Vol. 2 No. 2 June 2021

Table of Contents

    Gregory J. Scaven | President, PacSci EMC


    This article takes its cue from an informal discussion I had a few months ago with my team about a simple topic: What’s your favorite space-themed movie? There are so many great choices to consider. I was a teenager when the first Star Wars movie came out, so that was instantly what came to my mind. I can still remember one of the final scenes when the Death Star was defeated, and the entire theatre erupted in applause and cheers. It was as genuine a celebration of good over evil as I had ever experienced – certainly at the time it happened in 1977.

    That wasn’t, however, the film that I chose in response to my colleagues. Over my career, I’ve found that I’m sometimes better served when I pause before I answer with my gut instinct, and I need to think just a bit longer. It didn’t take me long to respond with perhaps the space film I’ve found the most inspirational – as well as perhaps in the list of my favorites – and the choice was obvious: Apollo 13.Most of us know the story surrounding Apollo 13. Some of us – me included – were alive at the time when the flight occurred – but it would seem most of us know the movie adaptation starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Ed Harris. I had no idea who Ed Harris was when I saw the movie – and while I admire him for his successful acting career – it was the man he portrayed that I will always and forever associate with this film as well as the historic flight itself: Gene Kranz.

    Gene Kranz helped build NASA from the ground up in the late 1950’s – but is perhaps most famous for his role as flight director for missions including both Apollo 11 and Apollo 13. History clearly shows that Mr. Kranz’s leadership was the difference-maker to ensure the crew stayed alive after an explosion on-board left the space craft without sufficient power to complete its mission. The only acceptable outcome was a safe return to Earth – and Kranz’s leadership clearly set the tone for the challenge before NASA: Failure is not an option.

    Crisis leadership during the Apollo 13 mission highlighted some clear lessons that should serve all business leaders – not just those associated with mission-critical responsibilities. Seeing these examples brought to life during the film continues to provide inspiration for me as I think about becoming a better leader for my team, and include these guiding concepts:

    1. Build a great team by being tough and competent.
    Mr. Kranz immediately gave his team trust. He stood behind every decision they made and ensured that when they entered the room as a team, they left the room the same way. He also knew that his trust as leader was earned, not simply given because of his title or position. He needed to trust his team could do their own jobs without his constant oversight. He insisted on accountability as a part of the culture at NASA. He knew this was needed, since there is no way possible for a leader to achieve mission success if they are planning to do everything themselves.

    2. Build a culture that encourages problem-solving and learning.
    One of my favorite Kranz quotes is “Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.” When things go wrong, it can be tempting to just offer solutions rather than taking time to truly understand the problem you are trying to solve. Learning by asking the right questions also requires leaders to have a growth mindset such that you’re focused on being just a little bit better tomorrow than you are today.

    3. Pause, Reflect, Decide.
    I believe the key take-away here is really around delegation. As an active-duty Army officer many years ago, we often discussed the key importance of understanding the commander’s intent. We don’t have the time to constantly push decisions upwards, and so we want to create in those that we trust the ability
    to take action consistent with the commander’s intent without waiting for a signal from above. This only happens when trust is reciprocated both up and down the entire chain of command.

    4. Have a strategy and a clearly articulated endpoint.
    For Kranz, during Apollo 13, the endpoint was crystal clear – the crew must return safely to Earth. Every action within the team was aligned to that goal alone. There were no deviations and no room for compromise. His focus on the objective was resolute. Mr. Kranz’s autobiography – Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond – is one of my personal favorite studies in true leadership. I encourage any of you who seek to be a better leader to add it to your own reading list. And at the very least…if you don’t have time to read the book, surely take the chance to appreciate Ed Harris as Gene Kranz in a moment of crisis – and appreciate how one leader can indeed make a life-saving difference.



    Today, PacSci EMC components can be found in hundreds of critical applications within our primary markets: missiles and munitions, military and commercial aircraft, and space and launch vehicles. Our pyrotechnic cutters have been used from 10,000 feet be-low sea level, all the way to the surface of Mars. Most recently, one of our cutters was successfully used on the NASA Mars Perseverance Rover (the parachute shown on the cover was cut to ensure a smooth landing for the rover.) In addition, we have cutters being used in helicopter emergency winch systems, seat ejection systems, missile and launch vehicle flight termination systems, and releasing stowed mechanisms on satellites.

