Ballistic Missile Basics

A ballistic missile (BM) is a a missile that has a ballistic trajectory over most of its flight path, regardless of whether or not it is a weapon-delivery vehicle. Ballistic missiles are categorized according to their range, the maximum distance measured along the surface of the earth's ellipsoid from the point of launch of a ballistic missile to the point of impact of the last element of its payload. Various schemes are used by different countries to categorize the ranges of ballistic missiles. The United States divides missiles into four range classes.
Intercontinental Ballistic Missile kilometers Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile kilometers Medium-Range Ballistic Missile kilometers Short-Range Ballistic missile kilometers Strategic kilometers Operational-Strategic kilometers Operational kilometers Operational-Tactical kilometers Tactical kilometers ICBM IRBM MRBM SRBM over 5500 3000 to 5500 1000 to 3000 up to 1000

The Soviet and Russian military developed a system of five range classes.
over 1000 500 to 1000 300 to 50 to up to 500 300 50

The 1987 Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles [INF Treaty] required elimination of all Soviet and American longerrange intermediate nuclear force (LRINF) missiles with ranges between 1,000 and 5,500 kilometers, as well as shorter-range intermediate nuclear force (SRINF) missiles with ranges between 500 and 1,000 kilometers. The Missile Technology Control Regime initially focused on missiles with ranges greater than 300 kilometers, the range of the Soviet SCUD missile. Delivery systems vary in their flight profile, speed of delivery, mission flexibility, autonomy, and detectability. Each of these considerations is important when planning a chemical or biological attack. Ballistic missiles have a prescribed course that cannot be altered after the missile has burned its fuel, unless a warhead maneuvers independently of the missile or some form of terminal guidance is provided. A pure ballistic trajectory limits the effectiveness of a chemical or biological attack because, generally, the reentry speed is so high that it is difficult to distribute the agent in a diffuse cloud or with sufficient precision to ensure a release under the shear layer of the atmosphere. In addition, thermal heating upon reentry, or during release, may degrade the quality of the chemical or biological agent. U.S. experience has shown that often less than

This high specific gravity tends to concentrate weight at certain points in the flight vehicle. which determines characteristics of the delivery system. and conventional weapons all have specific gravities near 1. Nuclear weap-ons cannot be retrofitted to fit the available space. Even with these limitations on ballistic missile delivery of airborne agents. Nuclear weapons also have a different distribution of weight within the volume they occupy. Nuclear weapons destroy . The principal difference is the size. a designer has to consider the aerodynamic balance of the vehicle and the required size of control system to maintain a stable flight profile while carrying these concentrations of weight. artillery shells). Since virtually all WMD delivery systems must fly through the atmosphere during a portion of their trip to a target. weighs more per unit of volume than most other materials. geometric considerations often influence the selection of a delivery system. according to United Nations� inspection reports. so these materials may be placed further from the center of gravity of the vehicle without providing large compensating control forces and moments.. such as its fuselage girth. only a small portion of the target is effectively covered. Chemical. biological. and inertial properties of the warhead.0 gram/cc. In some special applications. with sufficient warning. People in Tel Aviv and Riyadh received enough warning of SCUD missile attacks to don gas masks and seek shelter indoors before the missiles arrived.5 percent of a chemical or biological agent remains potent after flight and release from a ballistic missile without appropriate heat shielding. Iraq had built chemical warheads for its SCUDs. they can be designed to fit into a variety of munitions (e. as proved in the Allied experience during the Gulf War. Nuclear weapons differ markedly from chemical. However. biological. however.g. A ballistic missile has a relatively short flight time. if the target footprint axis is not roughly aligned with the flight azimuth. the core of a nuclear weapon. The high speed of the ballistic missile makes it difficult to deviate too far from this azimuth. shape. or conventional warheads. the designer needs to include ballasting material�essentially useless weight�to balance the inertial forces and moments of the nuclear payload. and defenses against a ballistic missile attack are still less than completely effective. Consequently. civil defense measures can be implemented in time to protect civil populations against chemical or biological attack. can be packed into almost any available volume. Because nuclear weapons have a large kill radius against soft and unhardened targets. such as ballistic missile reentry vehicles and artillery shells. Generally. accuracy is a minor consideration in the delivery system selection as long as the targeting strategy calls for countervalue attacks. nuclear weapons have a lower limit on their weight and diameter. A ballistic missile also closely follows a pre-established azimuth from launch point to target. even when submunitions or other dispensed bomblets are ejected from the missile during reentry. Fissile material. which are usually fluids or dry powders. Chemical and biological weapons. Though these limits may be small.

