Nations throughout the world have a need for low-cost, easy to use demining devices to disarm the millions of landmines deployed in widely scattered locations. Though it is possible to render landmines safe through remote detonation or behind armored plating, these methods are expensive and difficult. The Navy and DE Technologies Inc. theorized that landmines could be safely rendered inoperable if the energetic explosive inside was allowed to burn in the open atmosphere.
ATK Thiokol innovators believed they could direct the combustion products of burning solid rocket propellant, which burns at extremely high temperatures, at a landmine to cause the explosive to burn safely. Since the solid rocket propellant for the Space Shuttle is manufactured regularly on a large scale, it was the most readily available propellant to use in the demining device. The Space Shuttle uses solid rocket propellant to provide approximately 80% of the thrust necessary to launch the shuttle and accelerate it during its first two minutes of flight. NASA agreed to let ATK Thiokol use excess shuttle booster propellant to produce a low cost flare-like device to help solve this humanitarian need. In operation, the device burns through the landmine cover, exposing the energetic materials, allowing it to burn (not explode), rendering the landmine inoperable and safe.
The device has been tested and successfully used in the field. ATK Thiokol expects to receive a national stock number for the demining device, which will enable its sale, transport, and use worldwide by organizations involved in disarming landmines.