    Cutter Targets
    Pyrotechnic cutters are used in many different applications to cut various types and sizes of materials. Cutting targets like transmission and electrical cables, steel wire cables, straps used on drogue chutes, air and fuel lines, and bolts or rods that release Marmon clamps or stowed mechanisms. Why pyrotechnics? So why pyrotechnics? Pyrotechnic cutters are highly reliable and can be stored for years without maintenance and still function properly when required.

    Recent Space Mission
    Similar to the aforementioned Perseverance Rover, one of our cutters was used during the Osiris-Rex mission in 2016. The mission was to collect a ground sample from a near Earth Asteroid. The sample was collected in October of 2020 and is now making its return to Earth (expected in 2023). The cutter was located at the bottom of the arm called the Touch & Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM). Once the sample was collected, the TAGSAM had to move it to the sample return capsule. Prior to the sealing the return capsule, two mechanical parts on the TAGSAM must first be disconnected – the tube that carried the nitrogen gas to the TAGSAM head during sample collection and the TAGSAM arm itself. That’s where our cutter cut this tube. The arm was then released, and the return capsule sealed for return to Earth.(A note about that cutter, it was exposed to space radiation at temperatures for four years prior to actuation. This was not the cutter’s first mission, it was originally qualified in 1999, for the NASA Genesis mission).

    Pyrotechnic Cutters

    Pyrotechnic cutters can be designed for a broad range of sizes and shapes to cut the various targets. They can range from small wires to straps to steel rods — one of our smallest cutters has a 0.060 inch through hole that cuts a single 24 gage wire. A larger cutter that cuts underwater transmission lines was more than 2.5 inches in diameter. Our electrically initiated cutters have a range of sizes that can cut through steel cables 3/32 inch all the way up to 3/4 inch diameter.

    One of our cutters used on a flight termination system cuts through two 440-volt cables to stop power from the generator on the missile. This cutter has a unique blade in that it is made of a non-metallic material. The non-metallic materials was used so the high voltage did not arc back through the blade, effectively reconnecting the power.

    The strap cutter, used to recover the SRBs for the space shuttle, cuts up to 4 plies of 13,500-pound Kevlar strapping. Four cutters, each with a dif-ferent pyro time delay, cut the four reefing lines to slowly open the parachutes. The strap cutter is a mechanically actuated cutter and uses pyro time delays ranging from 7-17 seconds, each one being fired sequentially as it slowly opens the chutes.

    PacSci EMC has many different cutter design variations. We have cutters used from underwater to space, electrical and mechanical initiation, time delays, redundancy which is discussed later, and removable and permanent anvils. Some cutters have anvils that are bolted on and some use a threaded-on cap style. It all depends upon the installation, whether the target is already in place or if the target can be fed through the cutter.

    Cutter Designs

    The two large cutters on the right show the different locations an initiator may be installed, top of the target or on the side of the housing.

    At left are two similar looking cutters known as “Y” cutters. These cutters each use differ-ent housing materials due to the applications they function in. And, if you look closely they show the target can be in different radial lo-cations. The one on the left, the target would be installed parallel to the page, whereas the target on the right, the target is coming in and out of the page.

    The next cutter is capable of cutting a five eighths inch nylon rope. It is electrically initiated and also contains a pyrotechnic time delay.

    Explosive Cutters
    Another type of cutter is an explosive cutter, which uses a linear shaped charge to do the cutting. The two cutters shown at left were used on seat ejection systems and cut away the drogue chute before the personal recovery chute was deployed to prevent entanglement.

    Both cutters were designed to cut cot-ton-based straps. One cutter now also cuts Kevlar straps. Other materials can also be cut using a linear shape charge.

    There are also some distinct design features to note on these two cutters. The top cutter is electrically initiated, whereas the one on the bottom uses gas pressure to drive a firing pin against a primer. The primer initiates a time delay which then fires a detonation cord, which in turn, fires the linear shape charge.

    What you can’t see on this one, however, is there are two linear shaped charges that were used here for redundant cutting ability.

