Pyrotechnic Actuator (Pin Pusher/Thruster)
When Milliseconds Matter™

Pyrotechnic Actuator | Piston Actuator | Pin Pusher | Thruster.

Pin Pushers & Thrusters

PacSci EMC / Products / Pyrotechnic Actuator | Piston Actuator | Pin Pusher | Thruster


(Piston Actuators | Pin Pushers | Thrusters)

A PacSci EMC Pyrotechnic Actuator (or explosive piston actuator) helps you achieve your mission-critical goal through an active stroke of an internal rod or piston to induce or control the desired motion. As an innovator in the motion control sector, PacSci EMC has led application advancement that initiates devices by any number of methods. Ordnance actuated Piston Actuators are designed to perform a multitude of work:

  • Pierce a pressurized vessel to release gasses
  • Remove shear nipples to again release pressurized gasses
  • Push mechanical features from point A to point B

The rate of a desired push can be within a few milliseconds, to much longer times, depending on the need. The pistons can be designed to lock out once fired or be allowed to bounce back after performing the work. A Piston Actuator retains all explosive hot gasses with the use of various elastomeric seals. An electric piston actuator can be actuated by an electrical explosive device, however pyrotechnic actuators they may also be actuated with a pressure cartridge, a mechanical primer initiated device (gas generator), a linear detonation transfer line (SMDC, FCDC, ETL, RDC) or a laser actuated ordnance device (laser initiated squib or detonator).

The gas energy from any of these devices expands rapidly in a confined space resulting in a volume change which drives the piston inside the actuator outwardly. Extension lengthPiston Actuator of the piston is controlled by the envelope of the body and work needing to be performed. The pins extract rapidly in most applications creating a mechanical shock when the piston reaches full stroke. Dampeners can be installed into the Piston Actuators when lower mechanical shock is needed. In many applications, the shock of other devices being released is as great as or greater than that generated by Piston Actuator actuation.

Pyrotechnic thrusters are another form of a pyrotechnic piston actuator. They are often not called a piston actuator or pin pusher because they generally perform a more controlled amount of work. The end of the piston is usually attached to the system requiring movement from point A to B. The rate of movement and measured force of the movement is controlled as to not actuate with too much or too little energy. The timing of the piston movement can be controlled as needed for these thrusters.

Pyrotechnic Actuators have almost unlimited applications for one-shot type devices such as:

  • Fire suppression
  • Landing gear emergency blow down systems
  • Missile guidance seeker coolant release
  • Missile canister cover removal
  • Door release on helicopters and space capsules
  • Fin and wing release
  • Satellite release systems
  • Missile release
  • Aircraft egress systems

Our Piston Actuators have been used in commercial aircraft egress systems, military escape systems, multiple missile platforms, military torpedoes, guided bombs and other weapons platforms. They were also used on the Space Shuttle.

Within 20 milliseconds @ 3.5 amp (when electrically initiated)
Within 10 milliseconds from ETL input stimulus

5 Minutes @ 1amp/1watt (when electrically initiated)

Operating Temperature
-90 °F to +220 °F

Piston Travel Distance
.15 to 2.50 inches typical

Side Loads
100 – 1,700 lbs. force typical

Applicable Specifications
Qualified to MIL-DTL-23659
(applies to electrical initiated Piston Actuator types)

MIL-HDBK-83578 Criteria for Explosive Systems used on Space Vehicles
(design margin validation)

Compliant with MIL-STD-1901A
(apples to energy transfer line initiated Piston Actuator designs)

MIL-STD-1576 Electro-Explosive Subsystem Safety Requirements and Test Methods for Space Systems

MIL-STD-1540 Test Requirements for Launch, Upper Stage and Space Vehicles

MIL-STD-202 Test Methods for Electron and Electrical Component Parts

MIL-STD-810 Environmental Engineering Considerations and Laboratory Tests


Pyrotechnic Actuators | Pin Pushers | Piston Actuators | Thrusters can all be customized to fit many customer envelopes.

This is a representation of our telescoping actuator. The amount of stroke for solid piston design is limited to this envelope. In an electrical linear actuated design, approximately .25” is needed for ordnance initiation. The balance of length can be reserved for the piston travel. With a side actuation (non-linear actuation), more linear envelope can be preserved for piston travel. Lengths less than 1 inch are produced but stroke on such designs are limited to around .15 inches.

At times, more stroke is needed than the envelope will allow for a solid piston design. In those instances, a telescoping style piston actuation can be designed. The following telescoping piston actuator has been in production at PacSci EMC for over 30 years and represents our largest piston actuator. The piston extension on this device is 6 feet from a start of approximately 1 foot.


Our Piston Actuators, Cutters, Pin Pullers, Pushers, Thrusters and Retractors depend on the active stroke of an internal rod/piston to induce or control the motion that helps you achieve your mission-critical goal.

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How To Increase Range & Accuracy

The three primary factors affecting the range and accuracy of a projectile are: the projectile design, the launch mechanism (gun barrel and propelling charge) and the environment.

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Need more information or have a specific requirement you would like us to meet?
Contact us at the link below, or for immediate assistance call 888.995.5659.

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