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Progress in Electromagnetic Launch Science and Technology

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1 Author(s)
Harry D. Fair ; Inst. for Adv. Technol., Austin, TX

Electromagnetic (EM) launch science and technology in the United States continues to advance at a significant pace. The computational and experimental tools for understanding the critical physics issues are sufficiently mature that they are being utilized to provide insight and resolution of the remaining major technical challenges. For example, the primary computational electrodynamics code, EMAP3D, is now implemented in a hybrid finite element-boundary element configuration with moving conductors, providing faster computation and increased understanding of these complex systems. An increased focus on railgun tribology and experiments to understand the interface between railgun armatures and the rail surface is providing important insight for improved railgun lifetimes. Control algorithms for counter-rotating pulsed alternators have been developed and validated experimentally with physical scale simulators. Solid-state switches are replacing the more traditional vacuum switches for high-current and high-voltage railgun power sources. Silicon is the material of choice, but silicon carbide shows great promise for reduced size and increased electrical performance. As a consequence of these and other advances, the U.S. Army has initiated an effort to build a power source with a matched pair of counter-rotating pulsed alternators and a cantilevered railgun to accelerate projectiles to 2-MJ kinetic energy. The U.S. Navy has initiated a new effort to launch large projectiles to hypervelocity. Because of the large naval platform, the size and weight of the power source are not significant issues for the U.S. Navy, whose primary interest is in providing precision fire support to ranges in excess of 200nmi (500 km). The critical technical issues in implementing this application for the Navy are railgun bore lifetime and high-acceleration-tolerant guidance and control. This paper highlights the recent major achievements in hypervelocity physics, pulsed power, and railgun life- times that provide the critical science and technology underpinnings for the Army and Navy EM gun programs

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Magnetics  (Volume:43 ,  Issue: 1 )