YUMA, Ariz. - The High Altitude Research Project (HARP) gun, also referred to as the 'space gun' hasn't been shot since 1992. But today, it is still holding records in the Guinness Book of World Records.
News 11 spoke to chief of Weapons Operations Division at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), Wayne Schilders.
“The HARP gun shot 111 miles into the ionosphere," Schilders said. "That set the altitude record for the highest shot ever made by canon." "This gun also holds the record for the most powder shot by one of our cannons," Schilders added.
Schilders explained the history of this gun. He told News 11that the HARP program was the brainchild of Canadian engineer, Gerald Bull. He had a lifelong dream of shooting things into space.
The mount of this cannon came off of a battleship and was brought to YPG in 1954. The actual gun wasn't tested until 1966 where over 30 rounds were shot.
Schilders explained why the mount and gun were wanted at YPG.
“Part of the purpose of having it here in Yuma was the fact that at any other location, the Navy was firing was over water, and when you fire a projectile over water often off of an island or off of the ship it goes into the ocean and you can’t recover it to do any kind of analysis," he said. "When you fire off of a ground base range, eventually the projectile lands and you can go recover it and look at it for inspection purposes and analysis,” he added.
The cannon is 190 feet long and weighs nearly 270 tons.
It is elevated by a 500 ton ram system, which is used to help raise the gun vertical to an elevation of 85 degrees and hold it in place during firing. The muzzle of the gun is 16 inches in diameter.
The last time the HARP gun was fired was in the summer of 1992 but Schilders said the gun could still be operable today.
“The gun itself is in pretty good condition, and with a little bit of repair, a little bit of refurbishment of the hydraulic system it could once again be put into service if the need arises,” he said.
Schilders explained that there has been recent interest in firing the gun once again.
“There has been different interest lately in the possibility of looking once again, possibly shooting some objects into space like pico satellites, even just equipment or things that could be shot into space and be recovered with a space vehicle such as shuttle, possibly with something of the exploration to Mars or whatever is coming up through NASA,” he shared.
There is only one other gun like the HARP gun at YPG and it is in Barbados, but the one at YPG is most capable of being operable.