A burning mixture of air and natural gas propels a heavy piston. The piston compresses and heats hydrogen gas. A metal diaphragm bursts under pressure and releases hydrogen to the launch tube. The diaphragm is scored so that it fails in a predictable manner. The projectile rests on a nylon sabot which is propelled by hydrogen. The sabot reduces abrasion and makes it possible to use low hydrogen pressure and a slender projectile. Maximum velocity is limited to the speed of sound in very hot hydrogen, which is about 4 km/s. The minimum mass is 104 tons.


W. D. Crozier and William Hume, "High-Velocity, Light-Gas Gun," Journal of Applied Physics, Vol. 28, August 1957, pp. 892-894.

Roy A. Taylor, "A Space Debris Simulation Facility for Spacecraft Materials Evaluation," SAMPE Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2, January 1987, pp. 28-34.

John W. Hunter and Rod A. Hyde, "A Light Gas Gun System for Launching Building Material into Low Earth Orbit," AIAA Paper 89-2439, July 1989.

Breck W. Henderson, "Livermore Proposes Light Gas Gun for Launch of Small Payloads," Aviation Week and Space Technology, Vol. 133, No. 4, July 23, 1990, pp. 78-79.

David W. Bogdanoff and Robert J. Miller, "Improving the Performance of Two-Stage Gas Guns by Adding a Diaphragm in the Pump Tube," International Journal of Impact Engineering, Vol. 17, 1995, pp. 81-92.

Pavel V. Kryukov, "Review of Investigations Under Way on the Large-Scale TsNIIMASH Ballistic Facility," Ballistic Technologies Scientific Venture, Box 92, Korolev, Moscow Region, 141070, Russia.

SHARP gas gun at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Profile of a two stage light gas gun

Profile of a two stage light gas gun

Curator: Al Globus
NASA Responsible Official: Dr. Ruth Globus
If you find any errors on this page contact Al Globus.
Space Settlement hompage

This mirror of the NASA Ames Research Center Space Settlement web site is provided by:

National Space Society