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Hypersonic and electromagnetic railgun technology as a future alternative for the launch and suborbital payloads

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  • Institut Für Aerodynamik Und Strömungstechnik
  • Earth Science
  • Engineering
  • Physics


Astrium-Space Infrastructure is currently performing an ESA funded study to investigate the use of Railgun Technology as an alternative access to high atmospheric altitudes. The subject of this project study is to demonstrate the feasibility of launching small meteorological science payloads by means of hypersonic projectiles, which are accelerated by an electromagnetic railgun with a muzzle end velocity of about 2100m/s. Associated with this new non-conventional propulsion technique is the development of leading-edge hypersonic projectiles to withstand a harsh environment with acclerations of about 12,000g and high tip temperatures. The choice of materials for the hypersonic projectile's case and insulation to protect any payload is a demanding engineering task. Above all it has to be lightweight and inexpensive. Compared to the solid and/or liquid rockets available today, a railgun offers several advantages such as high efficiency with high repetitions rates and low recurring costs. A launch price is envisaged which is drastically lower than today's market prices for conventional atmospheric sounding rockets.

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