A nitrogen-powered gas gun is prepared for the Alternative Pyroshock Test by installing a resonant cone to a resonant beam. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Sandia National Laboratories has successfully demonstrated a new, more environmentally friendly method to test a rocket part to ensure its avionics can withstand the shock from stage separation during flight. The Alternative Pyroshock Test uses a nitrogen-powered gas gun to shoot a 100-pound steel projectile into a steel resonant beam, which then transfers energy through a resonant cone attached to the part being tested. The resulting energy transfer mimics the conditions of stage separation in space.

Until now, pyroshock tests to ensure aerospace parts were ready for the rigors of flight had used explosives encased in lead to provide the impacts to parts needed for such experiments. The lead and explosives were environmental hazards, so cleanup was costly and time-consuming.