The major components of a chemical rocket assembly are a rocket motor or engine. A rocket becomes a missile when the payload is a warhead and it is used as a weapon. propellant consisting of fuel and an oxidizer. Missile Components Sir Isaac Newton stated in his Third Law of Motion that "every action is accompanied by an equal and opposite reaction. Often. A rocket differs from other engines in that it carries its fuel and oxidizer internally. A rocket is called a launch vehicle when it is used to launch a satellite or other payload into orbit or deep space. While this is true of chemical and biological warheads as well. as is the case with ballistic missiles. because a large fraction of the error arises after the powered phase of the flight as the vehicle reenters the atmosphere. a frame to hold the components. There are a number of terms used to describe the power generated by a rocket. Thrust generated by the first stage must be greater than the weight of the complete missile while standing on the launch pad in order to get it moving. there is less need to compensate for this error with such technologies as terminal guidance or homing reentry vehicles. It should be capable of all-weather operations and should not betray its presence to air defense assets.people and the infrastructure they occupy. Most un-manned delivery systems with a range of less than 500 kilometers easily meet these criteria. A shoulder fired rocket such as the LAW has an average thrust of 600 lbs and a firing duration of 0. To be effective. A rocket is a machine that develops thrust by the rapid expulsion of matter. is the product of thrust and the effective firing duration. The rocket engine has to operate outside the atmosphere.2 . Thrust is the force generated. The impulse. therefore it will burn in the vacuum of space as well as within the Earth's atmosphere." A rocket operates on this principle. with a nuclear warhead. A jet aircraft operates on the same principle. They only require that the delivery system places the warhead with an accuracy of approximately 3 kilometers of a target if the weapon has a yield of 20 kilotons and to an even larger radius as the yield grows. sometimes called total impulse. control systems and a payload such as a warhead. measured in pounds or kilograms. The continuous ejection of a stream of hot gases in one direction causes a steady motion of the rocket in the opposite direction. using oxygen in the atmosphere to support combustion for its fuel. Once moving upward. thrust must continue to be generated to accelerate the missile against the force of the Earth's gravity. a delivery vehicle employed to spread chemical or biological agents must distribute the material in a fine cloud below a certain altitude and above the surface. the quality of the control system beyond a certain performance does not materially change the accuracy of a nuclear warhead. and so must carry its own oxidizer.

Dropping away the useless weight of stages whose propellant has been expended means less powerful engines can be used to continue the acceleration. A rocket's mass ratio is defined as the total mass at lift�off divided by the mass remaining after all the propellant has been consumed. It had an impulse of 1. its exact value will vary to some extent with the operating conditions and design of the rocket engine. A high mass ratio means that more propellant is pushing less missile and payload mass. Propulsion Many different types of rocket engines have been designed or proposed. Liquid propellant rocket engines burn two separately stored liquid chemicals. Specific impulse is defined as the thrust divided by the mass of propellant consumed per second. The specific impulse can be thought of as the number of seconds that one pound of propellant will produce one pound of thrust. used during the Apollo program. The Saturn V rocket. There are three categories of chemical propellants for rocket engines: liquid propellant.seconds for an impulse of 120 lb�sec. a fuel and an oxidizer. Most current long-range missiles consist of two or more rockets or stages that are stacked on top of each other. If thrust is expressed in pounds. The result is expressed in seconds. a specific impulse of 300 seconds is considered good. Higher values are better. When the first stage runs out of propellant or has reached the desired altitude and velocity. The first stage is the one that lifts the missile off the launch pad and is sometimes known also as a "booster" or "main stage". The propellant for a chemical rocket engine usually consists of a fuel and an oxidizer. Each category has advantages and disadvantages that make them best for certain applications and unsuitable for others. resulting in higher velocity. and hybrid propellant. . not only generated much more thrust but also for a much longer time. which in turn means more payload can be placed onto the target. Sometimes a catalyst is added to enhance the chemical reaction between the fuel and the oxidizer. The efficiency of a rocket engine is measured by its specific impulse (Isp). which means less propellant has to be carried.15 billion lb�sec. Although specific impulse is a characteristic of the propellant system. solid propellant. to produce thrust. A high mass ratio is necessary to achieve the high velocities needed for long-range missiles. The second stage is on top of the first. its rocket engine is turned off and it is separated so that the subsequent stages do not have to propel unnecessary mass. It is for this reason that different numbers are often quoted for a given propellant or combination of propellants. and so on.

