The Air Force has a problem. It keeps developing bigger and better weapons, but testing these weapons is becoming a bit too expensive for their tastes. Basically, everything they shoot at gets transformed into a fine mist. They want to know if there’s a way to repeatedly shoot the same target to make testing easier and cheaper. So, with typical military loquaciousness, they said, “The air force needs something to hit something that doesn’t destroy it.”
Students at Rice University figured they’d build a device that would catch Air Force-grade artillery rounds. Should be easy as pie, right?
As it turns out, they’ve actually come up with a pretty simple and ingenious design. They suspend a tank of water above the projectile’s intended path and then unleash the water just before firing. The projectile travels through the water, slowing it down enough to significantly reduce its speed.
Their initial tests with an aircraft-grade aluminum projectile that travels at 50 mph seems promising. What makes the design so brilliant is that it can be infinitely extended. All you need to do is extend the tank to make it longer, and theoretically you could slow down just about any projectile enough to make lose all of its velocity. Once you’re done, just fill it with more water and you’re good to go. Pretty clever, isn’t it?