Development of a 40-stage distributed energy railgun

Ryan Karhi, Michael Giesselmann, David Wetz, Jeff Diehl

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

3 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. Investigation of this type of system will determine the effectiveness of a distributed energy scheme to suppress the plasma restrike phenomenon and increase plasma armature railgun performance [1]. Determined by a computer simulation, the proposed system will have a 1.0 cm × 1.0 cm square bore cross section and a stage length of 15.24 cm producing a total rail length of 6 meters for 40 stages. A free-arc is utilized to relieve the financial burden of a large stored energy facility. A velocity of 8 km/s is desired to emulate conditions during a high altitude microsatellite launch. To achieve this velocity, pulsed power in conjunction with a low pressure (∼ 10 Torr) air environment is required. The pulsed power supplies 15 kJ of energy to provide an armature current (∼ 50 kA) for 1 millisecond. A real-time feedback control system will accurately release the stage energy upon arc arrival. Experimental data collected from a 7-stage prototype distributed system is discussed which will mimic the design and operation of the first 7 stages associated with the 40-stage railgun. The copper rail length is 1.2 m long with a 1 cm x 1 cm square bore cross section and a 15.24 cm stage length. Each distributed energy stage contains a 750 μF capacitor bank, a thyristor with an anti-parallel diode, and a driver board for triggering. The armature is formed using a plasma injector that is powered by a 40 kV Marx generator. Diagnostics for this examination include rail B-dot probes as well as independent Rogowski coils for each stage. Data collected from the rail B-dot probes will be used to measure the armature position and velocity as a function of time. There is no target velocity for this prototype; repeatable energy module operation, accurate stage triggering, and arc propagation toward the muzzle are the main areas focus. Outcomes of these initial experimental results will aid the development of the 40-stage system.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPPC2009 - 17th IEEE International Pulsed Power Conference
Number of pages6
StatePublished - 2009
Event17th IEEE International Pulsed Power Conference, PPC2009 - Washington, DC, United States
Duration: Jun 28 2009Jul 2 2009

Publication series

NamePPC2009 - 17th IEEE International Pulsed Power Conference


Conference17th IEEE International Pulsed Power Conference, PPC2009
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWashington, DC


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