Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Kira J. Abercromby

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


Collision with orbital debris poses a serious threat to spacecraft and astronauts. Hypervelocity impacts resulting from collisions mean that objects with a mass less than 1g can cause mission-ending damage to spacecraft. A means of shielding spacecraft against collisions is necessary. A means of testing candidate shielding methods for their efficacy in mitigating hypervelocity impacts is therefore also necessary. Cal Poly’s Electromagnetic Railgun was designed with the goal of creating a laboratory system capable of simulating hypervelocity (≥ 3 km/s) impacts. Due to several factors, the system was not previously capable of high-velocity (≥ 1 km/s) tests. A deficient projectile design is revised, and a new design is tested. The new projectile design is demonstrated to enable far greater performance than the previous design, with a muzzle velocity ≥ 1 km/sbeing verified during testing, and an energy conversion efficiency of 2.7%. A method of improving contact and controlling wear at the projectile/rail interface using silver plating and conductive silver paste is validated. A mechanism explaining the problem of internal arcing within the railgun barrel is proposed, and design recommendations are made to eliminate arcing on the basis of the work done during testing. The primary structural members are found to be deficient for their application and a failure analysis of a failed member, loading analysis of the railgun barrel, and design of new structures is undertaken and presented.