Secondary Arc Formation Within a Distributed Energy Railgun

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Experimental results comparing a breech-fed scheme and two distributed energy schemes for a free-running arc are presented. Analysis and observations of the issues associated with distributed energy switching of a plasma arc in the railgun are explored. The use of a free-running arc allows experiments to emulate the ablation and restrike phenomenon of a plasma armature railgun at high speeds (> 5 km/s) without the requirement of a large amount of stored energy. Numerous experimental tests were conducted to investigate the dynamics of plasma arcs within a distributed energy source railgun. Variations of switch timing, bore pressure, borematerial, current amplitude, and current pulse length within each stage have been tested. These data reveal important design parameters for distributed energy railguns. The arc length, stage length, and stage trigger timing play a crucial role in distributed energy railgun performance. Failure to take these parameters into consideration will result in velocity reduction through plasma arc restrike and/or splitting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2738-2746
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Plasma Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Distributed energy railgun
  • plasma armature railgun
  • railgun


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