Theoretical and experimental analysis of breech fed and 40-distributed energy stage plasma arc railguns

Ryan W. Karhi, David A. Wetz, John J. Mankowski, Michael Giesselmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The design and experimental results of a 40-stage distributed energy store (DES) plasma arc railgun are presented. The railgun drives a free running hypervelocity plasma arc, one that is not pushing a payload, to velocities in excess of 10 km/s. These high velocities are of interest as they are required to successfully launch payloads into low earth orbit (LEO). The ability to launch payloads into LEO using a hypervelocity electromagnetic launcher has many financial benefits over the more conventional chemical combustion launchers. In collaboration with an Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative project, the Center for Pulsed Power and Power Electronics at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas has been responsible for developing and investigating a functional scale model of a multistage DES railgun to determine its effectiveness to suppress 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 where high gas density and low temperature inhibits breakdown. B-dot sensors positioned along the length of the launcher provide data to measure the plasma arc velocity and detect restrike, arc splitting, or additional secondary arc formation phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6197742
Pages (from-to)2637-2645
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Plasma Science
Issue number10 PART 1
StatePublished - 2012


  • Distributed energy railgun
  • Plasma armature railgun
  • Railgun
  • Railgun power supplies


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