It’s called SpinLaunch, and it’s a novel approach to launching small payloads into orbit. The idea of a kinetic launch system translates to spinning a payload in a centrifuge at over 1,000 miles per hour and then releasing it for its journey to the stars.
The concept requires no fuel on board, so there is no risk of explosion, and as it is fully electric, it offers a sustainable solution that does not pollute the environment.
“The SpinLaunch Orbital Launch System is a fundamentally new way to reach space,” states the company’s website. “The increase in speed provided by the electric accelerator drive translates to a 4x reduction in fuel needed to reach orbit, a 10x reduction in costs, and the ability to launch multiple times per day.”
The test was the eighth major test of the centrifuge, which is officially called the “suborbital mass accelerator”, and the ten-foot-long projectile which this time had an “optical payload” (camera) on board to capture the launch from the point of view of the projectile.
The video shows the projectile spinning violently as it bursts from the mass accelerator at a maximum test altitude of 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). Therefore, the video image induces a bit of unease from the audience, but it turns out that’s intended.
Angled fins on the projectile induce a rapid spin rate to stabilize the projectile during launch, to prevent it from tumbling during its 82 second ascent. The result is “like a bullet coming out of a gun,” says David Wrenn, vice president of technology at SpinLaunch.
Larger version for launching payloads into orbit
What’s even more interesting is that the SpinLaunch Suborbital Mass Accelerator is a one-third scale model for testing, and so far it’s only fired projectiles at a fraction of the speed it is capable of achieving. The company plans to build a larger version of the accelerator, which is capable of launching a payload of over 440 pounds (200 kg) and at speeds of over 5,000 miles per hour, enough speed to reach low Earth orbit.
And while the test was considered a huge success, the real milestone was for the camera itself to survive the intense G-forces that build up bringing the mass accelerator up to its 1,000-mile speed. This means that SpinLaunch will continue to be able to document onboard payload launches as they get larger and heavier, and do so without destroying the cameras themselves.
The survivability of the cameras, which will soon become more advanced and heavier, also indicates that delicate scientific instruments destined for low Earth orbit will also be able to withstand the stresses of launch without breaking.
In April, NASA and SpinLaunch signed an agreement for NASA to fly a payload with the company’s mass accelerator to test its launch characteristics, with the goal of evaluating the system for future opportunities. commercial launch.
SpinLaunch plans to continue to push the boundaries of a spin-launch system, taking a phased approach to larger payloads and higher speeds, with two launches per month. And the cameras will be on board to document every second.
The first customer launches are planned for 2025.
Picture credits: Header photo by SpinLaunch