variable thrust. liquefied gases as the fuel and the oxidizer. In gaseous form. By their nature. making it possible to store them in large quantities in smaller tanks. oxygen and hydrogen have such low densities that extremely large tanks would be required to store them aboard a rocket. Hypergolic Propellant A hypergolic propellant is composed of a fuel and oxidizer that ignite when they come into contact with each other. RP1 delivers a specific impulse considerably less than that of cryogenic fuels. The liquid fuel and oxidizer are pumped from the storage tanks to an expansion chamber and injected into the combustion chamber where they are mixed and ignited by a flame or spark. No spark is needed. and a restart capability. precise fuel and oxidizer injection metering." LOX remains in a liquid state at temperatures of minus 298 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 183 degrees Celsius). LH2 remains liquid at temperatures of minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 253 degrees Celsius).Cryogenic Propellant A cryogenic propellant is one that uses very cold. high speed/high capacity pumps. However. and is called RP-1 (Refined Petroleum). Liquid oxygen boils at �297 F and liquid hydrogen boils at �423 F. Advantages of liquid propellant rockets include the highest energy per unit of fuel mass. The fuel expands as it burns and the hot exhaust gases are directed out of the nozzle to provide thrust. Disadvantages of liquid propellant rockets include requirements for complex storage containers. Hypergolic propellants are typically corrosive so storage requires special containers and safety facilities. the rocket petroleum is highly refined. The word cryogenic is a derivative of the Greek kyros. which serves as an oxidizer. RP-1 is a fuel in the first-stage boosters of the Delta and AtlasCentaur rockets. The petroleum used as a rocket fuel is a type of kerosene similar to the sort burned in heaters and lamps. But cooling and compressing them into liquids vastly increases their density. and do not require the complicated storage facilities that are mandatory with cryogenic propellants.propellants Monopropellants combine the properties of fuel and oxidizer in one chemical. However. . Monopropellants are typically used in adjusting or vernier rockets to provide thrust for making changes to trajectories once the main stages of the rocket have burnd out. monopropellants are unstable and dangerous. which is a fuel. Raw materials. It is burned with liquid oxygen (the oxidizer) to provide thrust. and liquid hydrogen (LH2). It also powered the first stages of the Saturn 1B and Saturn V. Cryogenic propellants require special insulated containers and vents to allow gas from the evaporating liquids to escape. meaning "ice cold. and difficulty in storing fueled rockets. Mono. complex plumbing. Cryogenic propellants are liquid oxygen (LOX). these propellants are typically liquid at room temperature. such as oxygen and hydrogen are in abundant supply and a relatively easy to manufacture.

