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100 IRE TRANSACTIONS ON INSTRUMENTATION December

Automatic Range Switching of Instrumentation


in Space Vehicles for Increasedi Accuracy*
TED J. CROWTHERt, MEMBER, IRE

Summary-This paper describes an instrument, suitable for one of the stages will be on scale while the others may be
space flight, which automatically switches the range of a measuring off scale in the appropriate direction. The main disad-
instrument, and thus makes possible accurate measurements of
electronic signals that vary by several orders of magnitude. The ac-
curate measurement of current, voltage, or pulses, etc., that vary
vante inru
channels required.
f
by several orders of magnitude has been a difficult problem. Wide The remaining approach is that of automatic ranging
dynamic ranges of this type are necessary, for instance, in accurate in which an automatic switching device is employed to
mass spectrometer or density measurements in the upper atmos- electronically switch a measuring instrument to one of
phere. The instrument described accomplishes this with low power many operating ranges. Each operating range is a small
and in a small space by computer-type circuitry.
portion of the over-all magnitude. The accuracy desired
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM determines the number of operating ranges and the
portion of the magnitude each range measures. Only
TqHE ACCURATE measurenment of electronic sig- two telemetry channels are required, one to indicate
nals that vary by several orders of magnitude is which range is in operation and the other to indicate the
difficult enough in the laboratory, but becomes actual reading within the range. This gives a continuous
an even more difficult problem when the measurements output except for the time required to switch the
have to be made from a remote position such as the ranges, which can be made to be very fast with present
upper atmosphere. circuit elements. The block diagram given in Fig. 1
illustrates the concept of automatic range switching of
APPROACHES TO SOLUTION OF PROBLEM a measuring instrument. This approach, which seems to
There are at present several approaches to the prob- be the least used but most advantageous, was adopted,
lem of measuring remote electronic signals that vary by and an instrument suitable for space flight was de-
several orders of magnitude. One method is to have a veloped.
telemetry system with the same number of orders of The problem for which this instrument is designed is
magnitude of bandwidth as the required measurement to measure the ions entering a collector, the number of
has orders of magnitude of signal. This requires that which may vary by a factor of 104. This information has
the measuring instrument be able to convert this large to be transmitted by low-bandwidth telemetry channels
signal to information suitable for input to the telemetry with 5-per cent accuracy and a 0 v to 5 v input. In order
system with the accuracy desired, which of itself is a to meet these telemetry requirements and to obtain
significant problem to the design engineer. accurate information, this large dynamic range of 10,000
Another approach is to have several instruments is divided into eight scales, each a factor of V\1o; i.e.,
simultaneously measuring a portion of the signal. The the first scale ranges from 0 to v/10, the second scale
instrument with the proper scale produces the only ranges from 0 to (V/10)2 or 10, and so on until the last
valid reading at any given time. This, of course, requires scale which ranges from 0 to 10,000. The 5-per cent
a lot of space and power which is prohibitive for satellite accuracy of telemetering is 5 per cent of the full-scale
application. Another approach is to again have many reading, which, for the first scale, is 5 per cent of V/10
measuring instruments operating simultaneously and and for the succeeding scales, 5 per cent of ten, times the
sample each one in a routine fashion. This saves tele- multiplier. Thus, by using the automatic ranging fea-
metering channels but does not save much power or ture, the 5 per cent of full-scale accuracy limitation
space. This also has the disadvantage of not giving a enables us to detect, on the lowest scale, a change of
continuous output. A variation of this is to use one 0.16 units, whereas if only one scale is used for the total
measuring instrument with amplifiers that multiply the range of 10,000 units, the smallest detectable change is
output by succeedingly larger factors. A proportional 500 units.1 On the lower readings of a particular scale,
output from each stage of amplification is then either the worst accuracy will be 15 per cent since the range
sampled or fed to different telemetry channels. At least will be changed if the readings attempt to go lower than
this, i.e., on the first scale the lower limit is really zero
since it is the lowest range; on each succeeding scale,
* Received August 14, 1962. Presented at the 1962 International
Conference on Precision Electromagnetic Measurements as paper 1 Thus, if this ability to detect a change of 0.165 units out of a/10
No. 1.4. is extended to the overall range of 10,000 units, an accuracy of 1 part
t Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, Palo Alto, Calif. in 106 is achieved.

