Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Sunnyvale, CA, United States (4E) – SpinLaunch, a start-up based in Sunnyvale, California, is looking at 2022 for the first launch of its unique launch system that catapults payloads into space by spinning them, then flinging them upwards into space using a powerful electrical centrifuge. The system requires no chemical rockets.
This SpinLaunch centrifuge will rotate faster than the speed of sound (4,800 km/h), thereby generating the momentum needed to fling payloads into low Earth orbit. Booster rockets will assist in getting the payload to the desired orbital position.
SpinLaunch, however, hasn’t released details as to how exactly its technology works, nor has it publicly demonstrated it. Founder and CEO Jonathan Yaney said he expects their catapult launch system will reduce costs by orders of magnitude and allow for multiple launches a day.
“SpinLaunch employs a rotational acceleration method, harnessing angular momentum to gradually accelerate the vehicle to hypersonic speeds,” said Yaney. “This approach employs a dramatically lower cost architecture with much lower power.”
A launch from a SpaceLaunch space catapult will cost a mere $500,000, said Yaney. By comparison, it costs over $60 million to launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 medium-lift launch vehicle.
SpinLaunch first unveiled its technological approach for moving payloads to space in February 2018. It’s raised $40 million from a series of noted investors, including Airbus Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and GV (previously known as Google Ventures) to develop its space catapult.
NASA in the 1960s investigated the feasibility of using a catapult-assisted launch system. Its concept, however, relied on a track instead of a centrifuge. The concept for a centrifuge, however, was proposed in the 1990s by Dr Derek Tidman, a physicist specializing in electrothermal and electromagnetic acceleration.
Dr Tidman called his device a “Slingatron.” A version of the space catapult is currently being researched by HyperV Technologies Corporation, a Virginia-based firm that develops high performance technologies for use in the production, control and diagnostics of plasma, the fourth state of matter. These technologies have applications in the development and control of fusion energy, spacecraft propulsion, and in advanced materials sciences.
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