The Reaction Control System (RCS) uses hypergols for attitude control. Oxygen is much heavier. Nitrogen tetroxide is a reddish fluid. Hypergolic propellants are fuels and oxidizers which ignite on contact with each other and need no ignition source.The distressing tendency of cryogenics to return to gaseous form unless kept supercool makes them difficult to store over long periods of time.8 liters). The rewards for mastering LH2 are substantial for spaceflight applications. Hydrogen has about 40 percent more "bounce to the ounce" than other rocket fuels. leaving a by-product of water vapor. that the mission can be accomplished with a larger payload than is possible with the same mass of conventional propellants. sweetish smell. and are handled under the most stringent safety conditions. have a specific impulse of 444 seconds. nitrogen/hydrogen compound with a "fishy" smell. The high efficiency engines aboard the Space Shuttle orbiter use liquid hydrogen and oxygen and have a specific impulse rating of 455 seconds. For comparison purposes. also burned the LOX/LH2 combination. The fuel is monomethyl hydrazine (MMH) and the oxidizer is nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). The same propellant combination used by the booster stages of the Atlas/Centaur rocket yielded 258 seconds in the booster engine and 220 seconds in the sustainer. and on the second stage of the Delta. and on the second stage of the Saturn 1B. and hence less satisfactory as propellants for military rockets. The efficiency of the MMH/N2O4 .8 liters). Another plus is their storability -. and is very light. weighing about one-half pound (0. It is similar to ammonia. The Space Shuttle orbiter uses hypergols in its Orbital Maneuvering Subsystem (OMS) for orbital insertion. the United States' first liquid-hydrogen/liquidoxygen rocket stage. The fuel cells in an orbiter use these two liquids to produce electrical power through a process best described as electrolysis in reverse. the liquid oxygen/kerosene combination used in the cluster of five F-1 engines in the Saturn V first stage had specific impulse ratings of 260 seconds. The ability to use hydrogen means that a given mission can be accomplished with a smaller quantity of propellants (and a smaller vehicle). They had specific impulse ratings of 425 seconds. This easy start and restart capability makes them attractive for both manned and unmanned spacecraft maneuvering systems. Hydrazine is a clear. major orbital maneuvers and deorbit. In short. It has a pungent. The J-2 engines used on the Saturn V second and third stages.they do not have the extreme temperature requirements of cryogenics. or alternately. hydrogen yields more power per gallon. Both fluids are highly toxic. Liquid hydrogen and oxygen burn clean. weighing about 10 pounds (4. The RL-10 engines on the Centaur.45 kilogram) per gallon (3.5 kilograms) per gallon (3. Hypergolic propellants are used in the core liquid propellant stages of the Titan family of launch vehicles. But the high efficiency of the liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen combination makes the low-temperature problem worth coping with when reaction time and storability are not too critical. which must be kept launch-ready for months at a time.

Each reusable booster contains 1. When ignited. In . thus the propellant burns faster than planned. No propellant pumps are required thus the rocket engines are less complicated. in the form of a hard.04 percent). vibration and acceleration.600 kilograms) of propellant. Solid propellant rockets range in size from the Light Antitank Weapon to the 100 foot long Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) used on the side of the main fuel tank of the Space Shuttle. turned off and then restarted because they burn until all the propellant is used. from top to bottom of all four segments. The binder that holds the mixture together is polybutadiene acrylic acid acrylonitrile (12. rubbery substance with a consistency like that of the eraser on a pencil. The surface area of the burning propellant is critical in determining the amount of thrust being generated. with an iron oxidizer powder (0. once ignited. extending from the top to about two thirds of the way down. The fuel is a form of powdered aluminum (16 percent). Since the star-shaped channel provides more exposed surface than the simple cylinder in the lower three segments. filled with a mixture of solid-form chemicals (fuel and oxidizer) which burn at a rapid rate. Cracks in the solid propellant increase the exposed surface area. The uppermost one has a star-shaped. dating back to the ancient Chinese. The higher efficiency of the OMS system is attributed to higher expansion ratios in the nozzles and higher pressures in the combustion chambers.1 million pounds (453.combination in the Space Shuttle orbiter ranges from 260 to 280 seconds in the RCS. which forms 69. If too many cracks develop. They are relatively insensitive to shock. the propellant burns on all exposed surfaces.93 percent of the mixture. The Space Shuttle uses the largest solid rocket motors ever built and flown. the total thrust is greatest at liftoff. Solid propellant rockets are basically combustion chamber tubes packed with a propellant that contains both fuel and oxidizer blended together uniformly. expelling hot gases from a nozzle to achieve thrust. The propellant in the star-shaped segment is also thicker than that in the other three. The principal advantage is that a solid propellant is relatively stable therefore it can be manufactured and stored for future use. The four center segments are the ones containing propellant. Solid propellants have a high density and can burn very fast. The oxidizer in the Shuttle solids is ammonium perchlorate. precision operation. and gradually decreases as the points of the star burn away. usually steel. The solid-propellant motor is the oldest and simplest of all forms of rocketry. solid propellants cannot be throttled. where it gradually rounds out until the channel assumes the form of a cylinder. A solid propellant always contains its own oxygen supply.07) as a catalyst. pressure inside the engine rises significantly and the rocket engine may explode. to 313 seconds in the OMS. This opening connects to a similar cylindrical hole through the center of the second through fourth segments. It's simply a casing. until that channel also becomes cylindrical in shape. hollow channel in the center. Manufacture of a solid propellant is an expensive. Disadvantages are that.

