Review Article Open Access

Project HARP

Relly Victoria Petrescu1, Raffaella Aversa2, Bilal Akash3, Antonio Apicella2 and Florian Ion Tiberiu Petrescu1
  • 1 Bucharest Polytechnic University, Romania
  • 2 Second University of Naples, Italy
  • 3 American University of Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates


The HARP project, abbreviated from the High Altitude Project, was considered a joint project of the United States Department of Defense and Canada's Department of Defense, originally designed to study low-cost re-entry vehicles. Generally, such projects used rocket launchers to launch missiles, costly and often inefficient. The HARP project used a non-rocket space launch method based on a very large weapon capable of sending objects at high altitudes using very high speeds. Beginning in 1961, the HARP project was largely created due to the concerns and insistence of the talented engineer Gerald Bull, a controversial ballistics engineer and he and his project, but ultimately successful, the engineer who led the entire project. Bull developed the high-speed weaponry technique while working on the Ballistic Missile (ABM) and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) research at CARDE in the 1950s, firing high-speed interceptor rocket models, unlike other researchers who proposed to use the construction of higher wind tunnels, which would have been much more expensive. The ABM project eventually ended without providing a working system, but Bull was convinced that the missile systems he developed would have had potential and in this way, he began to look for other ways of using technology. He clearly needed the trust and funding of his project. Funding for this project came from the Defense Production Department in the form of a $ 500,000 grant and a $ 200,000 loan from the McGill Board of Governors. The United States has been testing new ICBM systems and has requested repeated testing of new reentry vehicles. Bull suggested that the program could be run through its method with much lower spending if the test vehicles would be lifted from a large cannon, unlike the classic rocket method. This would also allow the test program to be very accelerated since repeated pulling was easy to arrange compared to the repeated use of the missiles. The key concept was the use of an oversized gun that throws a sub-dimensional vehicle mounted in a shoe, allowing it to be pulled (thrown, ejected) with a very high acceleration, reaching very high speeds. The entire assembly of the test cannon was embedded in a mixture of sand and epoxy, proving more than capable of withstanding the launching rigors. The project was based on a flight line at Seawell Airport in Barbados at 13.077221 °N 59.475641 °W, of which the shells were pulled east to the Atlantic Ocean using a 16 inch (410 mm) long, (20.5 m); the cannula was then expanded (doubled) to the length of (41 m). In 1966, the third and final 16-inch cannon was installed at a new test site in Yuma, Arizona. On November 18, 1966, the Yuma pistol pulled a (180 kg) Martlet 2 projectile at a speed of 2100 m/s, sending it briefly into space and setting an altitude of 180 km (110 miles).

Journal of Aircraft and Spacecraft Technology
Volume 1 No. 4, 2017, 249-257


Submitted On: 21 October 2017 Published On: 7 November 2017

How to Cite: Petrescu, R. V., Aversa, R., Akash, B., Apicella, A. & Petrescu, F. I. T. (2017). Project HARP. Journal of Aircraft and Spacecraft Technology, 1(4), 249-257.

  • 9 Citations



  • Unmanned
  • US Army
  • The HARP Project
  • High Altitude Project
  • Very Large Weapon
  • Sending Objects at High Altitudes
  • Very High Speeds