Spinlaunch is using large centrifuges to accelerate to payloads into space – target $500,000 per launch

SpinLaunch is raising $30 million to use large centrifuges to power catapult to launch payloads into space. They use large centrifuges to store energy and will then rapidly transfer that momentum into a catapult to send a payload to space at up to 4,800 kilometers per hour (3,000 mph). If successful, the acceleration architecture is projected to be both lower cost and use much less power, with the price of a single space launch reduced to under US$500,000.

SpinLaunch was founded in 2014 by Jonathan Yaney, who previously started Titan Aerospace, a solar-powered drone company and subsequently sold it to Google. They raised $1 million in equity in 2014, the year SpinLaunch was founded, $2.9 million in equity in 2015, $2.2 million in debt in mid-2017 and another $2 million in debt in late 2017. SpinLaunch has raised a total of $10 million to date.

Last month, a bill was proposed in the Hawaii state senate to issue $25 million in bonds to assist SpinLaunch with “constructing a portion of its electrical small satellite launch system.”

SpinLaunch employs a rotational acceleration method, harnessing angular momentum to gradually accelerate the vehicle to hypersonic speeds. This approach employs a dramatically lower cost architecture with much lower power.” SpinLaunch is targeting a per-launch price of less than $500,000.

Based on Limited information – SpinLaunch appears to be the 1997 Derek Tidman Slingatron proposal

In 2013, there was an unsuccessful Kickstarter to fund the Slingatron. It was is a mechanical hypervelocity mass accelerator that has the potential to dramatically increase flight opportunities and reduce the cost of launching payloads into earth orbit, thus helping to make humanity a truly spacefaring species. The Slingatron technology can be incrementally grown in performance and size to ultimately launch payloads into orbit. The Kickstarter project goal is to build and demonstrate a modular Slingatron 5 times larger in diameter than the previous existing Mark 2 prototype. It will be used to launch in our laboratory a 1/4 pound payload to 1 kilometer/sec. That is about 2,237 mph. If launched straight up at that speed, a payload would reach an altitude of about 51 km, neglecting air resistance. This Kickstarter project is an important next step in the development of the Slingatron because it will provide vital technical information, practical experience, and cost data on what will be required to build a full-scale Slingatron orbital launch system in the future.

The Slingatron would not replace rockets. It would complements rockets, freeing them to launch what they launch best. Slingatron is best suited to launch bulk materials such as water, fuel, building materials, radiation shielding, g-load-hardened satellites, etc. into orbit. It cannot launch people or very delicate equipment due to high acceleration (g) loads experienced during the launch cycle. However, bulk materials will account for the majority of mass launched into orbit if we are ever going to establish a major presence in space, whether those materials are launched from the Earth or from the Moon.

Hyperv Technologies is also working on a version of nuclear fusion and minirailguns

Here is a 3 page paper on an orbital launch Slingatron.

A projectile of mass 500 kg could, for example, be accelerated in a slingatron of ring radius 640 meters (track width – 32 em) to a velocity of 8 km/sec. Its maximum centrifugal acceleration would be 10,000 g’s. If launched at an elevation angle of 30 degrees it could be inserted into LEO with a small rocket kick at apogee.

A much smaller scale test system would be a reasonable first step. For example, a slingatron of ring radius 40 meters could accelerate the same elongated projectile to 2 km/sec. If the projectile consisted of a light gas gun (LGG) which was encased for atmospheric transit (essentially an encased long steel tube), it could be launched vertically from the slingatron to an altitude of- 160 km, i.e., well above the atmosphere. At peak altitude th ~ LGG could then fire a small mass horizontally ~ 7.5 km/sec to the East into LEO, and then drop back via guided parachute to base for re-use. The mass in orbit would probably be too small to be useful in this case. However, this small ‘pop-up’ system could evolve into the full-scale sling launcher.

Nextbigfuture had coverage of small scale army funding of the potential of Slingatrons back in 2006.

An artist’s concept for a full scale Slingatron space launcher about 200-300 meters in diameter. The spiral track is mounted on support pylons which contain drive motors and counterweight flywheels. Payload assemblies are prepared for launch nearby.

In preparation for payload launch, the Slingatron is gradually gyrated up to approximately 40-60 cycles per second. Once the Slingatron track is cycling at launch speed, the payload module is released into the entrance of the track near the center of the rapidly gyrating spiral track. Once within the track, the payload module accelerates and quickly becomes phase-locked with the gyrating action of the entire platform as a result of the tremendous acceleration. The strong centrifugal force causes the payload module to continue accelerating throughout the spiral track. From the perspective of the payload module, it appears to be constantly sliding down a steep incline under a very high “gravitational force”, which is actually due to the centripetal acceleration. At high speed, the payload slides on a “plasma bearing” film that forms between the bottom of the payload and the surface of the steel track. This plasma bearing provides a very low coefficient of friction cushion which allows the rapid acceleration. When the payload reaches its launch velocity of about 7 km/sec in the last spiral turn, it then launches through a track angled up a hill or other structure to direct it into space.

