What types of sensors would you install on a launch vehicle?

Sensors can be used to measure structural/component performance along with initiating controls. 100s to 1000s of sensors can be on board a rocket depending on its size and scope. Here are some examples of sensors:

Component sensing:

  • Strain gauges
    Ex. anticipate failures/improve future structural designs
  • Temperature sensors
    Ex. monitoring temperatures of cryogenic fuels
  • Pressure sensors
    Ex. detection of leaks
  • Cameras
    Ex. viewing of mechanism behavior such as rocket booster releasing
  • Load cells
    Ex. measuring of thrust generated
  • Flow meter
    Ex. ensuring the proper delivery of fuels to chambers

Controls sensing:

  • Gyroscopes
    Ex. feedback to help stabilize the rocket is ascent/descent
  • Accelerometers
    Ex. activation/deactivation of rocket engines once speed is met
  • Magentometers
    Ex. measure direction and strength of planetary magnetic fields
  • Altimeters
    Ex. releasing of rocket stages at certain altitudes
  • GPS
    Ex. determining spacecraft trajectory

Use of all sensors may be redundant/unnecessary. As an example, here is a diagram of an Atlas V rocket components and sensors:

Make sure to review electrical fundamentals (circuits, digital/analog sampling) to supplement this area!