Super Powered Slingshot to Launch Space Rockets…and All with Zero Emission!
Crazy or genius? Automologist MAC has the details to help you decide.
Now, this one tickled me, a lot. Sending rockets into space using a large slingshot – it sounds like some schoolboy prank. But you know it’s just crazy enough that it may well work.
One of the big problems with rockets is the amount of energy it takes to hurl a lump of metal weighing in excess of 100,000 kilos into space. The recent Space X missions used 5,000 kilos of fuel per second, which is 2 million times faster than your average family car. So, alternative ways to get those lumps of metal into orbit would be a good thing, right?
This is where a space start-up company called SpinLaunch came up with this crazy idea. Instead of trying to overcome gravity from a standing start on the launch pad, why don’t we spin them in a massive centrifuge and using the energy that it creates to then hurl them into the stratosphere where relatively small rockets would kick in to propel the rocket the relatively small distance into Space proper.
Come on, surely not?
SpinLaunch, which started life back in 2014 in Sunnyvale, California in US of A, has started to tease the press with designs for all sorts of sexy, sleek-looking rockets. They seem to have moved their base of operation out into the New Mexico desert adjacent to Space Ports and are now showing off their one-third scale prototype of their sub-orbital launcher. The strange-looking machine is billed as a sub-orbital accelerator and is for all intents and purposes a giant centrifuge that will hopefully launch one of their craft into a position where it can aerially blast off into space proper.
The scaled-down launcher is still massive standing at 165 feet tall and contains a vacuum chamber and two massive spinning arms inside, which when spinning are capable of launching a projectile at massive speeds. How fast? Well, up to 8,000 kph…..so, seriously fast then. The beauty of this is that with a normal rocket, you have to use a lot of fuel to lift the fuel that you will need later in the flight. With SpinLaunch, there is very little fuel, so the rocket can carry much larger payloads into space, and potentially with zero emissions. Well, at least until the rockets kick in later.
This is not just some mad scientist stuff either. Operating at just 20% power, the launcher was able to send a “test flight vehicle tens of thousands of feet into the air”, according to founder and CEO, Jonathon Yaney. Back in 2019, they even signed a contract with the US military, which was described in some company literature as “a plan to develop a kinetic energy-based launch system that will provide the world’s lowest-cost orbital launch system for small satellites.
It is a brave new world out there.