Disadvantages are that these engines do not generate as much energy per pound of propellant as liquid propellant engines and they are more complex than standard solid fueled engines. similar to ordinary solid fueled rockets. packed with a solid chemical. The attitude control system functions to maintain the missile in the desired attitude on the ordered flight path by controlling the missile in pitch. The specific impulse of the Space Shuttle solid rocket booster propellant is 242 seconds at sea level and 268. pitch. they can be stored for long periods like solid propellant rockets. The binder and epoxy also burn as fuel. Hybrid propellant rocket engines attempt to capture the advantages of both liquid and solid fueled rocket engines. The attitude control system operates as an auto-pilot. usually the oxidizer. adding thrust. and yaw. The basic design of a hybrid consists of a combustion chamber tube. Hybrid propellant rocket engines are still in development and are not yet available for operational use. The control units will also adjust the control to stabilize the missile in roll. The engine can be restarted by resuming the flow of the liquid chemical. they can be throttled and restarted like liquid propellant rockets.6 seconds in a vacuum. plumbing) of standard liquid propellant engines. roll. They are also less sensitive to damage to the solid fuel component than standard solid propellant system. Above the combustion chamber tube is a tank. The rocket engine can be stopped by cutting off the flow of the liquid chemical. ignition occurs and thrust is produced. The ability to throttle the engine is achieved by varying the amount of liquid injected per unit of time. and they contain less than half the complex machinery (pumps. The control units make corrective adjustments of the missile control surfaces when a guidance error is present.addition. No matter how much solid component surface area is exposed. The function of the flight path control system is to determine the flight path necessary for target interception and to generate the orders to the attitude control system to maintain that path. only so much can be burned in the presence of the liquid component.96 percent). the mixture contains an epoxy-curing agent (1. Hybrid rockets control the combustion rate by metering the liquid component of the fuel. and when the liquid chemical is injected into the combustion chamber containing the solid chemical. Guidance and stabilization . The two chemicals are hypergolic. usually the fuel. Every missile guidance system consists of an attitude control system and a flight path control system. The operation of a guidance and control system is based on the principle of feedback. Guidance System The guidance system in a missile can be compared to the human pilot of an airplane. Other advantages of hybrid propellant rocket engines are that they provide higher energy than standard solid propellant rockets. and yaw. damping out fluctuations that tend to deflect the missile from its ordered flight path. containing a complementary reactive liquid chemical.

When the missile is given a forward acceleration. or if the ball is touched by another person. which are preset into the missile. However. Inertial guidance. When targets are located at great distances from the launching site. The simplest principle for guidance is the law of inertia. In their basic form such devices are sim-ple. In this case. The heart of the inertial navigation system for missiles is an arrangement of accelerometers that will detect any change in vehicular motion. controlling the . The movement of the mass (weight) is in accordance with Newton's second law of motion. An accelerometer. it is possible for the ball to be incorrectly aimed and then have another person touch it to change its course so it will hit the basket. the distance covered could be calculated simply by multiplying the speed by time of flight. the shooter has no further control over it. which states that the acceleration of a body is directly proportional to the force applied and inversely proportional to the mass of the body. Although there is no electromagnetic contact between the launching site and the missile after launch. For example. and by a double-step process measure distance. could be used to measure acceleration along the fore-and-aft axis of the missile. Navigational systems that may be used for long-range missile guidance include inertial and celestial. the speed also varies. some form of navigational guidance must be used. correction signals are sent to the control system. a pendulum. However. If he has aimed incorrectly. The inertial guidance method is used for the same purpose as the preset method and is actually a refinement of that method. and the result is applied as an error signal to the control system. Double-integrating accelerometers are devices that are sensitive to acceleration. is a device for mea-suring acceleration. The inertially guided missile also receives programmed informa-tion prior to launch. an attempt is made to give the ball a trajectory that will terminate in the basket. once the ball is released. the second player has provided a form of guidance. if the missile is off course. Accuracy at long distances is achieved only after exacting and comprehensive calculations of the flight path have been made. free to swing on a transverse axis. as its name implies. In aiming a basketball at a basket. the second integration is necessary. If the missile speed were constant. For that reason. Usually there are three double-integrating accelerometers continuously measuring the distance traveled by the missile in three directions--range. the pendulum will tend to lag aft. The inertial guidance system sup-plies the intermediate push to get the missile back on the proper trajectory. and azimuth. the missile is able to make corrections to its flight path with amazing precision.corrections are combined. These measured distances are then compared with the desired dis-tances. the actual displacement of the pendulum form its original position will be a function of the magnitude of the accelerating force. altitude. it will miss the bas-ket. But because the acceleration varies.

