It’s impressive to see a rocket blast off into space, but still, using fossil fuels and explosions to pursue our dreams of space exploration is primitive, ironically. A company called SpinLaunch thinks he has a better idea: he wants to launch small objects into space using a centrifuge giant swivel.
There’s a reason space exploration, to date, has been limited to federally funded government agencies or companies backed by billionaires desperately trying to change the way history remembers them. Using rockets to launch cargo into space is a very costly endeavor, even when those launch systems can be recovered, recondition and reuse reliably.
However, the alternatives to rocket launch have not exactly been a success. In the 1960s, the United States Department of Defense and the Canadian Department of National Defense formed a joint partnership called Project HARP (High Altitude Research Project) to develop, in essence, giant ground-based weapons that could launch objects to space. HARP successfully fired a projectile into the atmosphere using a 42-centimeter cannon built at the Yuma Proving Ground of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, but by the late 1960s both governments had withdrawn funding for the project. research, and was officially closed before it bore fruit.
SpinLaunch is taking a somewhat similar approach to Project HARP, but the kinetic space launch system it has been developing since 2015 completely removes explosive materials. Instead, there is an electric centrifuge that spins objects inside a vacuum chamber at speeds of up to 8,000 km / h before they are released through a launch tube that is roughly as tall as the Statue of Liberty. A successful test on October 22 at the company’s base at Spaceport America in New Mexico sent a 10-foot long projectile that soared several kilometers, but that was with the centrifuge running at about 20% of its maximum power. .
The company plans to build a larger accelerator capable of launching objects such as satellites weighing up to 200 kilos. And with continued testing over the next several years, he looks forward to offering his services.to paying customers from 2024, but we should not expect this approach to facilitate space tourism. Humans can easily pass out when they experience G forces barely 3G, and they can survive around 9G if the forces last only a fraction of a second. But an object rotating at 8,000 km / h experiences g-forces in excess of 10,000, which means that the SpinLaunch system is only suitable for satellites that have modern electronics and rugged components that can survive these launch conditions.