Model Ballistics Firing Range
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The ‘Model Ballistics Firing Range’ was designed, built and operated on Orford Ness in 1955 by the RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) as part of a programme to improve the aerodynamics of projectiles, such as missiles, rockets and bullets, each having different profiles. Improvements in their ballistic behaviour were achieved after determining the best profile for each different type of projectile.
The Model Range comprised three structures (a) a sheet-metal, semi-circular roofed structure some 50m long and 4.9m wide, (b) a 17-pounder smoothbore gun and (c) a Control Room.
A scale-model of each projectile was fired from the large gun through the fully darkened Model Range ‘tunnel’ and its horizontal flight path was recorded as it passed in front of a series of high-speed cameras, each being illuminated by a ‘flash’ - created by a synchronised electrical discharge - as it did so, and the series of images created by the moving model was recorded on a ‘shadow graph’. The development and use of this 'Spark Photography’ technique started on Orford Ness in 1946, with the Model Range itself permitting repeated and accurate trials for each projectile.
In 1959 bomb ballistics trials on Orford Ness ended and the use of the dedicated Model Range ceased. After all its expensive and complex recording equipment had been removed the Model Range became an indoor shooting range for the Orford Ness staff.
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