    Energy Inputs

    Most cutters are functioned using electric initiators or detonators and are typically functioned using 3.5 amps, which is in accordance with the MIL specs and standards. These devices have also been tested as high as 22 amps. Capacitance discharge methods can also be used, if enough energy is provided.

    An exploding foil initiator (EFI) can also be used. The EFI uses high voltage, approximately 1000 volts, for ignition. These are becoming very popular, especially in high voltage flight termination systems.

    Different types of transfer lines can be used as well. There are SMDC, FCDC, det cord, and rapid deflagrating cord. The cord ignites an endtip that is threaded into the cutter. Energy from an endtip in the cutter can be used to perform the work or, if it’s a large cutter and more pressure is needed to drive the blade, a booster may be installed to supply the additional energy needed.

    Mechanical initiation can be achieved with a lanyard device. The lanyard assembly can be adjusted for different pull forces and is often adjusted by an internal spring in the lanyards. We also have a unique one here where it’s both electrical and mechanical. Whether a manual pull or electrical signal, either one will fire the output into the cutter.


    Most cutters use a single electrical input to function the device. However, some applications require redundancy. There can also be a second bridgewire inside of the electrical initiator. This dual bridgewire initiator will either have a single electrical firing system that will fire both bridges at the same time or redundant firing systems that will fire each bridge-wire.

    Sometimes the cutter itself is not redundant so two cutters are used to achieve redundancy — for instance, the reefing line cutters on the solid rocket boosters. The cutters were not redundant so there were eight cutters per solid rocket booster, two for each of the 7-, 10-, 12-, and 17-second delay.

    Another way to use redundancy is to have redundant initiators in a single cutter. Either one initiator or both will function the cutter.

    We have cutters with a single housing with two initiators and two cutting mechanisms rolled into the one housing. Either of these will cut the target or they may be fired simultaneously. There are multiple options for redundancy, depending on the application and it’s requirements.

    Cutter Design Considerations

    Looking at basic cutter design, when you start from the right, you see the anvil. In this case, there is a cap that threads on to the housing. There is the housing and blade (knife or piston). Next there is a retention feature, which is normally a shear pin, and finally you have your pressure cartridge. So, for operation, whether you’re doing electrical initiation or mechanical initiation, the ignition mix is ignited first. There may or may not be a pyrotechnic delay, in which case the ignition or delay material will ignite the output material (usually a high-pressure generating material).

    When ignited, pressure is going to fill this chamber until the pressure exceeds the strength of the shear pin. Once that pin shears, the high pressure is going to drive that blade through the target at high velocity.

    Some of the major factors affecting performance include:

    • The pressure profile behind the piston
    • The shear pin used to control the release
    • Anvil hardness (depending on the target)

    For example, when cutting steel rods, cables, tubes, a hard anvil is desired, while cutting rope or cord, somewhat of a soft anvil is best to the the blade will embed into it ensuring a clean cut.

    Another feature worth talking about is the shear pin, as it not only controls the release of the piston, but it must be of sufficient strength to meet the shock and vibration requirements of your system.

    Design Specifications & Standards
    There are design standards and specifications that govern the cutters. Specs and Standards vary by industry, but regardless of industry, re-gardless of the industry, there are extensive qualification requirements.

    Some of the specs include:

    • MIL-D-23615 for Department of Defense
    • AIAA S-113 for the Space Launch Systems
    • RCC 319 for Flight Termination Systems

    Each qualification typically requires a sequence of environmental tests such as Thermal Cycle, Shock, and Vibration. These environments will come from the system, especially in the case of RCC 319. Even though a cutter may qualify for one system does not necessarily mean it’s qualified for another, because, most likely those system environments are not the same. For example, we have one cutter that’s used in Flight Termination Systems and it’s being used on its fourth missile program. It’s now going through its fourth RCC 319 qualifications, mainly because each of the systems has their own unique environmental levels and each cut a different target. Based on tailoring a design and depending on specification requirements, it’s possible to get a qualification by similarity or analysis.

    Designed for Mission Needs
    There are always questions that will be asked pertaining to a design. Typically, the first question asked is, “what cutters do you have on the shelf?” Knowing that there are many different targets, sizes, or requirements for our customers’ requests, it can be very difficult to determine what cutters to maintain in inventory. It’s rare that a customer calls and wants to cut the same material and size as another customer.

