Pyrotechnic fastener

A pyrotechnic fastener (also called an explosive bolt, or pyro, within context) is a fastener, usually a nut or bolt, that incorporates a pyrotechnic charge that can be initiated remotely. One or more explosive charges embedded within the bolt are typically activated by an electric current, and the charge breaks the bolt into two or more pieces. The bolt is typically scored around its circumference at the point(s) where the severance should occur.[1] Such bolts are often used in space applications to ensure separation between rocket stages, because they are lighter and much more reliable than mechanical latches.

For safety and reliability, exploding bridgewire detonators and slapper detonators are often used in aerospace technology instead of classical blasting caps.

More recent developments have used pulsed laser diodes to detonate initiators through fiber-optic cables, which subsequently fire the main charge.

Gas generators are close cousins of pyrotechnic fasteners. They are used to generate large amounts of gas, as for turbopumps, to inflate balloons, especially airbags; to eject parachutes; and for similar applications.

Compositions used

Various pyrotechnic compositions can be used, depending on the desired burn rate and required amount of energy and volume of gas produced. Some materials, such as RDX, sublimate in vacuum, which limits their usefulness in aerospace applications. Composition with the character of bipropellants and flash powders are often used.

Standard pyrotechnic mixtures used by NASA


  1. AMCP 706-179 pg 108

External links

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