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Alabama researchers find new way to test aging Army missiles

Alabama A&M University (Dtg84/WikiCommons)
February 15, 2020

Researchers at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville say they may have a new way to test whether aging Army missiles are still good to fire. The breakthrough could save the military “millions of dollars,” they believe.

Dr. Paul Ruffin, a senior researcher and adjunct professor, says the Army currently takes older missiles apart to see if they are usable. “We found Optical Raman Spectroscopy can look at a missile’s propellant to determine whether the missile is still good,” Ruffin said in a university release. “The Raman probe can be inserted in the motor, and it shows us whether the propellant in the rocket motor is still useful.”

Dr. James Parker, a program manager in the Army Research Office, visited A&M this week to review the research. “It’s costly the way that it’s done now,” Parker said, “because you have to actually sacrifice a missile. In the absence of another method, it’s all we’ve got.” But Parker said the method developed at A&M “looks very promising.”

The research is part of a three-year, $376,000 agreement between A&M and the Army. “The project is really important,” Parker said. “I think it’s going to have a practical effect on soldiers in the field who are relying on missiles. They need to know that if they need to use that weapon system, if it’s going to work or not.”

A&M’s team of physicists includes Ruffin, Dr. Anup Sharma, Dr. Carlton Farley, Dr. Aschalew Kassu and Dr. Michael Curley. Two student researchers are also involved, applied physics doctoral candidate Jonathan Mills, and Alexandria Barnes, who received her master’s in applied physics in December.

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