Air Force

Linear shaped charge jet initiation system

Tunable explosion from full-yield detonation down to low-yield detonation

Military Technology

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Stage separation is one potential use for explosive actuators. Image: NASA

Explosively actuated devices are generally lighter and smaller than equivalent mechanical or electromechanical devices, which makes them attractive for space applications. Typical aerospace tasks include launch vehicle hold-down release, engine ignition, stage separation, fairing separation, and appendage deployment. But to be useful in the aerospace industries the explosive output must be controlled.

One method of controlling the yield of explosives is the use of shaped charge jets (SCJ’s) to deflagrate (burn) a portion of the main charge explosive and reduce the overall yield prior to the main charge being detonated. In this method, the detonation of the explosive within the SCJ causes the SCJ liner to form a high-velocity jet. The high pressure, temperature, and friction induced on the main charge from the jet causes the main charge explosive to burn. But, the reaction induced by the SCJ must be kept below the minimum pressure and temperature reaction threshold specific to the explosive, or detonation of the main charge would ensue.

Air Force scientists have developed a novel system for controlling the yield of an explosive charge that enables the explosive yield to be selected or decreased from full-yield detonation incrementally down to low-yield detonation. The system uses a continuous linear SCJ spiraled around the main charge explosive in order to deflagrate a selected portion of the main charge explosive.

With the continuous progression of the spiral linear SCJ deflagrator design, only two initiation points are required in most cases to alter the yield in a continuous range from full-yield detonation to a low-yield deflagration of the main charge. One initiation point starts the detonation of the spiral linear SCJ which propagates toward the second initiation point. The second initiation point starts the detonation reaction in the main charge that propagates in the opposite direction as the spiral linear shaped charge jet, which causes the two main charge reaction fronts, deflagration, and detonation, to meet. Using only two initiation points significantly reduces the complexity and cost of implementing a selectable-yield explosive.

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