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To meet the demanding requirements of rocket engine testing, high-speed control and measurement systems are needed. These systems need to perform data acquisition, data recording, engine health monitoring, sequential control, closed loop servo control and real-time display. The systems need to be able to be reconfigured quickly to meet the constantly changing control and measurement requirements of research and development testing. Lastly, the systems must be economical and reliable.To meet these needs, standard desktop PC's are being used to create distributed control and data acquisition systems. In addition, the same PC’s being used for data acquisition are also being used for engine control. By using commercially available hardware and software, plus the standard Windows operating systems, the new measurement and control systems are faster, better, and cheaper than ever. Systems can be put together meeting the requirements of the smallest lab experiment to full-scale booster rocket engine testing, in a matter of weeks.Last year, it was possible to add engine gimbal control to an existing PC-based system. The system took actuator length measurements, converted them into gimbal angle and rotation vectors, compared them to the programmed gimbal pattern, then converted the error signals back into commands to the actuators every five milliseconds. Laboratory testing validated the design, and produced a system that worked the first time when installed at the test site. On-site hot-fire tests demonstrated stable gimbal operation at all power levels and demonstrated high rate maneuvering capability.
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