The spiral track inside the Mark II Slingatron. The bearing supports at the four corners attach to the gyrating flywheel assemblies. This spiral steel track mimics Case B above.

How will a Slingatron launch payload into orbit?

Here is a conceptual overview of how a Slingatron would launch payloads into orbit:

* Satellites or a bulk cargo container are attached to a kick motor upperstage forming a payload module. The payload modules are then loaded into the launch rack at the center of the Slingatron spiral track.
* The Slingatron is gradually spun-up to a typical gyration speed of approximately 60 cycles per second. This is done over a period of minutes to ensure that all parts of the track are gyrating smoothly in phase.
* At the specified launch time, a Payload Module is released into the Slingatron spiral.
* The centripetal force from the gyrating Slingatron moves the payload module forward into the Slingatron track.
* The Payload Module rapidly accelerates under the tremendous centripetal force as it travels outward in the ever-expanding spiral track.
* The Payload Module exits the Slingatron at a velocity of about 4.3 miles/second(7 kilometers/second).
* The long thin Payload Module has an ablative nosecone which prevents thermal damage to the Payload Module during its brief (few seconds) flight through the dense layers of earth’s atmosphere.
* The Payload Module loses some velocity due to atmospheric drag. This is small compared to its overall launch velocity.
* The rocket motor upper stage on the Payload Module is fired near apogee (highest part of the parabola) to make up the velocity lost from atmospheric drag and to alter its trajectory into a circular orbit around the earth.
* Payload Modules that are not free-flying satellites are then captured in orbit by a robotic space tug and delivered to a central Payload Depot.

What are the disadvantages of a Slingatron orbital launch system?

* High peak g-loads of up to 40-60,000 g’s during launch limits the type and complexity of payloads that can be launched. Allowing larger diameter Slingatrons, however, can reduce these g-loads in direct proportion to the increase in diameter.

* Special g-hardened satellites will need to be developed for those applications requiring specialized satellite functionality.

* Non-satellite bulk payloads will most likely require orbital capture by a space tug and further processing at a supply depot on-orbit. The cost of these systems must be factored into the overall infrastructure cost of a large-scale orbital Slingatron launch system. These systems will presumably be reusable and enabled by the lower Slingatron launch costs.

* To reduce drag and heating during launch and the brief atmospheric transit, payload modules must be designed to be long and relatively small in diameter thin.

Technical Objectives for the 2013 Slingatron Kickstarter

Our technical objectives for this Slingatron Kickstarter development project are to meet or exceed the following performance goals.

1) Slingatron proposed to design, construct, and test a Slingatron with a diameter of about 5 meters and capable of accelerating one pound payloads to 1 km/sec. They will need to achieve 40-60 cycles per second gyration frequency to accomplish this. They will only work with ¼ lb payloads during the basic Kickstarter project and for the demo event, but we will design and build the Slingatron so that later we can safely test launch one pound payloads. During these laboratory and demo tests, the payload will be captured in a tank.

2) They will design the 5-meter Slingatron as the core module of an expandable system to which additional modules can be added later to extend the performance to 2 km/sec or higher. This allows the investment in hardware provided by this Kickstarter project to leverage the construction of higher performance machines without having to start from scratch.

A 2013, 5 meter diameter Kickstarter Slingatron proposed to demonstrate launch of up to 1 lb test payloads at 1 km/sec. This is a fully modular approach, which can be further expanded to much larger systems.

The 5-meter diameter Kickstarter Slingatron will demonstrate launch of up to 1 lb test payloads at 1 km/sec. This is a fully modular approach, which can be further expanded to much larger systems.

Around 2006 the Army and Air force had magnetic catapult space launch funding

In 2006, the US army had some small funding for a Slingatron.

Initial studies have demonstrated the fundamental feasibility of the Slingatron concept. This program will explore the concept’s bounding limits and seek to develop uses for the technology within those limits. Included in this program will be studies of the key technologies that will allow the accelerator to achieve very high projectile energies.
The idea is a giant spiral Hula Hoop, somewhat bigger than a football stadium and oscillating at about nine revolutions a second.

Nextbigfuture noticed that the longer path in the Army design would allow for less extreme acceleration. (ie fewer G’s)

The program plans are nothing if not ambitious, aiming to:
– Fabricate experimental launchers.
– Demonstrate mass launchers that range in capabilities over three to four orders of magnitude.
– Demonstrate mass velocities on the order of several km/s and perhaps higher than 10km/s.

The Air force and Launchpoint are working on magnetic sled launch systems.

Before 2006, there was a $500,000 Phase II contract awarded from the U.S. Department of Defense Small Business Technology Transfer Program, LaunchPoint engineers, under the direction of Jim Fiske, evaluated an innovative magnetically-levitated space launch system.

The Launch Ring, as it is called, would accelerate a small payload within a subsurface magnetic tube until it reached escape velocity. At that point, the payload capsule would exit the ring onto an elevated ramp and be launched into orbit. The results of LaunchPoint’s R&D analyses suggest that a space launch system utilizing maglev technology could work very well, creating a more cost-effective means of launching small payloads into space.

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