft from the Rocket Connector Housing 25a assembly, down the side of the warhead and bridge the mechanical connection joint between the warhead 32 and Seeker-Guidance Section 29.

The APKWS II connectivity embodiment shown in FIG. 7 comprises a warhead conformal, four-piece rigid-flex Printed Wiring Assembly 45, 45b, 45d, 45f connected by Flex Cable 45a, 45c, 45e arrangement routed aft from the Rocket Connector Housing 25a to the warhead threaded barrel 37. Rigid Printed Wiring Assembly 45f attaches to the aft end of the threaded barrel 37, having concentric flat or grooved ring conductors 45g, which mate with an equal number of spring-loaded contacts (brush action) 46 attached to the aft end of the Seeker-Guidance Section 29 threaded receiver 38, which further connect to the Seeker-Guidance Section 29 electronics. A preferable embodiment would be a single molded assembly comprising the equivalent four-piece rigid-flex assembly inserted into a grooved warhead 32 and barrel 37.

The advantage of the latter embodiment is that the munitions handler can attach the warhead 32 to the Seeker-Guidance Section 29 by simply screwing the warhead 32 threaded barrel 37 into the Seeker-Guidance Section 29 threaded receiver 38.

Automatic Rocket Identification 25u is an important element of the disclosed invention, which is necessary for automated inventory. Automatic rocket inventory is used to execute rocket management, and the preferred embodiment includes a single resistor 25u, since it requires only one connection, and can encode a large number of different rocket assembly-types given the appropriate excitation source and signal conditioner located on the Launcher Electronics Module 13 or Rocket Interface Module 14. The Rocket Identification resistor 25u is included internal to the Rocket Connector Housing 25a and located on the Flex Cable assembly 25e.

Similar to Rocket Identification, Misfire Detection 25u is an important element in the connectivity arrangement, which is used to detect a misfire after a firing command has been issued to a given rocket assembly. According to this invention, Misfire Detection 25u is accomplished using a single connection between the Launcher Rocket Interface Connector 19/Launcher Adapter Interface Connector 24 and Rocket Launcher Interface Connector 25b, an appropriate excitation source and signal conditioner located on the Launcher Electronics Module 13 or Rocket Interface Module 14. Misfire Detection 25u connectivity is incorporated into the Rocket Identification 25u connectivity using the same Rocket Identification 25u resistor, excitation source, signal conditioner and connector pin.

As an option, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) can be added to the Rocket Identification 25u function to provide a convenient stock inventory feature, where the Radio Frequency Identification (not shown) chip reads the identification provided by the Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection resistor 25u. Additionally, the Rocket Identification 25u information can be communicated to the Launcher Electronics Module 13 via a Radio Frequency Identification 25u serial port, which can be powered directly by the Launcher Electronics Module 13 or from serial clocking. As with the Rocket Identification/Misfire Detection resistor 25u, the Radio Frequency Identification (not shown) chip can be located on the Rocket Connector Housing 25a Flex Cable assembly 25e.

Since various rocket assemblies differ in length, the overall rocket assembly length must be normalized for this connectivity embodiment to work by inserting an extender section 34 into the rocket assembly by way of the existing threaded barrel 37 and receiver 38 mechanical connectivity arrangements.

From the foregoing, it will be seen that this invention is one well adapted to obtain all the ends and objects herein set forth, together with other advantages which are inherent to the structure.

It will be understood that certain features and subcombinations are of utility and may be employed without reference to other features and subcombinations.

As many possible embodiments may be made of the invention without departing from the scope thereof, it is to be understood that all matter herein set forth or shown in the accompanying drawings is to be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

Various other modifications, alternative constructions and equivalents may be employed without departing from the true spirit and scope of the present invention, as described herein and as defined in the following claims.





 
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