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Monday, April 15, 2019

Speaking Of Bullets...

     The current world-record for highest cannon projectile flight is held by Project HARP’s 16-inch space gun prototype, which fired a 397 pound projectile to record height of 590,550 ft, or 110 miles, in Yuma, Arizona, on November 18th, 1966. The projectile’s trajectory briefly sent it into space, making it the first cannon-fired projectile to exit the atmosphere. 
     Prior to that, the Paris Gun (German: Paris-Geschutz) was a German long-range siege gun used to bombard Paris during World War I. It was in service from March to August 1918. Its 234 pound shells had a range of about 80 miles with a maximum altitude of about 26.3 miles. 
WWI Paris Gun

     During World War II, the German V-3 cannon program (less well known than the V-2 rocket or V-1 flying bomb) was an attempt to build something approaching a space gun. Based in the Pas-de-Calais area of France, it was planned to be more devastating than the other Nazi weapons. The cannon was capable of launching 309 pound, 6 inch diameter shells over a distance of 55 miles. It was destroyed by RAF bombing using blockbuster bombs in July 1944.

     A space gun, also known as Verne guns because of its appearance in From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne, is a method of launching an object into space using a large gun. 
     Space guns could thus potentially provide a method of non-rocket space launch and it has been conjectured that they could place satellites into orbit. However, in order to escape the Earth's gravitational pull a velocity of about 25,050 mph is required, but that speed is too far fast for practical purposes and most likely the projectile would burn up due to aerodynamic heating or be torn apart by aerodynamic drag. The large g-force experienced by firing a space gun would be incapable of safely launching humans or delicate instruments. 
     In the 1960s Project HARP, a joint US and Canada defense project, a US Navy 16 inch, 100 caliber gun was used to fire a 400 pound projectile at 8,050 mph and reach a height of 110 miles, a suborbital spaceflight. A space gun has never successfully launched a projectile into orbit or out of Earth's gravitational pull. 

     Gerald Bull (March 9, 1928 – March 22, 1990) was a Canadian engineer who developed long-range artillery. He moved from project to project in his quest to economically launch a satellite using a huge artillery piece and designed the Project Babylon supergun for the Iraqi government. Bull was assassinated outside his apartment in Brussels, Belgium. His assassination is widely believed to be the work of the Mossad because of his work for the Iraqi government. Bull's story is a real life Whodunit that you can read about HERE.
     You can read the fascinating story of the space guns HERE and watch a documentary on them HERE.

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