    However, we are reviewing the possibility of placing a few common size cutters in inventory. These cutters would largely be used for some proto-types, especially when a quick turn is needed.

    Engineering Support

    Other topics that we discuss are shipping, storage and handling. These are government regulated, and we can help obtain any necessary ap-provals. The shipping is regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and PacSci EMC must hold a competent authority on each part number that we ship. The storage and handling are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms (BATF). Then, the customer must hold the BATF license for us to deliver to your location.

    Additionally, some of the products that go into Europe require the CE marking. In some cases, we may be able to obtain a “not regulated” status from the DOT and an exemption from BATF. Special testing must always be performed on the cutters and it must meet all the criteria. Basically, if it can be fired in your hand, and it’s safe, they can get a “not regulated” status. We have received both DOT and BATF exemption as well as getting classification regulated by the UK and Canada.

    Q: Can the housing in the Y-cutters or similar devices be refurbished and re-used with new pressure cartridges to support ground test?
    A: It’s possible, but one of the key features is the shear pin and to make sure the housing is not damaged by that shear pin. When the blade fires and the shear pin is sheared against the housing, you may see damage. This is because the shear pin is actually harder than the housing — and this could change the function of the device. It can be done, but we just have to take precautions and understand what we’re looking at and make sure we’re not affecting how the part functions.

    Q: What does SMDC, and FCDC, mean, and what is the difference?
    A: It’s all detonating cord. SMDC is a shielded mild detonating cord. Typically, the cord is placed inside a steel tube, where the FCDC is flexible confined detonating cord, and many times placed in a braid. When SMDC is in the steel tube all of the combustion products are contained, whereas, typically in FCDC, you don’t.

    Q: What is the average response time?
    A: Typically, we measure the time from application of current to cutting of the target. Frequently we will put a small electrical wire through the target area. When it cuts that wire and the target, we can measure that time from application of current through the cutting. Typically, the requirements are less than 10 milliseconds. If you give an electrical initiator more current it will function quicker. So, if you have 3.5 amps, the device will fire in about 3 milliseconds, but if you have 22 amps, it functions in 500 microseconds.

    Q: Do you use TBI’s in pyro cutter applications?
    A: Yes, you can use Thru Bulkhead Initiators (TBI). Typically, TBI’s are fired with the explosive endtip, so, it’s just a transfer through a TBI to the output. There are a couple of programs using TBI’s in just about every pyro application on the system.

    Q: Are Y-cutters always initiated with dual initiation?
    A: During testing we have to fire units using one initiator and both initiators simultaneously. One of those Y-cutters was used on the Mars Rover and on Perseverance as well, but they are going to fire both to make sure that there is redundancy.

    Q: Why are non-metallic materials chosen for this type of application?
    A: It was chosen because of a high voltage. If it were a metal blade cutting through that high voltage, it would arc back to the blade and reconnect, not doing its job of cutting power to the generator.

    Q: Target materials can vary quite a bit in mechanical properties for the same material. How does a cutter design account for material property variations in the target?
    A: Typically, in development you will see requirements in the design specifications where the device must function with only an 80% pyrotechnic charge. This gets tested two ways, one where 80% pyrotechnic charge must catch your target and another where 120% pyrotechnic charge must cut the target and your cutter must not rupture. For NASA Y-cutter, their requirement was even stricter, they required a 65% pyro charge on one initiator, and it had to cut the target. So, you prove your margins, typically, with just that and we call them 80/120 (80 percent and 120 percent pyrotechnic).

    Q: With dual initiation, is there any delay between both sequences?
    A: There are systems where there can be a delay. It occurs at the system level, where there may be a delay between the two initiation systems.

    Q: How many cutters has your company developed?
    A: Between all the acquisitions over the decades, when you combine all those types of cutters, there are at least 50 to 100. Typically, we can start with qualified designs. We’re not necessarily develop-ing from greenfield new design. When discussing those 50 to 100, they include cutters from our acquisitions from the original, McCor-mick Selph, to Hollister, to UniDynamics Phoenix, Special Devices Inc, Quantic, then Teledyne McCormick Selph. Now, we are PacSci EMC.

