A huge catapult-like device could soon launch satellites into space

Apr 22, 2022 (CTV Network) — NASA is testing a massive catapult-like device designed to launch small satellites into orbit. The US space agency is working with California-based company SpinLaunch, which is working on a spinning arm that can hurl payloads into the upper atmosphere and into space at incredible speeds. The system is environmentally friendly and could drastically reduce the cost of satellites reaching orbit. It was partly inspired by the work of American and Canadian researchers more than 50 years ago. “It really shows our ability as a species to come up with new and fresh ideas,” said York University astronomer Paul Delaney. “It’s very exciting.” The startup has built a prototype in New Mexico. It is the height of the Statue of Liberty and consists of a centrifuge in a vacuum chamber. A rocket is loaded onto the large carbon fiber arm, which is powered by electric motors. Ultimately, they hope to spin the arm up to 450 revolutions per minute with the rocket reaching a speed of about 8,000 km/h before being released. Once propelled into the upper atmosphere, a small motor would then kick in to push the satellite to its orbital destination. In a corporate video, former NASA director of Ames research Pete Worden says, “The real benefit of SpinLaunch is that it takes most of the energy you need, you don’t have to carry it around with you.” Rockets need massive amounts of fuel to launch their payload into space. It made up 90 percent of the mass of the Saturn V, which carried astronauts to the moon. SpinLaunch would require 70 percent less fuel than a traditional rocket.” Everything I can see on SpinLaunch suggests that 20 to 200 kilograms of payloads can be launched very successfully and quite cheaply in this way,” says Delaney. SpinLaunch CEO and founder Jonathan Yaney has said the idea was partly inspired by a military project in the 1960s that involved both Canadian and American researchers They used giant cannons to fire projectiles into the upper atmosphere at velocities fast enough to go into space. The project was called HARP, which stood for High Altitude Research Project. Yaney has said that this was the best alternative to using missiles. “I really looked at it from a new perspective and then the idea of ​​a rotary accelerator came up,” Yaney said in a video released by the company. SpinLaunch now plans to build a launch vehicle three times bigger than that one. in New Mexico, and hopes to launch its first satellite into orbit by 2025.

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