Authorized licensd use limted to: Imperial Coleg Lond. Downlade on June 07,21 at 19:342 UTC from IE Xplore. Restricon aply.
1962 Crowther: Automatic Range Switching 101
PARTICULAR RANGE |UPPER |
OR SCALE FACTOR SETTING THRESHOLD
l INDICATION OUTPUT TRIGGER
TO TELEMETRY NO. 2

h M ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~INSTRUMENT CONE

OPERATING RANGE R O
OR SCALE FACTOR LOWER

Fig.S1-BlaGIrmG
L of TaOuiD
rg PERTICINE RANGES _
I TI N. N
INPUT NO ALE SETTINGS INASURUNCNOT _
OO.F1F, fT
NA
MEASURING
M AS E
lGO
INSswtchinTINSTUMET NORMALLYRY
OF

W -rH NAG TOANRNST


SCALE FACTOR ENERGIZING

Fig. 1TBlock diagram of automatic range switching LS TOMEAN

of measuring instruments. 1 2 N
TRIGGER I TOI~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~1 1ND AT

Fig. 2 Block diagram of automatic range switching device.


FOG ~
COLLECTOR C~ ~ WHCH AT O

INPUT NO. 1 INPUT NO. 2 INPUT NO. N

INPUTS {OF eGROUND 5+28 V


ION, 21 v1 'U
4V
R OF

FBLM ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FO COLLECTOR


1 C ,2

24V OFRNORMALFF NORMALLYFO


TRA.SIS,R TRANSI\
R I

Fig. 4-RC section of a one-shot pulse forming multivihrator


TO BASE OF
OF,YiFNORMALLYON R2-RNequivalent
(showing
and off). circuit of switching circuitry with R1 on
TRRlANIIORTOR

Fig. 3--RC section of a one-shot pulse forming multivihrator


(showving circuitry for energizing only one RC unit at a time). ragn deic is deindtein ha olc
ne h
tor form a pulse which is detected and subsequently
the lower limit at which the range is changed is nearly shaped. The output pulses are then integrated to give
the same as the upper limit of the next smaller scale. an analog output voltage proportional to the number
The automatic ranging device is basically an all- of pulses; thus, giving a count of the number of ions
solid-state computer-type switching circuit. The switch- collected. The analog output voltage is equal to the
ing device has two threshold triggers that are set to pulse width, times the constant pulse height, times the
indicate if the measurement output to telemetry number of pulses, divided by 1 sec. By changing the
attempts to go off scale in either direction, i.e., if the pulse width, the integrated output is changed by a
signal is either too large or too small for the particular constant which effectively changes the scale factor.
range in operation. The threshold indicators, coupled Circuitwise, the pulse width is changed by switching
with logic circuitry and a clock pulser, in turn actuates RC time constants in a one-shot pulse forming multi-
an up-down counter to make the appropriate step up vibrator. This is accomplished by having the resistor
or down. The output of the up-down counter is binary in the on stage returned to a plus voltage and the re-
coded to turn on one range gate at a time. The gate sistors in all of the off stages uncoupled by a back biased
that is on energizes the proper circuitry to change transistor. Each stage has a diode which uncouples the
the range that is in operation within the measuring capacitors of the off stages. The circuit is given in
instrument. When the proper range has been reached, Fig. 3 and an equivalent circuit is given in Fig. 4.
the signal comes back on scale and re-crosses the thresh- Another example where the automatic ranging device
old thus stopping the switching action. A block dia- has been employed is in an electrometer circuit which
gram of this operation is shown in Fig. 2. measures currents from the ion collector mentioned
The automatic ranging device is essentially designed above. The electrometer consists of an operational
to work with almost any kind of measuring instrument amplifier shunted by a feedback resistor. By changing
that can be arranged to have more than one operating the value of the feedback resistor the scale factor is
range or scale factor. The number of output gates are changed. In order to measure currents of the order of
limited only by cost and space requirements. Therefore, to-l a, the feedback resistors have to be of the order of
there can be a large number of operating ranges or 109 ohms, which makes the problem of coupling and
scales. The circuit that accomplishes the change of uncoupling different resistors very difficult. In order to
range within the measuring instrument upon demand of accomplish this, special diodes with back impedances in
the automatic switching device is the most difficult part the order of 10i2 ohms were obtained. The diodes are
of the circuitry. In the circuit for which the automatic arranged in the circuit in such a way that when they

