Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Steven Folkman


Pyrotechnic shock events used during stage separation on rocket vehicles produce high amplitude short duration structural response that can lead to malfunction or degradation of electronic components, cracks and fractures in brittle materials, local plastic deformation, and can cause materials to experience accelerated fatigue life. These transient loads propagate as waves through the structural media losing energy as they travel outward from the source. This work assessed available test data in an effort to better understand attenuation characteristics associated with wave propagation and attempted to update a historical standard defined by the Martin Marietta Corporation in the late 1960's using out of date data acquisition systems. Two data sets were available for consideration. The first data set came from a test that used a flight like cylinder used in NASA's Ares I-X program, and the second from a test conducted with a at plate. Both data sets suggested that the historical standard was not a conservative estimate of shock attenuation with distance, however, the variation in the test data did not lend to recommending an update to the standard.

Beyond considering attenuation with distance an effort was made to model the at plate configuration using finite element analysis. The available at plate data consisted of three groups of tests, each with a unique charge density linear shape charge (LSC) used to cut an aluminum plate. The model was tuned to a representative test using the lowest charge density LSC as input. The correlated model was then used to predict the other two cases by linearly scaling the input load based on the relative difference in charge density. The resulting model predictions were then compared with available empirical data. Aside from differences in amplitude due to nonlinearities associated with scaling the charge density of the LSC, the model predictions matched the available test data reasonably well. Finally, modeling best practices were recommended when using industry standard software to predict shock response on structures. As part of the best practices documented, a frequency dependent damping schedule that can be used in model development when no data is available is provided.