Advanced science.  Applied technology.


SwRI Light-Gas Gun Facility now available

For immediate release

San Antonio — Feb. 22, 2017 — A 7,050 square-foot facility for launching projectiles at high speeds is now available at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

The centerpiece of the facility is a two-stage light-gas launcher featuring a 38-mm-diameter launch tube (1.50 caliber) with the ability to achieve velocities close to 7 kilometers per second (15,660 miles per hour).

“We are excited by this new hypervelocity capability,” said Dr. James Walker, director of SwRI’s Engineering Dynamics Department. “This launcher augments our work in armor and anti-armor technology, research in impact and penetration events, and developing protection for spacecraft from orbital debris. Its unique capabilities to launch large masses at high speeds complement the smaller launchers in our facility as well as our world-renowned computational impact modeling capabilities. With sophisticated diagnostic and analysis tools, including digital image correlation, this facility will allow us to explore new armament concepts and new engineering concepts for armor to protect land, sea, air, and space vehicles.”

The facility includes a control room, high-speed cameras (millions of frames per second), extensive flash X-ray equipment, and a variety of safety equipment. There is a steel-framed catwalk for access to the launcher, a 15-ton overhead crane, and easy access for forklifts for large target assemblies. Two large blast tanks on the flight line can contain the energetic and explosive elements used in today’s active and reactive protection systems.

For more than 65 years, SwRI has been involved in impact dynamics research and evaluation, conducting a variety of projects for the U.S. military, defense industry, NASA, and other U.S. government and allied entities.

For more information about the Light-Gas Gun Facility and the Engineering Dynamics Department at Southwest Research Institute, visit

For more information, contact SwRI Solutions.