Aerospace Engineering Department

Degree Name

BS in Aerospace Engineering




Kira Abercromby


This report is a summary of the senior project entitled Development of a Laboratory Experiment to Simulate Upper-Stage Rocket Explosions. The goal of the experiment was to recreate a NASA experiment which used aluminum soft drink cans to approximate the shape of an Ariane third stage rocket. The cans were placed in a vacuum chamber and fired upon with a projectile from a light gas gun. The resulting debris was collected and analyzed allowing several conclusions to be made regarding the behavior or rocket breakups and the formation of space debris. In lieu of a light gas gun, energy drink cans, fitted with a one-way valve from a bicycle inner tube and filled with a hydrogen and oxygen mixture, are detonated with an Estes model rocket motor igniter. The cans were successfully detonated and aluminum debris was formed in a manner consistent with the predictions of the original experiment. This report describes in detail the preliminary experiments and testing leading to the development of the final apparatus and procedure implemented in the Aerospace Engineering Department’s Spacecraft Environment Laboratory.