NASA Prepares to Test SpinLaunch’s Incredible Centrifugal Launch System

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Some months ago, we introduce you an extraordinary new satellite launch system, developed by the SpinLaunch start-up: a system based on a massive electric centrifuge capable of accelerating to hypersonic speeds (up to 8,000 km/h) before launching the machine into orbit. The great advantage of this approach is that it makes it possible to dispense with the rocket boosters used today by most space companies. Various industry players are interested in this concept, including NASA, which has signed on to test this amazing technology.

One of SpinLaunch’s motivations is green: ” With the industry planning to launch ten times as many satellites over the next decade, the need to develop environmentally friendly space access technology is more urgent than ever. “, accurate the company’s official website. And this does not only concern satellites: while Man plans to settle permanently on the Moon, hundreds of launches of equipment and supplies are expected in the coming years. And this kinetic launch system without rockets, and therefore without the emission of harmful gases, promises “greener” flights.

The other good thing about this giant centrifuge is that it greatly reduces launch costs, especially fuel costs. While a standard launch involves an investment of $5 million to $100 million, a spinning launch would cost less than $500,000 according to SpinLaunch founder Jonathan Yaney. The first tests, carried out on a small prototype, were promising. Since then, SpinLaunch has regularly conducted suborbital launch tests at Spaceport America, New Mexico.

A “technically mature” launch approach

Inside the vacuum-sealed centrifuge, a huge rotating carbon fiber arm, to which the projectile is attached, accelerates to hypersonic speed, then releases the object in a fraction of a second. Tests have shown that this system can catapult a payload into the air at over 1,600 km/h to an altitude of approximately 9 km. NASA seems convinced of this cheaper and more environmentally friendly launch alternative: it has just signed a Space Law agreement with the start-up to test the machine later this year.

Artist’s impression of the SpinLaunch system, tilted to orbit. © SpinLaunch

This test flight “will provide valuable information to NASA for future commercial launch opportunities,” SpinLaunch representatives said. at Space.com. The agency plans to launch a payload at around Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound), contained in a three-meter-long vehicle; once the desired height is reached, the latter will deploy a parachute that will allow it to land gently. The payload will be designed to take a series of actions, which will then be analyzed by both parties.

« What began as an innovative idea to make space more accessible has materialized into an innovative and technically mature launch approach. Yaney said in a statement to Space.com. In practice, the vehicle thus propelled will have to embark a rocket motor, which will produce the final thrust that will lead it to its destination; but this will only turn on once you get to a high altitude, which will greatly reduce the amount of fuel needed.

An acceleration equivalent to 10,000 G

This launch technique, which advantageously replaces the first stage of a rocket, thus makes it possible to devote most of the mass of the space vehicle to the payload and no longer to the propellants. The team estimates that their process will cut the cost of launching small satellites into orbit twenty-fold and ensure dozens of launches per day. ” We look forward to announcing more partners and customers soon, and greatly appreciate NASA’s continued interest and support for SpinLaunch. “Jonathan Yaney said.

The start-up is currently working on the design of satellites compatible with kinetic launch (which implies that the machines and their components must withstand extreme acceleration equivalent to 10,000 G!). ” We have developed a portfolio of optimized subsystems and fully integrated turnkey solutions to provide the most scalable and lowest cost access to space. says the company. In its catalogue: the S-20 and the S-200, the former being optimized for rapid deployment of commercial satellite constellations, the latter being designed for telecommunications and earth observation.

It should be noted that the tests are currently being carried out on a reduced-scale system, about fifty meters high. A representative from SpinLaunch he told TechCrunch that the company planned to conduct more tests at speeds as high as Mach 6 later this year. The final 100-meter-high launcher, designed to orbit, should be operational in 2025; the location of the installation has not yet been communicated. SpinLaunch says it will fit launch vehicles weighing up to 200kg, mostly carrying satellites.

A video showing how the operations will be carried out:

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