Projectile nosetip thermal management for railgun launch to space

I. R. McNab, G. V. Candler, C. S. Barbee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A major issue in achieving direct launch to space using electromagnetic railguns from the surface of the earth is that we are at the bottom of a gravity well, requiring very high launch velocities to achieve orbit insertion. The atmosphere is most dense at the earth's surface - this, combined with high velocity, leads to very stressing thermal conditions for the launch aerobody. To minimize aerodynamic losses, a typical hypersonic flight body is a blunt slender cone. The thermal loads are greatest on the nosetip of this cone, and for small bodies (< 10 kg) the thermal loads may exceed the capabilities of present passive thermal protection systems, such as dense, ablative carbon phenolics. Even for launch from a high-altitude airborne platform, aerothermal loads can be considerable unless rocket assist is provided. This paper discusses aspects of the launch package and characteristics of the railgun needed to achieve orbit insertion velocities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-495
Number of pages5
JournalIEEE Transactions on Magnetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) under Award FA9550-05-1-0341 with guidance from the AFOSR Project Manager, Dr. M. Birkan. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AFOSR. This paper relies heavily on inputs from key investigators at the participating universities: the University of Minnesota, the University of New Orleans, the University of Texas at Austin, and Texas Tech University.


  • Launch to space
  • Projectile nosetip
  • Railgun
  • Thermal management

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