Experiments performed in a ballistic range are low cost relative to full-scale flight tests ( 10's of thousands versus 10's of millions of dollars ) and can be implemented on a relatively fast turnaround basis - weeks versus months to years for full-scale tests. This relatively low cost and rapid response is useful in the early stages of program definition by providing the capability for screening concepts for down-select of program options. Experimental data at critical peg points can also reduce risks by validating computer simulations.
The two major areas of application for this facility are in phenomenology related to hypervelocity impact and hypervelocity flight in the earth's atmosphere. The applications in hypervelocity impact include the development and evaluation of the lethality of kinetic energy weapons for strategic and tactical systems and kill assessment. The hypervelocity impact tests can involve single or multiple fragments, single or multiple rods and various configurations of hit-to-kill vehicles. The UAH/ARC has demonstrated capabilities to vary and evaluate projectile parameters which include mass, materials, geometry, velocity, impact location, and active attitude control of projectile pitch/yaw. This facility has also demonstrated the capability to evaluate various target configurations and materials which can vary in size from a few to several thousand pounds.
The hypersonic flight phenomenology tests can be used for studies of signature and hypersonic flow related to re-entry, the effects of high-speed flight on interceptor sensors, and for propulsion research with regard to high-speed vehicle/inlet flow and combustion. The range has proven its value in developing the understanding of the physical basis for coherent radar signatures scattered from the body and wakes of re-entry vehicles. The ballistics range has also demonstrated its capability to determine the effects of boundary layer plasma on the bore-sight error of millimeter wave sensors on-board interceptors. For aero-optics and aero-thermal effects studies, it is possible to perform experiments in which 1/4 to about 1/2 scale fore-body models of the interceptor configuration are launched at full-scale flight velocities. High-speed flow and combustion can be investigated by launching scaled models under free-flight conditions through various simulated altitudes from ground level to about 65 km.