AEDC hypervelocity range ‘back in action’ after 10 years

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Air Force photograph by Deirdre Ortiz

Pictured is the inside of the target chamber of the AEDC Range S-1 where hypervelocity impacts take place. S-1 wasn’t active in a decade but is currently undergoing checkout operations in preparation for three upcoming test projects. Several successful test launches have recently been performed in S-1.

Though it hasn’t been active in 10 years, the Range S-1 at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex is currently undergoing checkout operations in preparation for three upcoming test projects.

Lt. Ryan Boudreaux, the Hypervelocity Flyout, Impact and Lethality Ground Test & Evaluation capability manager, and Scott Williams, the capability’s technical lead, are overseeing the checkout of S-1.

“We completed five successful shots in March,” Boudreaux said. “Prior to this effort, the last time any shots were fired in S-1 was in 2007.”

Lt. Col. Jason Armstrong, materiel leader and director of the AEDC Space & Missiles Combined Test Force, noted that reactivating this range is significant for AEDC and its present and future T&E customers.

“The re-activation of S-1 has not only brought back our capability to perform smaller scale hypervelocity impact testing but has also attracted multiple Department of Defense-sponsored customers seeking the type of testing we can now provide in this range,” Armstrong said.

This is the high pressure section of the AEDC Range S-1 that launches hypervelocity projectiles. It is capable of withstanding forces of up to 400,000 pounds per square inch. Though S-1 hasn’t been active in a decade, it is undergoing checkout operations in preparation for future test projects.

Boudreaux shares Armstrong’s views regarding the importance of this event.

“It’s notable in that these checkout successes will attract new T&E customers to the CTF,” he said.

The focus of the upcoming T&E projects is on research of orbital debris impact. One of the biggest dangers to existing and future space-based assets is hypervelocity impacts from uncontrolled man-made space debris. Range S-1 allows AEDC to show customers what would happen if such a piece of debris impacted one of their space assets.

Range S-1 is 80 feet in length, has a 0.75-inch bore and can launch projectiles between 2 and 8 kilometers per second. It was first used in the late 1980s as a test-bed to try concepts for the larger Range G, AEDC’s 1,000-foot hypervelocity range.
 

This metal witness plate was struck by a hypervelocity projectile during a recent checkout of the AEDC Range S-1. S-1 is currently undergoing checkout operations in preparation for three upcoming test projects. Several successful test launches, like the one above, have recently been performed in S-1.