    Q: Are there any limitations on cutters, or in other words, is a cutter always the answer to sever something?
    A: There are a lot of different options. We can use many products ranging from separation nuts, explosive bolts or piston actuators. For example, a recent request was for cutting a one-inch steel cable. Upon reviewing the system and requirements, we are looking at a separation bolt now. There are a lot of different options for separation.

    Q: How can you limit pyro shock? And can you control the output of a pyrotechnic charge?
    A: Typically, pyro shock can be eliminated in the way it is mounted to the next level system. We’re not necessarily going to try to avoid the pyro shock in a cutter because we have to force the blades through the target material. Depending on how you connect it to your next level system will determine how much pyro shock you get in your system.



    What do you do when you need to monitor the health of astronauts who are hundreds of miles away from the Earth? That’s the question that NASA scientists and engineers faced as they sent astronauts into space. And the solution they came up with has made diagnosing diseases incredibly easy. This invention, along with a long list of other tech advances, has forged a link between the importance of space exploration and everyday life.

    Nanosensor Array for Medical Diagnoses
    NASA’s attempt to come up with a diagnostic test for astronauts resulted in a compact device worn on the head that is an ingenious cross between a breathalyzer and a testing array. Its nanosensor array is ingenious, in fact, they claim “no such technology exists in the market today.”

    The technology boils down to a single nanosensor array chip. The chip uses chromatography mass spectrometry to assess the chemical composition of human breath, thereby finding markers for certain diseases like Type I diabetes. NASA has made the technology available for licensing.

    The ResQPOD
    A heart attack happens every 40 seconds in the United States. Most people who have a heart attack die before they walk through hospital doors. Enter the ResQPOD, a CPR device that increases blood flow and can reduce death rates and, by sending oxygen to the brain, decrease the chances of neurological damage from cardiac arrest. NASA developed the device as it tackled blood pressure issues that are common among astronauts returning to Earth. The result is a simple device that paramedics can use to sustain a patient during transport to a hospital. According to NASA, its ResQPOD has worked so well in some cities that patients have up to a 50% better chance of making it to the hospital after a heart attack.

    Memory Foam
    Over the past 10 years, memory foam pillows and mattresses have flooded the market. As recently as 2018, the industry was worth more than $80 billion. All those consumers who fall asleep on the form-fitting, cool-sleeping, silent mattresses and pillows can thank NASA for their sweet sleep.

    According to NASA, they developed memory foam (also known as “temper foam”) in the 1970’s because they wanted “to im-prove seat cushioning and crash protection for airline pilots and passengers.”

    Top-notch Radial Tires
    Also in the 1970’s, NASA was looking for a way to create virtually indestructible tires that could provide a soft landing for its Viking 1 and 2 missions. So, they worked with Goodyear to come up with a solution. That solution was a tire material that was five times stronger than steel. “The fiber’s chain-like molecular structure gave it incredible strength in proportion to its weight,” NASA notes.

    Goodyear took that technology and applied it to consumer tires, creating a radial tire that could add 10,000 miles of tread life to the existing standard. The partnership between NASA and Goodyear has continued. One of the partnership’s more recent successes was the development of a spring tire made from 800 load-bearing springs.

    Crop Prediction
    Most folks don’t know that predicting crop yields takes a lot more technology than opening up a farmer’s almanac. In fact, one of the most effective crop prediction systems started with Landsat 1, the satellite that entered orbit in 1972. NASA used the satellite to take hundreds of thousands of photos of the Earth.

    Over the next couple of decades, NASA developed its Landsat imaging technology, eventually pairing it with its Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS).

    TellusLabs recognized the value of the data NASA imaging tech produced, and they started to pair it with various weather models and historical data to create crop predictions, a NASA write-up points out.

    TellusLabs called its crop prediction product “Kernel” and launched it in 2016. According to NASA, Kernel “projected yields on 2016 U.S. soy crops within 1% of the final yields” two months before the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    What’s Next?

    We’re proud of the work we do at PacSci EMC, not only because we know our technology helps achieve mis-sion-critical results, but also because we know the mis-sions of today will have global applications in the years to come.



