WLCS Main PanelThis is now a frozen design. New design work will be done on the WLCS-3 system.


As most of you know, I've been working on a new version of the wireless launch system. The original plan was to rebuild the existing system over the winter and have it ready for Spring. Well, that kind of allowed the possibility that Spring would come and we wouldn't have a functional launch system -- not good! So I decided to do things a bit differently. I'm currently finishing up 2 smaller systems. These systems consist of a launch controller and two pad controllers. This setup will allow me to test all of the functionality of the system design without disabling the club launcher. When all of the tests are complete I will start on the club system. 

WLCS Pad PanelI'd like to stress here that all of the parts for the two test systems have been paid for by me. No club funds have been used on them. These are my test systems for future changes but we may use them from time to time at club launches to test changes before they are applied to the club system. In many cases, the only thing that will need to be done is to load a software update into the club's launch system but not for the current changes. All of the guts of the current boxes will be rebuilt reusing as many of the existing components as possible. This will be a large task that I could use some help with when the time comes. One item that will need to be purchased for the club system update will be the touch screen for the launch panel. The new touch screen is sunlight readable and higher resolution. It was also more expensive. The touch panel for the upgrade will cost the club $120 by the time shipping and taxes are added. I recommend that the club purchase 2 of them so there will be a spare in the event of a failure.

So, what's different about the new system? A lot! Physically, all of the electronics are now built onto a single panel. This makes maintenance much easier since everything is in one place for testing. The batteries are now strapped into a battery holder so they no longer flop around. Only one connector is mounted to the exterior of the box; the charge connector. This connector has been changed to make it very difficult to connect incorrectly. I would say it's impossible to do but then someone would try to prove me wrong.

Summary of physical changes:

  1. New, sturdier, mounting adapter for the cases.
  2. New battery mount.
  3. Improved panel layout.
  4. Elimination of most external connectors and controls.
  5. Much improved touch screen with a sunlight-readable display.
  6. Smaller igniter lead connectors (XT30 vs XT60)
  7. New printed circuit board with a variety of improvements

Summary of operational changes

  1. New pairing operation that ties launchpad controllers to a specific launch controller (and vice-versa) to ensure that only your launch controller can command a launch (or any other operation)
  2. New setup screen to allow the launch controller to be configured. Pairing is entered from this menu (a pairing switch is provided on the launchpad controller). Also on the setup menu is the ability to scan the range to rebuild the pad list, the ability to do a switch test,  set a custom System ID (required), and reset the system to 'factory' settings.
  3. The banks are still selected using the key switch as before. Selecting a bank automatically selects the first group associated with the bank and displays the launchpad status of all pads.
  4. Pads are displayed with their associated continuity. Touching a pad button will toggle its state. in 'ADD' mode, more than one pad can be selected in the same manner and all will be armed and launched when directed to do so. Pads cannot be selected if they have no continuity.
  5. Every operational command sent to the launchpad controllers will return the continuity for all of the pads. This is done in the command acknowledgment so it no longer requires a series of continuity requests to update this status. 
  6. The available groups are always displayed at the bottom of the screen in all operational modes.
  7. 'Keep Alive' functionality has been added. The launch controller will periodically send 'pings' to the launchpad controllers to ensure they are still responding to commands. If a group fails to respond it is removed from the available group list. Additionally, if a paired device is turned on after the range is set up, the 'ping' command will discover it and add it to the available group list.
  8. Color coding on the screen controls has been more standardized. Gray indicates that the control is not selectable. Yellow indicates the item is in a 'caution' state. Red indicates the item is in an 'armed' or' ready to fire' state. 
  9. Hand-shaking has been improved.

The new system will be tested at the May launch. The existing system will remain unchanged so it can be used for our main activities.