REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – On a recent weekday morning, the Redstone Test Center’s RAPTOR facility, a 2,600 horsepower helicopter engine was mounted on the test stand and running. The data being gathered included everything from the engine’s temperature to the power it was producing. RAPTOR stands for Redstone Aviation, Propulsion, Test And Research, and testing helicopter and rocket engine components is a common activity with a specific goal.
“Because somebody is going to ultimately make a decision on whether this system is airworthy, by what we tell them. And accuracy is paramount to what we do here,” said RTC Engineer Ken Boyd.
While the test engine was running with its almost unbearably loud whine, the data was being gathered and recorded using FALCON, which is the short name for the “Flexible, Aviation, Laboratory Control Network.” FALCON was developed at the Redstone Test Center, and it’s the flexible part that matters most.
“Our customers come to us with what if, what happens if, can we? And we have to have a way to add and remove channels and add and remove hardware very quickly and at as low a cost as possible,” said Boyd.
FALCON is a big deal, because it is owned by the RTC, and that means it can do what it wants with the system without asking anyone, and do it in-house. Being able to configure FALCON in different ways is important. “We’ve been able to reduce the time that it takes, and time is money,” said Boyd.
The bigger deal is making sure the equipment tested at RAPTOR all works like its supposed to. The data gathered by FALCON eventually has an impact on the men and women who use the equipment. That idea is certainly understood by the people who do the testing. “You know, when we see a helicopter fly overhead, I mean my kids will say, have you run that engine? And I can say, yeah. That’s kind of cool,” said Boyd.