The unpredictable outside forces working on the missile are continuously sensed by the accelerometers. All in-flight accelerations are continuously measured by this arrangement. The inertial method has proved far more reliable than any other long-range guidance method developed to date. Celestial Reference. The missile must carry all this complicated equipment and must fly above the clouds to assure star visibility. ICBM and SLBM systems at present use celestial guidance. The United States considered radio guidance again in the late 1980�s for mobile missiles but dropped the idea in favor of a Global Positioning System (GPS). From this. And performance for these systems degrades because of the rocket plume and radio noise. because of the immediate presence of a radio signal when the system is turned on. and navigational star tables mechanically or electrically recorded. and the missile attitude control generates corresponding correction signals to maintain the proper trajectory. Advanced missile powers dropped radio guidance in the 1960�s and switched to autonomous inertial measuring units. Command Guidance Multi-source radio signals that allow a triangulation of position offer an alterna-tive to acceleration measurements. Navigation by fixed stars and the sun is highly desirable for long-range missiles since its accuracy is not dependent on range.flight path with accelerometers that are mounted on a gyro-stabilized platform. automatic star-tracking telescopes to determine star elevation angles with respect to the reference. The missile must be provided with a horizontal or a vertical reference to the earth. A computer in the missile continuously compares star observations with the time base and the navigational tables to determine the missile's present position. alert defenses that a missile launch is about to occur. A radio guidance system could transmit signals from the launch site. a time base. the proper signals are computed to steer the missile correctly toward the target. which are carried onboard the missile. Celestial guidance (also called stellar guidance) was used for the Mariner (unmanned spacecraft) interplanetary mission to the vicinity of Mars and Venus. Radio command and control schemes. A celestial navigation guidance system is a system designed for a predetermined path in which the missile course is adjusted continuously by reference to fixed stars. The system is based on the known apparent positions of stars or other celestial bodies with respect to a point on the surface of the earth at a given time. or an accurate transmitter array near the launch site to create the signals. . The use of inertial guidance takes much of the guesswork out of longrange missile delivery. The genera-ted solution enables the missile to continuously correct its flight path. Also.

GPS has significant application for an TBM outfitted with a post-boost vehicle (bus) or attitude control module that navigates a reentry vehicle to a more accurate trajectory. the missile will typically align. such as silicone elastomers). Theater ballistic missiles [TBMs] require milliradian range angular accuracy to maintain control. and release a reentry vehicle [RV] on a trajectory toward a pre-selected target. Either of these methods. with flexibility in landing site selection. the exterior of the RV is protected from aerothermodynamic heating by a thermal protection system (TPS). and radiative heat shield (e. inertially stabilize. Primarily. Spherical and ballistic vehicles can only deorbit to selected sites which are on the orbital ground track. affects the vehicle systems complexity and the heating loads on the payload. in turn. The vehicle has the ability to deviate its reentry trajectory to reach selected landing sites "cross range" from the orbital track. A lifting reentry vehicle has many operational advantages over a non-lifting vehicle. . Methods which have been used to protect RVs in the past include: ablation (erosion of surface material. Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) are unlikely ever to be used in the control function of a ballistic missile. Reentry Vehicle Following the completion of the propulsive phase of the mission. After the vehicle reenters the atmosphere.these systems are very much subject to the effects of jamming or false signals. or a combination of them.g. it will decelerate to below sonic speeds. ceramic-based surface insulation systems). This. However. and to fine tune deorbit propulsion system errors. A disadvantage of the lifting shape over the non-lifting shape lies in the complexity and high cost associated with guidance and control of the lifting vehicle. the reentry loads can be minimized to almost any desired level. supplemental deceleration systems such as parachutes may be used. duration. During atmospheric reentry. In order to further reduce the velocity of the RV for delivery of chemical or biological agents. and flight path of reentry experienced by the vehicle. The best military grade GPS receivers produce positions with an uncertainty of tens of centimeters. the best angular resolution is roughly in the centiradian range.. If a missile has two of these receivers in its airframe spaced 10 meters apart. The aerodynamic shape configuration (ballistic or lifting) of a reentry vehicle determines the severity. A failure of the guidance or control system could render the vehicle uncontrollable and cause it to diverge a great distance off course. may be used to protect the RV against excessive heating.

