Space

NASA will test SpinLaunch's ability to fling satellites into orbit

NASA will test SpinLaunch's ab...
SpinLaunch's kinetic launch facility at Spaceport America, new Mexico is now doing "regular" sub-orbital test launches with exit velocities over 1,000 mph
SpinLaunch's kinetic launch facility at Spaceport America, new Mexico is now doing "regular" sub-orbital test launches with exit velocities over 1,000 mph
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SpinLaunch's kinetic launch facility at Spaceport America, new Mexico is now doing "regular" sub-orbital test launches with exit velocities over 1,000 mph
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SpinLaunch's kinetic launch facility at Spaceport America, new Mexico is now doing "regular" sub-orbital test launches with exit velocities over 1,000 mph
Render shows a lightweight launch vehicle, held at the end of a carbon fiber arm inside a 300-foot diameter steel vacuum chamber. Within this vacuum chamber, this arm is spun up to incredible velocities before the launch vehicle is released through a hole pointed skyward
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Render shows a lightweight launch vehicle, held at the end of a carbon fiber arm inside a 300-foot diameter steel vacuum chamber. Within this vacuum chamber, this arm is spun up to incredible velocities before the launch vehicle is released through a hole pointed skyward
SpinLaunch promises to radically cut launch costs and fuel use, for orbital and sub-orbital payloads that can withstand the G forces of a kinetic launch
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SpinLaunch promises to radically cut launch costs and fuel use, for orbital and sub-orbital payloads that can withstand the G forces of a kinetic launch
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NASA has signed up to test SpinLaunch's extraordinary whirl 'n' hurl space launch technology, which accelerates a launch vehicle to hypersonic speeds using an electric centrifuge instead of a rocket, hurling it skyward like a space discus.

The idea behind SpinLaunch is as staggering as the company's name is appropriate. The idea of winding up and throwing satellites most of the way into orbit just boggles the mind. But in initial testing, this company's kinetic launch system, which looks externally a lot like a turbocharger, has shown promise as an environmentally-friendly, and potentially cost-effective replacement for first-stage rocket launches.

Not all launches – nobody's suggesting astronauts should sit in a capsule enduring 10,000 G on the end of that long carbon-fiber arm as it spins up to extraordinary speed, then releases it skyward at more than six times the speed of sound (5,000 mph, or 8,047 km/h).

But the company says it'll be appropriate for smaller launch vehicles weighing up to about 440 lb (200 kg), carrying ultra-ruggedized satellites capable of dealing with the forces involved. The SpinLaunch system will do the first part, flinging them high into the air, where a second-stage rocket can take over and give them the final push into orbit.

Render shows a lightweight launch vehicle, held at the end of a carbon fiber arm inside a 300-foot diameter steel vacuum chamber. Within this vacuum chamber, this arm is spun up to incredible velocities before the launch vehicle is released through a hole pointed skyward
Render shows a lightweight launch vehicle, held at the end of a carbon fiber arm inside a 300-foot diameter steel vacuum chamber. Within this vacuum chamber, this arm is spun up to incredible velocities before the launch vehicle is released through a hole pointed skyward

And the advantages are pretty compelling. SpinLaunch says that eliminating the first-stage rocket from the launch vehicle will cut out some 70 percent of the fuel and structures needed by a traditional launch vehicle, and that it can get appropriate loads into orbit using a quarter of the fuel, and at a tenth of the price.

NASA is one of many parties interested in this possibility, and it's now signed a Space Act agreement with SpinLaunch to develop and integrate a NASA payload for this kinetic launch system, which will be flung skyward from Spaceport America, New Mexico, in a test flight later this year.

SpinLaunch promises to radically cut launch costs and fuel use, for orbital and sub-orbital payloads that can withstand the G forces of a kinetic launch
SpinLaunch promises to radically cut launch costs and fuel use, for orbital and sub-orbital payloads that can withstand the G forces of a kinetic launch

This, like all SpinLaunch "regular" test flights to date, will be a slower sub-orbital launch with a speed closer to 1,000 mph (1,600 km/h, Mach 1.3) than 5,000 mph. The payload will be designed to take a range of measurements, which will be analyzed by both groups. All non-proprietary information learned from this test will be published, and SpinLaunch says it's working towards its first orbital launch in 2025.

“SpinLaunch is offering a unique suborbital flight and high-speed testing service, and the recent launch agreement with NASA marks a key inflection point as SpinLaunch shifts focus from technology development to commercial offerings,” said SpinLaunch Founder and CEO Jonathan Yaney. “What started as an innovative idea to make space more accessible has materialized into a technically mature and game-changing approach to launch. We look forward to announcing more partners and customers soon, and greatly appreciate NASA’s continued interest and support in SpinLaunch.”

Check out a render video showing how this remarkable system will work below.

SpinLaunch

Source: SpinLaunch

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28 comments
28 comments
yawood
"which looks externally a lot like a turbocharger" or someone giving you the finger!
Mayhem
Looks like an ideal HAWK hypersonic missile launcher...
niio
I'd like to know how it gets out of its vacuum chamber at launch. The website doesn't say but it looks like it breaks through some kind of barrier.
Malcolm Jacks
Surely it would be better if the fins would open after it exits the SpinLaunch ????
dan
Hype thats all this equates to. It has been proven time and time again this is a terrible idea. I am all for new tech, but I dont think this one is a good one. I have seen physicists break this down and it fails on all fronts. Hope they prove me wrong but sounds like NASA is desperate.
Rumata
I's just a bad April joke of an uneducated person, who don't know even the basic laws of physics.
If the capsule can withstand the acceleration force of spinning, then it could be launched much easier by a cannon.
Also, a cannon of similar length can be much more gentle to the capsule, than this barbaristic release method.
There are already cannons that are capable of shooting bullets with six times the speed of sound.
paul314
If you can have guided artillery shells, then building the circuitry for these things shouldn't be that hard. But I do wonder a little about the structure (and pumping) for a 100-meter diameter vacuum chamber, and the ports that let the payload out without all manner of shock and air infiltration.
pmshah
Do they realise how strong the construction will have to be to sustain what ? 60- 80- G or more to achieve hypersonic speed? When launched by a rocket it reaches escape velocity gradually over a length time without putting structural members under such strain. It would be like a sling shot. Even the spinning device would have to be that strong to not fall apart at that peripheral speed. Add to that the centrifugal force applied by the satellite to the restraints ! I sure hope the NASA engineers have the necessary tools to define and measure possible forces in play.
michael_dowling
This thing should be constructed on a mountaintop to minimize air friction. There was a design for a machine gun using this principle,but I forget why it was dropped.
David F
Surely it would better to invest in a linear accelerator launcher as the first stage, not a slingshot device that is difficult to scale for a variety of payloads.
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