Space

SpinLaunch's rocket-free kinetic launch system conducts first test flight

SpinLaunch's rocket-free kinet...
SpinLaunch's Suborbital Accelerator at Spaceport America
SpinLaunch's Suborbital Accelerator at Spaceport America
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SpinLaunch's L100 Orbital Mass Accelerator is designed to fling 200-kg satellites into orbit
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SpinLaunch's L100 Orbital Mass Accelerator is designed to fling 200-kg satellites into orbit
SpinLaunch's Suborbital Accelerator at Spaceport America
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SpinLaunch's Suborbital Accelerator at Spaceport America
SpinLaunch's Suborbital Accelerator is a testbed for its large orbital launch system
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SpinLaunch's Suborbital Accelerator is a testbed for its large orbital launch system
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For more than half a century we've been sending vehicles and humans into space with the help of rockets, but what if there was another way? Startup SpinLaunch has been exploring such possibilities through the development of what it calls the world's first kinetic space launch system, and it's recently completed its first test flight.

SpinLaunch has been developing its alternative launch system since 2015, imagining a future where satellites and spacecraft can escape the Earth's atmosphere with zero emissions. It aims to achieve this with the help of a giant accelerator powered by an electric drive that it says could cut fuel use by four times and the costs by 10 times compared to traditional rocket launches, while also firing multiple payloads into orbit each day.

Initially, it is pursuing these ambitions through its Suborbital Accelerator. This consists of an upright disc-shaped, vacuum chamber slightly taller than the Statue of Liberty that uses a carbon fiber tether to whip a projectile around to speeds of up to 5,000 mph (8,047 km/h), many times the speed of sound, before releasing it through a launch tube and upward through the atmosphere.

SpinLaunch's L100 Orbital Mass Accelerator is designed to fling 200-kg satellites into orbit
SpinLaunch's L100 Orbital Mass Accelerator is designed to fling 200-kg satellites into orbit

A larger system, the L100 Orbital Mass Accelerator, would operate on a similar principle, and is being developed to launch satellites weighing up to 440 lb (200 kg). The company says advances in electronics that enable relatively small capacitors, chips and resistors allow these components to be ruggedized to survive the 10,000 g in the fast-spinning launch chamber, and its testing has proven satellite systems are capable of enduring such conditions.

The idea of conducting orbital launches without rockets has been explored through some highly ambitious research ventures in the past, such as a joint initiative between the US and Canada called Project Harp in the 1960s that aimed to fire projectiles into orbit with a massive space gun. This design also formed the basis for Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's Project Babylon, which was abandoned when the lead engineer was assassinated.

SpinLaunch's Suborbital Accelerator is a testbed for its large orbital launch system
SpinLaunch's Suborbital Accelerator is a testbed for its large orbital launch system

There is a lot of work to do before non-rocket-powered space launches become a reality, but last month SpinLaunch took an important step forward. On October 22, the company completed its first test flight at its Spaceport America base in New Mexico, successfully launching a prototype vehicle from its Suborbital Accelerator which reached supersonic speeds and was recovered for reuse thereafter. It plans to conduct further test flights across 2022 with different vehicles and at different launch velocities, as it plans for its first customer launches in late 2024.

Source: SpinLaunch

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33 comments
33 comments
Nizzlund
Not very viable. The lowest possible speed for orbit is 28,000 kph without continuous energy input. That is once You reach the orbit far over the atmosphere.

It might be possible to use it as "first stage" however as indicated in the companys video, throwing a second stage rocket with payload high enough for orbit. But then the payload of a 200 kg rocket is only a few kg´s. This tech has a long way before being of any use for orbital launches.
Altronix
It would be good to know what altitude the first test reached.
Pulpmillguy
They didn't say how high their test "subject" was launched...but as Nizzlund said probably not very far.
Toddy
Was extremely sceptical when I first heard about this start up but I'm now extremely impressed. Best of luck to the team having success with such an awesome concept. In the most literal sense, I am in awe.

And to Nizzlund, I believe the payload = mass of the satellite being carried :)
KaiserPingo
It's a viable tech and it's moving forwards.
The number of sattelites is not going to deminish, and this is a good and friendly way of getting them in to orbit.
Or for sending drones in to high altitudes.
Yes there is still work to be done, but thats the case for every kind of system to go in to orbit or to the moon, mars and beyond.
riczero-b
The timing of release from the tether must be very critical. I'd hate to be in the neighbourhood of this thing imploding and the subsequent Mach 5 debris.
paul314
For years, people were trying to get linear accelerators (essentially railguns) to work for satellite launches, but this approach would appear to require much less construction. Could be particularly useful as the minimum size/mass of useful satellites continues to decline, or if on-orbit assembly becomes a thing.
michael_dowling
This would best be sited at some high elevation to cut down on air resistance,and a booster rocket would be needed in any case to achieve orbit. Richard Branson's launch system has been successful for orbital insertions,without the extreme Gs https://bbc-edition.com/richard-bransons-virgin-orbit-reaches-space-with-unconventional-rocket-launch-system/
dbenware
On a side note: Wondering/Thinking "Punkin Chunkin."

They do have a Centrifugal division. (That is if the pumpkin would survive the G-force.)
Cyborlink
May be great at accelerating steel balls into space, but satellites with sensitive electronics and sensors . . . the launching G force has to be incredible.
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