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Development of a hypervelocity impacts facility at MCAST

Authors: Dr Leonardo Barilaro, ,
  • Institute: Institute of Engineering and Transport
  • Symposium: Emerging Technology and Creative Innovation
  • Day: 1 , Session: 2 , Location: Auditorium
  • Session Type: Medium 15 min (Presentation of ongoing research developments and findings) , Start: 12:30 , End: 12:55


In recent years Malta started to establish its role as one of the emerging nations in the Space Sector, supporting sustainable development and economic growth. The Malta Government’s aim is to create a regulatory framework and incentives which improves the nation attractiveness and capability to capitalise upon commercial activities related to the outer space. Through the promotion of Research and Innovation and STEM subjects which are vital for the operation of space activities, Malta is developing synergies with EU-level regulations concerning space policy development and space research support.

In this framework, the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) started its Aerospace Program in October 2020 and in October 2021 kicked-off the related MSc in Aerospace Engineering. MCAST vision is to create a center of excellence in the sector of Technology and Measurements for Aerospace with the aim of boosting the local academic research and industry, increasing international collaborations and enhancing the brand of the Institution.

The focus of the research presented is on the understanding of material properties subjected to impact situations, pivotal in different aerospace applications to guarantee safe operations. To address this topic, specific tools are required to evaluate the impact damage on structures and systems.

Light-Gas Gun (LGG) facilities can be applied to simulate different scenarios, varying the ballistic impacts conditions. Common types of light-gas guns are the single-stage LGG, two-stage LGG, and the shock tube. Single-stage LGG despite being relatively simple in concept, consisting of one pressure reservoir that accelerates a projectile through a barrel to the target, is a cutting-edge technology that presents unique mechanical challenges.

The conceptual evaluation of a single-stage LGG facility in Malta, done in cooperation between MCAST and the Centre of Studies and Activities for Space "G. Colombo"of University of Padova is described, and the possibilities and limitations of developing a single-stage light-gas gun to test materials for impact resistance are investigated. For this, the achievable projectile velocities with different driving gases, pressure reservoirs, and barrel lengths are analysed, together with a preliminary evaluation of the business opportunities in the growing aviation market and the emerging space sector in Malta.