Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Kurt K. Maute

Second Advisor

Robert Marshall

Third Advisor

Alireza Doostan


Currently, railgun force modeling either uses the simple “railgun force equation” or finite element methods. It is proposed here that a middle ground exists that does not require the solution of partial differential equations, is more readily implemented than finite element methods, and is more accurate than the traditional force equation. To develop this method, it is necessary to examine the core railgun factors: power supply mechanisms, the distribution of current in the rails and in the projectile which slides between them (called the armature), the magnetic field created by the current flowing through these rails, the inductance gradient (a key factor in simplifying railgun analysis, referred to as L'), the resultant Lorentz force, and the heating which accompanies this action. Common power supply technologies are investigated, and the shape of their current pulses are modeled. The main causes of current concentration are described, and a rudimentary method for computing current distribution in solid rails and a rectangular armature is shown to have promising accuracy with respect to outside finite element results. The magnetic field is modeled with two methods using the Biot-Savart law, and generally good agreement is obtained with respect to finite element methods (5.8% error on average). To get this agreement, a factor of 2 is added to the original formulation after seeing a reliable offset with FEM results. Three inductance gradient calculations are assessed, and though all agree with FEM results, the Kerrisk method and a regression analysis method developed by Murugan et al. (referred to as the LRM here) perform the best. Six railgun force computation methods are investigated, including the traditional railgun force equation, an equation produced by Waindok and Piekielny, and four methods inspired by the work of Xu et al. Overall, good agreement between the models and outside data is found, but each model’s accuracy varies significantly between comparisons. Lastly, an approximation of the temperature profile in railgun rails originally presented by McCorkle and Bahder is replicated. In total, this work describes railgun technology and moderately complex railgun modeling methods, but is inconclusive about the presence of a middle-ground modeling method.


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