Imagine never seeing a rocket launch again. If Nasa’s new inventions works out, that will be the case.
In news that would have Bart Simpson jumping at the bit, Nasa is planning to test a catapult that can fling objects into space at 5,000mph.
Yep, 5,000mph. Basically, the speed limit in your local area – plus 4,980mph.
So, why is Nasa throwing objects into space really fast?
Well, it’s all about saving time and money.
The catapult works by revolving a carbon fibre arm within a steel vacuum chamber that measures 91 metres in diameter.
The speed generated will then help propel a satellite containing a launch vehicle into space far quicker than your average rocket.
While the system at first sounds like throwing darts in the dark, the satellites will actually use a small amount of propulsion to synch into their desired orbit, making it an incredibly useful alternative for the Space Agency.
Nasa has teamed up with a California-based start-up SpinLaunch to cut the cost, time, and complexity of getting in amongst the stars.
The catapult can be made using materials that are pretty widely available.
They’re also able to use the satellites in their mass accelerator as well as traditional launch systems, meaning that there’s flexibility in how they can be sent to space.
CEO of the start-up, Jonathan Yaney commented on their product, saying: “SpinLaunch is offering a unique suborbital flight and high-speed testing service, and the recent launch agreement with Nasa marks a key inflection point as SpinLaunch shifts focus from technology development to commercial offerings.
“What started as an innovative idea to make space more accessible has materialised into a technically mature and game-changing approach to launch.”
SpinLaunch started back in 2014 with the aim ‘to reimagine space launch technology and enable the rapid and cost-effective deployment of small satellite constellations into Low Earth Orbit’.
In a statement, the company also noted: “Through these turnkey space solutions, SpinLaunch is helping customers eliminate the cost, time, and complexity constraints currently driving space-related business models – ultimately delivering less expensive, scalable access to space.”
According to the company’s website, its first test launch occurred in October last year, at its Mexico test site.
Now, with Nasa as a partner, the start-up is set to develop a Suborbital Accelerator Launch System, with the hope of the first test flight taking place in 2025.