    Dave Laffler’s journey to PacSci EMC began after receiving his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). He started his career in the electronics industry at Texas Instruments, where he worked in packaging design for computer systems and thermal analysis for heat transfer analysis, ensuring devices held up under strained conditions.

    In his early days, Dave was multidisciplinary, dabbling in every-thing from packaging design to automation. His experience in automation soon landed him at Mattel Toys, working on equipment and product design.

    However, while he found the industry interesting and dynamic, it didn’t hold his attention for long. Soon, Dave made his way back to his roots in electronics as a contractor. Here, Dave worked for Boeing SVS and Lockheed Martin, helping build airborne laser systems for various aircraft models like the 747 and C-130. As part of his role, Dave refitted the facility at Air Force Research Labs with the equipment necessary to test the laser systems and ensure they were operational.

    Then in 2008, Dave joined PacSci EMC as a design engineer. He is now considered a subject matter expert (SME), specializing in various areas including Safe and Arm devices. He spends time with the Safe and Arms, ensuring they meet the requirements of their correlating missions. These safe and arms are applied all throughout PacSci EMC solutions, including in missile and rocket applications. Dave’s role here is crucial, as these devices are used for motor ignition, flight termination systems and separation systems. Each requires 100% accurate firing in order to function properly, and Dave’s expertise and collaboration with customers’ requirements makes sure everything goes according to plan.

    Of course, Dave has done more than just design products. In the last 13 years, he has also been a regular at STEM events PacSci EMC has partnered with. He showed up often at “Star Parties,” where students and experts got together to look at the solar system with telescopes.

    Dave is also known for encouraging future engineers. “Develop the tools, engineering tools, and problem-solving tools as best you can,” he likes to say. “You may not know where you’re going to end up, but don’t be afraid of getting into an area that you have no experience in, because you will develop the experience”.

    PacSci EMC has challenged Dave through the years, testing him and his vast engineering knowledge in everything from welding to explosive powders. No matter which skill set the task requires, Dave says he has enjoyed being a part of the PacSci EMC family because of how relevant our mission is. “Our products are so involved, and the most exciting thing is hearing about things like a Mars Rover launch, travelling eight months to Mars, and having PacSci EMC components perform flawlessly on Mars,” he says. “I like what PacSci EMC products bring to our world.” We are proud to have David Laffler as a vital member of our family and future.




    Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company (PacSci EMC) has over fifty years of experience providing highly reliable ordnance components and systems for space launch vehicles, missiles, tactical weapons, and aircraft, and is well known in the aerospace and defense industry as the leading supplier of Safe and Arm/Arm-Fire Devices (S&A/AFD). S&A/AFDs are safety devices that provide electrical and mechanical interruption to prevent unintended functioning of an ignition train, predominantly in either a Flight Termination System (FTS) or Rocket Motor Ignition (RMI) System.

    The terms S&A and AFD have been used interchangeably throughout history, but most commonly refer to the product’s end use. S&A devices are typically used by the Space Launch industry in Flight Termination Systems and in Solid Rocket Booster Ignition Systems. AFDs are typically used in Missile Systems for Rocket Motor Ignition. Both products act to protect the system and associated personnel from accidental Rocket Motor Ignition or Flight Termination System activation. There are some exceptions to this “rule”, primarily for missiles that require flight termination systems, e.g. during the missile’s development testing phase. Accordingly, there are several S&A configurations that appear more like traditional AFDs in design. PacSci EMC has been producing S&As and AFDs for over thirty-five years. The list of programs is extensive, with Table I providing a sample of programs having extensive technical requirements and long term production. Many programs use multiple PacSci EMC S&A/AFD devices on the same platform.

