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NIAR Opens New Ballistics And Impact Dynamics Lab

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Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research recently opened a new Ballistics and Impact Dynamics Research Lab within the former Britt Brown Arena at the Kansas Coliseum.

The new ballistics lab, part of NIAR’s environmental Test Labs, uses a custom built ballistic firing device to propel 22-50 caliber rounds into components inside a concrete containment building. The test is designed to simulate the impact of a structural failure on the aircraft.

The lab, led by director Paul Jonas, is one-of-a-kind and was designed specifically to better understand the dynamics of impact and material performance.

“Traditional ballistic test ranges are hard to access and provide little information to the designer on how to make the product safer and more reliable,” said Jonas. “This lab couples the material and analytical strengths of NIAR with a unique ability to capture data about the impact event and how the material behaves under those conditions.”

The lab’s headquarters is a control tower built on the side of the former arena, which overlooks and monitors all activities. Testing occurs within a heavily reinforced 25-by-25-foot concrete containment building that is designed to capture ballistic rounds and contain potential failure of pressurized oxygen bottles.

The firing range consists of a unique containment concept in which the ballistic firing device can be easily relocated, yet provide the security of containing the projectile. The containment tower can also be used for drop tests up to 35 feet.  High speed cameras and data recording equipment are an essential element of the lab.