The projectile is accelerated either by a high explosive, or by hydrogen gas compressed by the explosive. Explosives such as Composition B, Octol, RDX, HMX9404, ERS-9, KEL-F, LX-10, and PBX-9010 are used because of their high detonation velocities, ranging from 7 to 9 km/s. The acceleration is so extreme that the projectile breaks apart if its mass is more than a few grams. Explosive ram accelerator is not included here because its acceleration is moderate.


Alex B. Wenzel, "A Review of Explosive Accelerators for Hypervelocity Impact," International Journal of Impact Engineering, Vol. 5, 1987, pp. 681-692.


A high explosive accelerates a small projectile up to 5.5 km/s.


E. N. Clark, A. Mackenzie, F. H. Schmitt and I. L. Kintish, "Studies of hypervelocity impact on lead," Proceedings of Fourth Hypervelocity Impact Symposium, Eglin AFB, Florida, 1960.

J. H. Kineke, "An experimental study of crater formation in metallic targets," Proceedings of Fourth Hypervelocity Impact Symposium, Eglin AFB, Florida, 1960.

Air cavity launcher


A high explosive implodes a conical metal liner. The explosion fuses the liner into a thin liquid jet and accelerates it up to 16.5 km/s.


Alex B. Wenzel and J. W. Gehring, "Techniques for Launching 0.01 to 25 gm Discrete Projectiles at Velocities Up to 54,100 ft/sec," Proceedings of the Fourth Hypervelocity Techniques Symposium, Arnold Air Force Station, 1965.

Shaped charge detonation


A high explosive accelerates hydrogen gas which in turn accelerates a thin disk up to about 40 km/s.


A. E. Voitenko, "Generation of High-Speed Jets," Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR, Vol. 158, 1964, pp. 1278-1280.

D. R. Sawle, "Characteristics of the Voitenko High-Explosive-Driven Gas Compressor," Acta Astronautica, Vol. 14, 1969, pp. 393-397.

Voitenko implosion gun

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NASA Responsible Official: Dr. Ruth Globus
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