    A variety of PacSci EMC programs using S&A/AFDs

    AGM-130 GQM-163 SSST NSM Space Shuttle
    AIM-9 Sidewinder Harpoon PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE Standard Missile
    AMRAAM Hellfire Patriot Long and Medium Range Targets
    ASRAAM JASSM AND JASSM-ER Pegasus Taurus I and II
    Atlas IIAS, III, V Longbow Penguin Titan
    Brimstone Maverick RAM Tomahawk and TACTOM
    Delta, II, III, IV Mk290 Sea Sparrow SDB II X-51 Scramjet
    GMD NMD SM-3 Aegis

    In the beginning…
    In 1992, the Eastern Test Range advised the space launch community that imposition of EWR-127 would be mandatory for future spacecraft launch vehicles. Prior to that directive, each launch vehicle and contractor utilized a broad variety of different Safe and Arm Devices for Flight Termination and Ignition. These devices were from a variety of sources, varied widely in their designs, and did not comply with EWR-127.

    The Atlas program made a decision to solicit a new S&A that would not only be EWR-127 compliant, but would also withstand increasingly severe environments of higher performance launch vehicles and provide a substantial cost reduction over existing S&A devices.

    We presented a design and was selected after a competitive selection process. This design was based on a balanced single rotor design that met all of the Atlas criteria. Our design, aka, “The Red S&A Family”, was subsequently issued U.S. Patent 5,279,226 in 1994.

    A generic design of the original Atlas S&A easily accommodated minor electrical circuit variations, mounting, safing key orientation, and other features. The Atlas unit was fully qualified for a Flight Termination System and Solid Rocket Motor Ignition to the requirements of MIL-STD-1576 and EWR 127.

    Once the initial qualification program was approved, several other programs and customers adopted the PacSci EMC S&A design. Since its inception, this original qualified design, has been re-qualified and flown on almost all U.S. space launch vehicles. The list of customers and programs includes, Boeing’s Delta launch vehicles, Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Pegasus and Taurus launch vehicles, Lockheed’s Titan and Atlas launch vehicles, and Northrop’s SLS program in the near future.

    To date, the Red S&A family is qualified to RCC 319-07T, adding to its extensive pedigree in both margin testing and qualification. We are extremely familiar with RCC 319 and the Range Safety process through our delivery of over 1,500 S&As to meet the RCC 319-92, 99, and 07 requirements over the past 15 plus years on the following programs: SSST Coyote, Stormbraker, JASSM, JASSM-ER and Targets and Countermeasures Program. Both Eastern and Western test ranges and the Aerospace Corporation have been involved in the evolution and details of the design. To date, we deliver approximately 200 S&As annually.

    In 2002, Lockheed Martin approached us to provide a lighter weight and smaller size S&A. We originally qualified P/N 108800 S&A to support a Lockheed program in 2005 that met RCC 319-99 requirements with a subsequent delta-qualification series to RCC 319-07 in That design incorporated the pedigree of the Red S&A family in a smaller package, as shown in Figures 3 and 4.

    Its all about decisions
    Are the mission requirements clearly defined? Is redundancy a must? Visual or electrical monitoring? Permanent assembly or need to disassemble? Minimum Performance vs Operational vs Margin inputs? What about minimum Reliability? Since the initial days of S&A/AFD qualification, the complexity of mission needs and test requirements have grown significantly. As such, the initial assessment and selection can be overwhelming. Although most of the criteria will be mission dependent, the simplest method is to narrow the search by defining the application industry, as shown in Table 2. Once the typical industry qualification requirements.

    RCC 319
    None or Tailored AIAA
    Tailored RCC 319

    The right design for your application
    Determining the type of S&A/AFD design to choose is directly dependent on intended use. Typical applications include Rocket Motor Ignition or Flight Termination. Occasionally, a variant S&A is used for energy transfer inhibit/enable applications. For any Aerospace or Defense application, size and weight matters, which is why we have such an extensive inventory of qualified S&A and AFD designs with dimensional envelope from a typical 1.3” diameter x 2.3” under 2lbs, up to 5” x 4.5” x 3.5” under 5lbs, with either a single or redundant output for higher reliability. Another example of one of our designs used for Rocket Motor Ignition or Flight Termination. These designs and their variants come from our extended heritage in military applications.

    If a customized solution is required, our New Product Development team can manage the full development cycle from Concept Design to Qualification, providing a seamless transition to continuous production.




