Railguns used to a work of fiction, propelling weapons on mecha suits and spaceships to fight aliens and space pirates. This changed several years ago now when BAE systems revealed a working railgun, and even more recently people started working on handheld railguns. With the original plan to mount a test railgun on the joint high-speed vessels (JHSV) this year, it comes as a surprise that there may be a rail gun in operational use before even that.
The Lyndon B Johnson, the last of three Zumwalt-class destroyers that are looking at deployment in 2018, is rumoured to be the first ship that will carry a functional railgun. The concept of a rail gun is to use magnetic charges to propel objects at high speeds without the need for explosive charges. This reduces the cost and the size of projectiles while also reducing the risk of transporting explosive materials everywhere.
The Zumwalt class of destroyers are designed for attacking land-based targets, so firing giant blocks of metal at supersonic speeds sounds like a starting point for them. The U.S. Navy’s director of surface warfare, Pete Fanta, even mused that “it’s engineering at this point, it’s no longer science”.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, catch the minute long clip of a rail gun below and realise just how far we’ve come in making those mecha-suits a reality.
Elon Musk appeared in last night’s episode of the Simpsons, an episode full of future and current concepts such as self-driving cards, violin playing quadcopters, self-packing luggage and a working hyperloop.
Elon Musk was treated well in the episodes, as guest stars always are. There is some witty banter at his expense, but always mocking something good – and in good humour. At the end of the episode, he jets off in his Dragon spacecraft and Lisa points out that “for a man who likes electric cards, he sure burns a lot of rocket fuel”.
Before this could get out of hand in any way, Elon Musk used his twitter account to debunk electrical rockets. They are simply not possible. The “reason is Newton’s Third Law. In vacuum, there is nothing to “push” against. You must react against ejected mass … Ion thrusters are great, but have extremely tiny force (photon thruster even less). Must have more thrust than weight or you don’t go up.”
If u saw @TheSimpsons and wonder why @SpaceX doesn't use an electric rocket to reach orbit, it is cuz that is impossible
So both space elevators and electric rockets will stay a thing of Hollywood’s for now. Elon Musk had one more things to say, that railgun launches wouldn’t work either – at least if your plan is to not explode.
Final one: anything launched by a railgun (if you could ever reach ~ Mach 27) would explode upon exiting the barrel in our dense atmosphere
Ever watch BattleTech as a child? Well if you haven’t you’re missing out, but if you have then you’re hopes and dreams of being able to see a railgun being fired are about to be realized.
The United States Navy is set to release it’s electromagnetic railgun on a single joint high-speed vessels (JHSV) in 2016 according to the report.
Since 2005 the U.S. Navy has been testing this technology and from the looks of it they’ve been doing a very good job of progressively improving it.
According to the Navy, the weapon uses “an electromagnetic force – known as the Lorenz Force – to rapidly accelerate and launch a projectile between two conductive rails.” The weapon will be able to shoot projectiles at an increased velocity than any weaponry available right now, which in turn will allow each round to travel much greater distances. Because of this ability to maintain velocity for a greater period of time, this means that it will not require a “high explosive payload” when it reaches a target. The Navy has stated that this will make its ships safer because they won’t have to carry as many explosives on board. Once the weapon is ready for deployment, the Navy states that the railguns will be able to launch “guided, multi-mission projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles.”