Debris Hazards

Debris fragments are produced when a vehicle explodes, breaks up, or is destroyed in the atmosphere.  These fragments may be hazardous to people in aircraft, on the ground, and on ships.  ACTA’s debris risk codes include physics-based simulations of malfunctions, flight termination logic, debris fall, and the vulnerability of people, vehicles, and structures.  Our tools provide maximum flexibility to achieve mission objectives within safety constraints.

Explosion Effects

Launch vehicle explosions and ground impact of an intact vehicle or solid rocket motor segments pose hazards to unsheltered people and occupants of buildings.  Our range safety software incorporates physics-based models that predict air blast damage and casualties/fatalities to vulnerable people in the open and in various structure types. 

ACTA has performed many site-specific studies to evaluate the impacts of satellite processing and storage magazine explosions to adjacent buildings and public roadways, including the effects of air blast and primary and secondary fragmentation.

Toxic Material Hazards

Thousands of pounds of toxic gases can be released in a massive fireball when a launch vehicle fails. ACTA enhanced the atmospheric dispersion models used by the Air Force and NASA to predict launch area toxic hazards and risks and helped the FAA define toxic hazard assessment protocols for input to commercial space launch regulations.

Our Launch Area Toxic Risk Assessment-3D computer code (LATRA3D) simulates the formation, buoyant rise and dispersion of exhaust clouds and plumes resulting from launch vehicle failures and normal flight.  The code produces casualty expectations, risk profiles, and toxic hazard corridor information.

Blast Wave Propagation

Blast waves resulting from large, near-pad explosions can be affected by weather conditions as a function of altitude, which bends the outgoing shock waves, turn them around and focus them to the ground at great distances.  The distant focusing overpressure (DFO) phenomenon can result in significant overpressure levels at large distances in localized areas and potentially break windows and cause glass shard injuries. 

Our specialized DFO software (BlastDFO) incorporates real-time weather data and predicts the potential for window breakage and casualties if an on-pad or early-flight explosion occurs.  BlastDFO results are compared to range acceptance criteria and are used in the hours preceding a launch to make a "go" or "no-go" decision.

Fire Hazards

Severe burns and death may result from industrial fires and rocket failures. Our models quantify burn injury and death risk from refinery accidents, accidental rocket motor ignitions and propellant explosions. Our custom software is used to model particularly complex facility geometries.

Directed Energy (Laser)

Operation of High Energy Lasers can result in damage or injury at great distances. Even brief exposure to a direct or reflected beam can damage sensitive electronics or blind a pilot potentially leading to an aircraft crash. Management of these risks must consider both planned operation of the weapon system and its potential to malfunction. ACTA developed tools for the Air Force and the Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate to manage the risks for a variety of directed energy weapons, ranging from the Airborne Laser to tactical lasers designed for battlefield use.

Regulatory & Policy

The growing number and complexity of launch operations has created challenges to regulators, ranges, and operators.  Increasing flexibility is desired, without compromising safety.

ACTA’s research has been the basis for defining protection criteria for people and assets.  In addition, our work has provided the foundation for matching the complexity of analyses with the level of risk to be managed.

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© 2019 by ACTA, LLC