A 40-stage synchronous distributed energy railgun

Ryan W. Karhi, David A. Wetz, Michael Giesselmann, John J. Mankowski, Jeff P. Diehl, Patrick M. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The development process pertaining to the design, fabrication, and testing of a 40-stage free-running arc synchronous distributed energy railgun is presented. Research efforts are still ongoing to suppress the restrike phenomenon that is responsible for causing a velocity ceiling around 6 km/s to exist on plasma armature breech-fed railguns. Numerous solutions have been theorized as viable methods of restrike prevention but lack experimental verification. In collaboration on an AFOSR Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative project, the team at Texas Tech University is responsible for characterizing a functional scale model of a synchronous distributed energy railgun to investigate the effectiveness of a distributed energy scheme to suppress the plasma restrike phenomenon and increase plasma armature railgun performance. The distributed energy scheme is theorized to suppress restrike arc formation because the back-EMF voltage is localized to active stage regions. Synchronous operation refers to the speed of an electromagnetic wave in the LC transmission line formed by the rails and capacitors being matched to the velocity of the armature. The railgun drives a hypervelocity (8 km/s) plasma armature, with no payload, to emulate the conditions of a high-altitude microsatellite launch while relieving the financial burden of a large stored energy facility. Experimental data collected from a seven-stage prototype distributed energy system are discussed which will mimic the design and operation of the first seven stages associated with the final 40-stage system, which is currently under construction. The data collected from this prototype as well as the final 40-stage system will be analyzed for secondary arc formation in an attempt to verify the distributed energy scheme's success in suppressing restrike formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5740614
Pages (from-to)1192-1197
Number of pages6
JournalIEEE Transactions on Plasma Science
Issue number4 PART 2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Distributed
  • multistage
  • plasma armature
  • railgun


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