Someone please explain to me why this rail gun is shooting out so much flame. Has the air ignited from the friction of the passing of the projectile?
19th February, 2009 @ 4:53 a.m. (California Time)
The flames are most likely from the impact.
Rather than focusing on just the weaponry aspect, perhaps outlining some of the more peaceful aspect would be good. Could this be used for launching satellites, etc.?
19th February, 2009 @ 5:51 a.m. (California Time)
The photo is taken at a very high frame rate, so the image you are seeing has captured the muzzle blast. When the armature leaves the bore of the launcher there can be a high level of electric energy remaining, causing the blast.
Using electromagnetic launchers for space applications is truly still an idea for science fiction. You have to realize that an enormous amount of energy is used to launch a projectile that is maybe 30kg. To launch a satellite into earth orbit would require a massive energy source. That said, you scale up a electromagnetic launcher, put it on the surface of the moon, and then you could potentially launch payloads to Mars (still science fiction of course). BUT, also note that the accelerations that the projectiles (and payloads of the future) are subjected to on launch are extremely large and could cause damage to the contents.
19th February, 2009 @ 9:08 a.m. (California Time)
The MAP(magnetically accelerated projectile) idea for launching satellites is quite feasible and i believe a launch facility is being built, though i can't remember it off the top of my head.
However, pure magnetic acceleration to launch a satellite isn't very feasible. MAP designs to launch satellites use magnetic acceleration to build up centrifugal force inside a spiral track.
So, as far as a rail gun goes, orbital launch isn't something that will be explored soon.
19th February, 2009 @ 9:16 a.m. (California Time)
"The flames are from pieces of the projectile disintegrating; the 7-pound slug is jammed so firmly between the rails that when it's fired, pieces shear off and ignite in the air."
19th February, 2009 @ 9:54 a.m. (California Time)
Peaceful aspect? HAH! Sorry to be cynical, but when have non-military applications ever come first?
Do I smell a new arms race? Yes, yes I do!
19th February, 2009 @ 12:45 p.m. (California Time)
Not peaceaful at all...
As for speed, load, etc - it's simple physics
so for E=12 MegaJoules,
m=13.4 kg this is the theoretical payload for the gun in the picture.
The actual payload would be considerably less.
SATELLITE LAUNCHING - I don't think this would ever be feasible. Maybe in the future.
Going from null speed to mach 7 over such a short distance means huge accelerations occur during the launch.
This would likely destroy any equipment.
Besides, a lot of heat would be generated while crossing the lower atmosphere.
Even if the satellite would resist the acceleration and temperature, the enormous electromagnectic fields inside the canon would likely fry any electronics inside the satellite.
Any ideas for a "peaceful" use for such a device?
19th February, 2009 @ 2:16 p.m. (California Time)
There is a few things going on behind that projectile. Rubin said a lot. There is so much energy that the air is...oxidizing, exploding. The materials: both the projectile and the weapons launcher are vaporizing (in part.) The object itself, as it travels, is part plasma; magnetized gas, superheated, and moving incredibly fast. Basically, its like getting hit by basketball sized mini sun moving at the speed of, well, the space shuttle...
19th February, 2009 @ 6:18 p.m. (California Time)
For launching satellites; A magnetic launch could work with rockets to get satellites into orbit cheap.
One of the biggest problems with rockets is the diminishing return as more and more of the fuel is used to lift more and more fuel as the payload gets heavier.....
With magnetic launch this issue can be avoided.
It would also allow the rocket to be launched at a lower percentage of potential thrust. This would increase safety.
Also, the magnetic launch apparatus could be connected to, but separate from the rocket and satellite. This would allow for launch without the strong electromagnetic fields produced interfering with rocket and satellite electronics.
As for the magnetic launch being a short launch; scrap off the side of a mountain. One that goes up to 14 thousand feet.....
It would probably cost as much as the crappy shuttle and all the peripherals they blew money on to keep it going.
