Boost Guidance

How do we maintain a credible and affordable strategic deterrent for the future?


The TRIDENT II Weapons System is the primary strategic deterrent for both the United States and the United Kingdom. Fourteen active U.S. Navy Ohio-class submarines carry Trident missiles, accounting for nearly half of U.S. strategic warheads; four Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines also carry them.

Capabilities Used
Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT)

Draper develops novel PN&T solutions by combining precision instrumentation, advanced hardware technology, comprehensive algorithm and software development skills, and unique infrastructure and test resources to deploy system solutions. The scope of these efforts generally focuses on guidance, navigation, and control GN&C-related needs, ranging from highly accurate, inertial solutions for (ICBMs) and inertial/stellar solutions for SLBMs, to integrated Inertial Navigation System(INS)/GPS solutions for gun-fired munitions, to multisensor configurations for soldier navigation in GPS-challenged environments. Emerging technologies under development that leverage and advance commercial technology offerings include celestial navigation (compact star cameras), inertial navigation (MEMS, cold atom sensors), precision time transfer (precision optics, chip-scale atomic clocks) and vision-based navigation (cell phone cameras, combinatorial signal processing algorithms).

Fault-Tolerant Systems

Draper has developed mission-critical fault-tolerant systems for more than four decades. These systems are deployed in space, air, and undersea platforms that require extremely high reliability to accomplish challenging missions. These solutions incorporate robust hardware and software partitioning to achieve fault detection, identification and reconfiguration. Physical redundancy or multiple, identical designs protect against random hardware failures and employ rigor in evaluating differences in computed results to achieve exact consensus, even in the presence of faults. The latest designs leverage cost-effective, multicore commercial processors to implement software-based redundancy management systems in compact single-board layouts that perform the key timing, communication, synchronization and voting algorithm functions needed to maintain seamless operation after one, two or three arbitrary faults of individual components.

Autonomous Systems

Draper combines mission planning, PN&T, situational awareness, and novel GN&C designs to develop and deploy autonomous platforms for ground, air, sea and undersea needs. These systems range in complexity from human-in-the-loop to systems that operate without any human intervention. The design of these systems generally involves decomposing the mission needs into sets of scenarios that result in trade studies that lead to an optimized solution with key performance requirements.  Draper continues to advance the field of autonomy through research in the areas of mission planning, sensing and perception, mobility, learning, real-time performance evaluation and human trust in autonomous systems.

Precision Instrumentation

Draper develops precision instrumentation systems that exceed the state-of-the-art in key parameters (input range, accuracy, stability, bandwidth, ruggedness, etc.) that are designed specifically to operate in our sponsor’s most challenging environments (high shock, high temperature, radiation, etc.).  As a recognized leader in the development and application of precision instrumentation solutions for platforms ranging from missiles to people to micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Draper finds or develops state-of-the-art components (gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers, precision clocks, optical systems, etc.) that meet the demanding size, weight, power and cost needs of our sponsors and applies extensive system design capabilities consisting of modeling, mechanical and electrical design, packaging and development-level testing to realize instrumentation solutions that meet these critical and demanding needs.

Human-Centered Solutions

Draper has continued to advance the understanding and application of human-centered engineering to optimize the interaction and capabilities of the human’s ability to better understand, assimilate and convey information for critical decisions and tasks. Through its Human-Centered Solutions capability, Draper enables accomplishment of users’ most critical missions by seamlessly integrating technology into a user’s workflow. This work leverages human-computer interaction through emerging findings in applied psychophysiology and cognitive neuroscience. Draper has deep skills in the design, development, and deployment of systems to support cognition – for users seated at desks, on the move with mobile devices or maneuvering in the cockpit of vehicles – and collaboration across human-human and human-autonomous teams.

Boost Guidance
Two engineers working with flight simulation software in the Trident II missile guidance systems lab at Draper.

Draper has supported the U.S. Navy’s strategic mission for more than 50 years by fulfilling its responsibility for maintaining and upgrading the Trident boost guidance system, which enables the missiles to operate with extreme precision. That is accomplished through the use of precision instrumentation to determine the missile’s acceleration, velocity and position to direct the system to the target in the absence of external reference aids, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS).


Trident missile launch.jpg

First flight of the new MK6 MOD 1 Guidance System designed by Draper occurred on Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASO) 23 off SSBN 734 on 22 February 2012. Photo credit: U.S. Navy


As the prime contractor for the Trident Life Extension (LE) boost guidance, Draper has completed the design and begun production of the MK6 MOD 1 Guidance System, which will serve as the boost guidance system for the Trident D(5)LE missile through 2040. To ensure a credible and affordable guidance system, Draper used a modular, model-based approach in designing the MK6 MOD 1, which reduced integration time and allowed for early detection of problems prior to expensive prototype testing. In addition, the modular design allowed critical technologies to mature in parallel with the system design, leaving the trade space open for technology insertion, while maintaining the schedule.

As part of the MK6 MOD 1 design process, Draper developed an Enhanced Ground Testing (EGT) program that incorporated test capabilities such as an aircraft-based test pod to allow early insight into system accuracy and reliability before costly system flight testing. Use of EGT provided the confidence needed to perform the first flight test on a submarine, which never before had been done without being preceded by a pad launch program.



SSBN submarines host the strategic weapon system, which Draper supports by providing the missile Guidance System. Photo credit: U.S. Navy


Draper is applying the unique approaches and leveraging lessons learned from the MK6 MOD 1 program to the U.S. Air Force Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent boost guidance program and to Navy weapons system-level initiatives. Modular model-based design and EGT are expected to reduce cost and increase confidence in these and other future systems.



Trident II missile guidance systems lab at Draper.
Technical Contact
Christopher Lento