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102 IRE TRANSACTIONS ON INSTRUMENTATION December
\ \ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~OUT PUT

INPUT CURRENT OPERATIONAL OPERATIONA TO TELEMETRY

-A I vTELEMETRY
:

INPUT h \

! , v ~~~~INPUTSo_80l
I 2 A
lA1BA 028 ON -28 OFF
-28 ON +28 OFF
1BR

I Fl ig. 6-Basic electrometer circuit (showing equivalent circuit


2B NA of switching circuitry with RI on and R2-RN off).
RdN

tion techniques to bring the cost down for use in situa-


Fig. 5-Basic electrometer circuit (showing switching circuit tions where low costs are essential such as in the manu-
for energizing only one feedback resistor at a time). facture of commercial laboratory instruments.

are biased on, the feedback resistor is coupled effec- CONCLUSION


tively through a short circuit; and when the diodes are The use of automatic ranging in situations where
biased off, the resistors have 1012 ohms in series with large dynamic ranges are necessary is one of the best
them. This effectively uncouples the off resistors because ways of getting good accuracies with a few, low band-
the resistor that is on easily shunts this high resistance. width telemeter channels and with reasonably small
The actual circuit is shown in Fig. 5 and an equivalent space and power requirements. It is adaptable to almost
circuit is given in Fig. 6. any system as has been demonstrated by a fairly easy
The automatic ranging circuit is very small. It is and a fairly difficult application. The good results ob-
contained on two 4-in by 4-in circuit cards for eight tained from its present use indicate that it is a tried
ranges. It requires very little power-only 1' watts for and proven method of achieving high accuracy meas-
eight ranges. The circuit accommodates to mass produc- urements.

Lunar Surface and Subsurface Magnetic


Susceptibility Instrumentation
EDGAR M. BOLLINt

Summary-Multicoil induction measurements of the lunar sur- oersted/gauss and the presence of nickel-iron meteoritic material
face and subsurface magnetic susceptibility are under study. Major may extend the range beyond the present limits of measurement.
considerations are the improvement of the accuracy and logging The determination of the presence or absence of meteoritic material
ability of various probe configurations. Special boundary conditions is necessary to validate not only the accuracy of the susceptibility
of high vacuum, extreme ambient temperature variation, restriction measurement, but also the accuracy of low level magnetometer
to mechanically passive systems, simple electronics, low power and measurements.
light weight all contribute to degradation of the accuracy of the in-
strument. INTRODUCTION
Measurements in the range of 10 to 100,000 micro-oersted/gauss AGGROUP OF geophysical parameter instrumenlts
are of interest. Nonsedimentary rocks range from 40 to 1000 u -~ hav bensuidtodtrieth esblt
of making lunar surface and subsurface measure-
* Received August 14, 1962. Presented at the 1962 International mlents. In both surface and subsurface magnetic suscep-
Conference on Precision Electromagnetic Measurements as paper tibility instruments the experiment employs an air core
No. 1.5. This paper presents the results of one phase of research*
carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of transformer in which the change in mutual inductancee
Technology, under Contract No. NAS 7-100, sponsored by the Na- between the primary and secondary is measured in
tional Aeronautics and Space Administration.
PasJetat PrplinLbrtr,Califori vacuum and after emplacement. Corrections to the
Inttt'fehooy
Jt roulioLaortoy,Caifoni Isttue o Tcholgy measured change in inductance are made by measuring

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