The Potential for Application of High Temperature Superconductors to Electromagnetic Launchers

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Weldon, W.F.

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Electromagnetic launchers utilize electromagnetic, rather than thermodynamic, forces to accelerate projectiles to hypervelocities. Applications include scientific research, weapons, and space launch. In order to exceed the performance of chemically powered launchers, the em energy density in the vicinity of the projectile must be very high. As a result the electromechanical loading of the launcher components is among the highest experienced in electrical machines and is invariably the highest in the projectile itself. This loading is produced by exceptionally high current densities resulting in ohmic losses which dominate the system efficiency. Thus the primary potential for application of high temperature super-conductors lies in their ability to eliminate or reduce these losses. The principles of em launchers are reviewed along with the present state of the art and typical distributions of losses. The em loading of individual launcher components is discussed and the impact of applying HTSC to each component is evaluated. Problems which presently limit the application of HTSC to em launchers are also identified.


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W.F. Weldon, “The potential for application of high temperature superconductors to electromagnet launchers,” invited paper, Texas Center for Superconductivity, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, U.S.A., February 27-28, 1992.