20th February, 2009 @ 5:03 p.m. (California Time)
Dennis, the shuttle is not crappy, it happens to be one of the greatest achievements of our time.
And you would not combine a rocket with an electromagnetic launch. The whole concept of using EM launchers for space launch is to remove the rockets from the equation. And saying that the payload is connected to, but separate from the payload is like saying that the shuttle is separate from the main booster. But yes, you could feasibly design a EM shielding for the payload. The accelerations are the issue. That and the enormous amount of current required to produce enough of a Lorentz force to move a payload the size of a satellite.
And launch from a 14,000 ft mountain. Seriously? 400 miles = 2,112,000 ft. 28,000 miles = 147,840,000 ft. You really think launching from a mountain would help?
23rd February, 2009 @ 1:26 p.m. (California Time)
Peaceful application? Hmm... Rig it to backfire and kill those developing it, perhaps?
23rd February, 2009 @ 10:15 p.m. (California Time)
Rubin has it more or less.
Plasma, the rest is just buring air and projectile etc.
If you want peace, prepare for war.
If you could dig a big tunnel in Mt Kilmanjaro you could run the shuttle (or something) up it on rails.
Lower acceleration at an incline over a longer period.
The rest is politics unfortunately.
Cool gun man! They had an impact in the 1st gulf war which poked a small hole in an M1-A1 (nothing much does that) which they thought might have been a rail gun. (from the Russians)
2nd March, 2009 @ 8:21 p.m. (California Time)
Poidog: The muzzle flash you see is from the blast of the initial firing of a conventional charge, although a minor charge, to accelerate the projectile in the firing tube to a sufficient speed so as to overcome inertia and allow the electromagnetic forces to accelerate it to in excess of mach-7. Without this initial blast of acceleration, a substantial amount of the EME (electromagnetic energy) and barrel (rail length) would be used up just getting it from at rest to regular projectile velocities. I hope this helps with your question as to the source of the 'Muzzle Blast'. Let me know if I can answer any other questions IRT Rail Gun technology. I have been studying this for decades. John Kessler email@example.com.
12th March, 2009 @ 12:38 p.m. (California Time)
The shuttle is not a great achievement of our time. It was a great achievement 30 years ago. Along with Rubik's Cube and the "word Processor".
The idea that rockets and electromagnetic launch are mutually exclusive is foolish. You use the best attributes of each to compliment each other.
Electromagnetic launch has all the power on he ground. So the facility can be built very heavy duty.
This is not possible when all the propulsion is on the launch vehicle.
If you cannot imagine a way to couple a EM launch apparatus to a rocket without them being a foot from one another, I am not sure what to say to that.....
And launching from a mountain is not about distance. It is about a having a long (many miles) EM launch facility to keep the G's down, and having a straight shot at a decent angle. While also cutting down on atmospheric density. Its a bit thinner up there.
As far as current needed, Really? Better to have rockets with the "explosive" power of the shuttle than to have a large generating plant on the ground? Really?
If you think this is wishful thinking, it is of course. There is only one institution that could make this happen and unfortunately it is NASA.
If left to its own devices NASA will never come up with anything better. Just the fact they have not been able to move past the shuttle shows their institutional Riga mortise.
17th March, 2009 @ 6:41 p.m. (California Time)
I ask you, who wouldn't want one? I'd love one... No more messy chemicals. No more smelly explosives. Simply marvellous. So much better for the environment. That is good for humanity isn't it? Sure it is....
I say that if we are going to obliterate each other we should strive to do it cleanly.
21st April, 2009 @ 4:24 a.m. (California Time)
Dennis is right. The Air Force looked at an EM launch system to place small satellites (~100kg) into orbit. The most likely design would mount the accelerator on the side of a mountain for the reasons that Dennis listed. You are correct that the design of the satellite would have to be carefully done to withstand the extreme g-loads necessary to launch within a reasonable length of accelerator. Of course, if you want to just launch bulk loads like, say, water, then the requirements get even easier.