The choice of systems to be used is dependent upon the vehicle design. It has a silicone elastomer base. to date. high surface temperatures are reached and heat is dissipated by surface radiation. The heat generated during reentry is not only dependent on atmospheric density. produce less heat than ballistic hyperbolic descent designs because their velocity is typically lower. blunt nose RVs are heated less than slender ones. an area of compressed. Heat generation is not as severe on vehicles which are capable of some degree of lift during reentry.and mission-specific criteria. Its primary use is in high . pyrolysis of the surface material causing formation of a "char. heat sink. and radiator. The RV reenters the Earth's atmosphere at velocities of up to Mach (M) 25. and converts its kinetic energy primarily into thermal energy (heat). Within the stagnation zone.RVs possess a tremendous amount of kinetic energy. Thermal protection systems for the exterior of RVs which may be feasible include ablation. a full evaluation of thermal impacts during reentry is dependent on both vehicle. and missionspecific requirements of the warhead. Thermal protection systems are required for RVs to ensure the vehicle does not burn up during reentry. with silica filler and carbon fibers for shear strength. and lifting RV designs. The rejected chemical by-products then tend to concentrate in the ablation boundary layer where they further block convective heating. atmospheric friction decelerates it to below M 1. These ablative materials may be chemically constructed or made from natural materials. which use the glider principle. and radiator systems have not been used to protect the exterior surface of RVs from the thermal stress of reentry. radiative heat shield. heat sink. vaporization and thermal decomposition and then dissipated as the material vaporizes or erodes. ionized and stagnant air is formed." and the generation of chemical by-products which move through the char carrying heat outward towards the surface boundary.000�F). Temperatures generated within the hottest area (the stagnation zone) during ballistic reentry may exceed 11. an area immediately in front of the RV. but is also inversely proportional to the square root of the radius of the RV's nose cone and proportional to the cube of its velocity. Heat from the hot gas is transferred to the surface of the RV. In addition. extremely hot.100�C (20. Hence. transpiration. However. which must be dissipated during reentry as the vehicles decelerate to their impact or landing velocity.000�F). Thus. As the RV passes through the atmosphere. transpiration.760�C (5. Ablation cooling or simple ablation is a process in which heat energy is absorbed by a material (the heat shield) through melting. the temperature of the Apollo capsule surface reached about 2. A common man-made ablative material in current use is a firm silicone rubber whose chemical name is phenolmethylsiloxane. the reentry temperatures the RV may be subject to.

shear. During reentry. which is a glassy. . ceramic-type material composed of silicon. it is used on control surfaces and nose cones of hypervelocity vehicles. including the Mercury program. An ablative material known as polydimethylsiloxane has been used on manned reentry capsules in the past. high heatflux environments. atmospheric density is generally insufficient to cause the onset of ablation. the ablative processes begin in the upper atmosphere when the pyrolysis temperature of the material is reached resulting from an increase in atmospheric friction. An example of a natural material is the oak wood heat shield used on the Chinese FSW reentry vehicles. oxygen. An elastomeric silicon ablative material was used in the Discoverer program. and carbon. This material yields a carbonaceous char on pyrolysis. At altitudes above 120 km (75 mi). including some parts of the Space Shuttle.