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Highly Reliable Solutions: Pyrotechnic Systems

An Exclusive Article about Pyrotechnic Systems in the TÜBİTAK SAGE Product Inventory

Issue 105

Derived from a Greek word, meaning "the art of fire", pyrotechnics are in the class of energetic materials, including explosives and propellants. Pyrotechnic compositions consist of an oxidizing agent and a fuel that produce an exothermic self-sustaining reaction when heated to ignition temperature [1].

Pyrotechnics are used to refer not only to pyrotechnic compositions but also to its products, so called pyrotechnic systems. Pyrotechnic systems consist of a broad family of sophisticated one-shot devices that deal with producing heat, light, smoke, sound, motion and/or combination of these [2, 3]. Their unique properties are as follows:

  • low weight and small size,
  • low activation energy requirement,
  • high reliability (Reliability>99, Confidence Level>95),
  • short activation time (<20 ms),
  • long and maintenance free shelf life (>10 years),
  • wide operating temperature range,
  • survive and operate at extreme environmental conditions (vibration, mechanical and thermal shock, acceleration, humidity, salt fog etc.),
  • ability to deliver more energy in a short time (ms) than any other mechanical devices,performance characteristics specific to system requirements

These unique properties make them crucial components especially for the defense industry. Pyrotechnic systems are preferred in military munitions, stand-off missiles, air, space and underwater vehicles to provide ignition, pressure and mechanical requirements including emergency and life-saving applications such as seat ejection systems and rescue flares [6]. Beyond the defense industry, pyrotechnic systems are also used in civilian systems such as airbags in the automotive industry, in the crafting of fireworks, in blasting in mining via gas pressure and in safety matches etc.

Pyrotechnic systems, have been used for a variety of work functions aboard aerospace vehicles since 1945 [4], and are divided into groups according to their specific performance properties. Most widely used pyrotechnic systems and their missions are listed in below table.

Pyrotechnic System

Mission

Initiators

initiation of rocket motor igniters,

activation of thermal batteries

functioning of pyrotechnic actuated systems

Pressure Cartridges

meet moderate pressure requirements of subsystems

Gas Generators

meet high pressure requirements of subsystems

Pin Pullers

release side forces applied on pin surface

Pin Pushers

rupturing/pushing requirements of subsystems

Cable Cutters

release subsystems by cutting cables/wires

Pyrotechnic Valves

opening or closing of fluid line

Pyrotechnic Bolts

carry high tension loads and separation of loads after activation

Rocket Motor Igniters

ignition of rocket motor

Depending on the munition characteristics more than 30 pyrotechnic systems could be used in one munition. In contrast, in spacecraft there is a higher need for pyrotechnic systems. It was declared that in the Mercury program, which ran from 1958 through 1963, 46 pyrotechnic systems were used whereas in the Apollo (CSM/SLA/LM) program 314 pyrotechnic systems were used [4]. It was also concluded that pyrotechnic systems have been singularly responsible for the success of many of the critical mechanical functions in aerospace programs [5].

Pyrotechnic systems research and development activities started in 2007 within the scope of initiator requirements of thermal batteries at TÜBİTAK SAGE. Since then several pyrotechnic systems were designed, qualified and produced to meet the pyrotechnic system requirements of the national defense industry. 

With the know-how gained since 2007, custom-based designs are performed, fulfilling project requirements, following qualification of pyrotechnic systems according to military standards especially MIL-STD-810G and MIL-DTL-23659F.

Due to growth in demand of pyrotechnic systems in national defense projects, the TÜBİTAK SAGE pyrotechnic systems design and production facility was founded in 2017. This facility enables the start-up of mass production activities, and in 2020 the annual production capacity of pyrotechnic systems reached 15,000 products. 

Pyrotechnic Systems in the TÜBİTAK SAGE Product Inventory

  • Initiators,
  • Detonators,
  • Exploding Foil Initiators (EFI),
  • Pressure Cartridges, 
  • Gas Generators, 
  • Pin Pullers, 
  • Pin Pushers, 
  • Cable Cutters, 
  • Pyrotechnic Bolts, 
  • Pyrotechnic Valves,
  • Through Bulkhead Initiators (TBI), 
  • Rocket Motor Igniters

In addition, research and development activities for design and production of laser initiated pyrotechnic systems are in progress. 

The goal of TÜBİTAK SAGE is to offer highly reliable solutions for national defense industry projects. In line with this purpose TÜBİTAK SAGE pyrotechnic systems research and development, qualification and production activities are in progress. With the growing experience and know – how, TÜBİTAK SAGE stands in a position ready to make future contributions to the National Space Program of Turkey 

References
[1] Engineering Design Handbook: Military Pyrotechnics, Part One, Theory and Application, AMCP 706-185, 1967.
[2] Dillehay D.R., Pyrotechnic Chemistry, Pyrotechnic Reference Series No. 4, Journal of Pyrotechnics, 2004.
[3] Lucy M.H., Hardy R.C., Kist E.H., Watson J.J., Wise S.A., Report on Alternatıve Devıces to Pyrotechnics on Spacecraft, 10th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, USA, 1996.
[4] Lake E. R., Thompson S. J., Drexelius V. W., A Study of the Role of Pyrotechnic Systems on the Space Shuttle Program, Technical Report, NASA CR-2292, USA, 1973.
[5] Bement L.J., Schimme M.L., A Manual for Pyrotechnic Design, Development and Qualification, NASA Technical Memorandum 110172, N95-31358, USA, 1995.
[6] Brauer K.O., Handbook of Pyrotechnics, Chemical Publishing Co., Inc., USA, 1974.