Incidentally, the HAARP program looked to do the same thing with conventional but really really big cannons. There has also been some work on light gas cannons with multiple injection ports to sustain the acceleration.
You would still need a rocket in any case as the orbit would be quite elliptical. You would also need some sort of rocket motor to move the satellite into any different orbit and perform regular station keeping.
1st June, 2009 @ 8:22 p.m. (California Time)
How about launching nuclear waste OUT of orbit? No need to worry about damaging fragile contents, and packages could be as small as necessary?
26th July, 2009 @ 5:45 p.m. (California Time)
Hey, maybe they could scale the whole thing down, and make an EM handgun...just a thought.
19th October, 2009 @ 1:24 p.m. (California Time)
I agree with launching nuclear waste. But this way will cause damage because of extreme G forces. For many years now I have been saying , launch nuclear waste to the Sun.
30th December, 2009 @ 7:36 p.m. (California Time)
Oxygen or the air containing it doesn\'t \"BURN\". It IS the oxidizer.
The blast at mach 5 is probably the same thing that causes meteors and the shuttle to glow. Friction/impacts of atmospheric gas. Lower altitudes have MUCH thicker air so there is much more friction. The heated, glowing red hot, metal then would burn more readily and you get lots of flames. Kind of like a cutting torch; you can turn off the acetyline on an oxyacetyline torch once it gets hot enough.
1st January, 2010 @ 11:09 p.m. (California Time)
\"Peaceful aspect? HAH! Sorry to be cynical, but when have non-military applications ever come first?\"
The Internet is an example.
29th January, 2010 @ 2:33 p.m. (California Time)
See John hunter\'s Quicklauncher.
26th February, 2010 @ 12:22 p.m. (California Time)
comment Gruph Norgle - January 29, 2010 @ 02:33 pm PST
The internet is the direct result of the US Air Force\'s need to track every aircraft in our airspace. They used four or five of the most powerful computers then available, and with the realization that it was not fundamentally more difficult to get them to work together with them in different states than it was with them in the same building, the Air Force distributed them so that one bomb could not take them all out. It was the first use of distributed computing. The system was built with excess capability to allow for growth in American aviation and the excess capability was used for other message transfer. It was found to be so efficient that the Air Force kept adding capability to the system. The internet was not developed until Retired officers who went into industry had their tech boys and girls build a similar system for their companies which grew into the internet.
14th September, 2011 @ 11:53 p.m. (California Time)
There is no peaceful application for an object hitting another object at mach 5.
20th December, 2011 @ 10:05 p.m. (California Time)
great, so now they can be even further away from civilians when they\'re killing them?
Weapons are for those who need to pillage others. Start listening to inventors and you won\'t need pillaging, you\'ll be making everything you need locally.
8th February, 2012 @ 5:15 a.m. (California Time)
(Sure this is old, but I was reading through the old comments and couldn\'t pass this one up) wil9000 argued that there is never an instance where the non-military application of a technology precedes the military use.
This is absolutely wrong, and to prove the point, I need give only one example:
see http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1561143,00.html for its use in detecting IED tripwires in Iraq.
8th February, 2012 @ 6:48 a.m. (California Time)
seven pound rounds ive seen video of a homeade railgun firing a 1 centimeter cube of aluminium through a foot of steel why do you need to waste seven pounds of aluminium.
all railguns fire aluminium projectiles
14th February, 2012 @ 4:38 p.m. (California Time)
why not use it to slow down space junk by using water or gas projectiles, there's a peaceful use .
12th October, 2012 @ 2:58 p.m. (California Time)
There do seem to be peaceful uses for the technology. For example, momentum transfer to a spacecraft. This could even be combined with the refueling of spacecraft. For example you could fire water out of the rail gun to accelerate a spacecraft by momentum transfer, then use the captured water as fuel, either directly or indirectly.
2nd January, 2014 @ 7:27 a.m. (California Time)