    Minimum 3.5 AMP (5.0 AMP recommended for 20 milliseconds
    Insulation Resistance
    500 M at 500VDC
    Minimum 3.5 AMP (5.0 AMP recommended for 20 milliseconds
    Insulation Resistance
    100 M at 500VDC
    1 Amp/1 Watt for 5 minutes
    Electronic Discharge Immunity
    25 KV/500 pf/5 K
    1 Amp/1 Watt for 5 minutes
    Electronic Discharge Immunity
    25 KV/500 pf/5 K
    Operating Temperature
    -54 F to +74 F
    Pre-function Leak Specification
    5 x 10-5 standard cc/second of Helium
    Operating Temperature
    -54 F to +71 F
    Pre-function Leak Specification
    1 x 10-4 standard cc/second of Helium
    Arming/Safing Votage
    22 to 35 VDC
    Applicable Specifications
    Detonator qualified to MIL-STD-1576 and MIL-ST- 454
    Meets requirements of MIL-STD-464 (EMI)
    Designs compliant to RCC-319
    Arming/Safing Votage
    28 VDC
    Applicable Specifications
    Detonator qualified to MIL-I-23659C
    Compliant with MIL-STD-1901
    Meets requirements of MILSTD-464 (EMI) & MIL-STD-1385 (HERO)
    Deflagration – Tailored peak output pressure performance in 100cc closed bomb

    TOP 10

    From our in-house aviation expert, the 10 best aviation movies. Would these make your list?

    12 O’CLOCK HIGH (1949):
    Gregory Peck. A WWII story in the European Theater about the start of daylight bombing raids by the US to defeat Germany. Features the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
    Jimmy Stewart, June Allyson, Story of a pilot and his family leaving professional baseball and helping form the early years of the USAF’s SAC command. Jimmy Stewart also flew many of the scenes as he was an active reserve pilot that flew bomber in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, retiring as a 1-star general. Features the B-36 Peacekeeper, B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress

    TOP GUN (1986):
    Tom Cruise. A modern day story about the US Navy’s Adversary Threat Training Squadron training pilots on air-to-air combat skills, featuring the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

    PEARL HARBOR (2001):
    Ben Affleck, Josh Harnett, Kate Beckinsale. A war drama depicting the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent Doolittle Raid on Tokyo featuring the P-40 Warhawk, Japanese Zero, Japanese Betty Bomber, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-25 Mitchell
    THE RIGHT STUFF (1983):
    Sam Shepard. This historical epic takes place from 1947 through the 1960’s, breaking the sound barrier and the 1st astronauts going into space, featuring the Bell X-1, Bell X-2, B-52, Mercury-Redstone 3 & 4, Mercury-Atlas 6 & F-104 Starfighter.
    AMELIA (2009):
    Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, A look at the life of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart, who
    disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to make a flight around the world.
    THE AVIATOR (2004):
    Leonardo DiCaprio. A biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes’ career from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s featuring XF-11 Recon Aircraft and H-4 Hercules.

    RED TAILS (2012):
    Cuba Gooding Jr. Gerald McRaney. A drama depicting a crew of African American pilots in the
    Tuskegee training program, having faced segregation while kept mostly on the ground during World War II, are called into duty under the guidance of Col. A.J. Bullard. Features P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt I and P-51 Mustang.
    SULLY (2016):
    Tom Hanks. The true miracle on the Hudson story about Captain Chesley “Sully’ Sullenberger’s
    landing on the Hudson River in NY after hitting a flock of geese and loosing thrust in both engines, featuring the Airbus A320.

    Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough. After a plane crash in the Sahara, one of the survivors
    says he’s an airplane designer and they can make a flyable plane from the wreckage. Features the C-119 Boxcar.


    • Flight of the Phoenix (2004 remake with Dennis Quaid)
    • Flyboys with James Franco (2006)
    • Flight with Denzel Washington (2012)
    • Blue Max with George Peppard (1966)
    • Documentary; Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet; The Plane that Changed the World (2014)


    It is a good experience to get to be well rounded and to play a lot of different roles especially as a design engineer at PacSci EMC. I get to get my hands dirty and do important hands-on work.”

    GREGORY KILFOY ~ Design Engineer

    I am incredibly proud to be the HR leader at PacSci EMC. Every single person and leader we have believes in the mission of having a culture of respect and creating a space for all of our people to have a robust and meaningful employee experience.