It's very expensive to put things into outer space. So HyperV Technologies, of Chantilly, Va., has begun a Kickstarter campaign that hopes to pioneer an electrically powered and slingshot-inspired alternative, with the goal of greatly reduced launch costs. It's called the Slingatron, and backers have already donated more than $12,000.
Rocketry is the classic, tried-and-true method for getting things into space, but it's not without drawbacks. Rockets are one-way tubes, filled mostly with explosive fuel, designed to have a good thrust-to-weight ratio and deliver a small cargo into orbit. Once a stage of the rocket has spent its fuel, it drops off into the sea, letting the craft continue farther and lighter. Reusable rockets, like SpaceX's Grasshopper design prototype, offer a better value than disposable rocket stages, but they still use expensive rocket fuel.
The Slingatron, instead, would launch things into space with hardly any rocketry involved at all. Cargo units would each have a little rocket, for course corrections once in orbit, but getting into space would be by the Slingatron's own power. The inspiration for the design comes from slings, a weapon common in antiquity and made famous by the story of David and Goliath.
The Slingatron mimics the spiraling acceleration of a sling, but otherwise appears very unlike the classic cloth weapon. Instead, it consists of a fixed metal coil on top of a gyrating platform. Because of this gyration, the Slingatron is not designed for especially fragile satellites (or humans), as this type of acceleration involves a dangerous amount of gravitational force. HyperV Technologies has an 8 second video showing the concept in action:
The Slingatron track doesn't itself spin, but because its motor gyrates at between 40-60 cycles per second, it imitates that effect for the cargo. Once the Slingatron is moving at speed, the cargo is released into the track near the center of the spiral, and the gyrations send it moving faster and faster outward, like a roller coaster going through hoop after hoop but still gaining momentum. A special "plasma film" forms between the payload and the track, much like how water on a slide makes the ride faster. When the cargo reachers the end of the Slingatron track, it is launched upward and flies away at high speed.
In the first video above, a prototype Slingatron launches a 1/2-pound steel block more than 325 feet per second. The Kickstarter project wants to make a much larger version, both to demonstrate the technology and smooth out the kinks before firing objects off into space.
The project has until August 22 to reach its $250,000 goal.
I dont see this as being too much different than rail gun theories. The same problems exist at least. AIR RESISTANCE. Yes its very nice you MIGHT be able to get it to a speed that could reach orbit but the forces due to air resistance would be insane, especially if launching from ground level. Some one either needs to apply this to a high altitude system or needs to find a way to counteract the air resistance enough to make the conatiner being sent feasibly light and strong enough to handle the forces. Launching something at Mach 20 though sea-level atmopshere is simply not going to happen.
Sounds fascinating. We love to see other space companies crowdfunding their projects. After all, we're a completely crowdfunded space agency! Plus, we're launching our SHIM-1 project to Indiegogo in mid-August...
Looks problematic to me. Hopefully the design can be improved. Also, to really look hopeful, this technology needs to launch the test object much much further than other mechanical launchers. 325 feet sounds easily attainable by almost any other technology. The concept image looks nutty. You can't upscale those kinds of forces. For example, small axles can spin at 100 thousand rpm but if you try to scale that up to an axle a meter in diameter, it will blow apart. The acceleration and jerk forces are just too much.
@KFLYNN10 Air resistance is not an insurmountable problem. Ablative materials have existed for decades that could protect the craft. I came up with a potentially superior alternative several years ago. You could cool it the same way the walls of a regeneratively cooled rocket engine is cooled. Pump a fluid perhaps water through small tubes covering the skin of the projectile where friction is expected to be greatest. This fluid would be allowed to boil before being ejected out the back as a steam rocket. This will nullify a large portion of your friction losses and if desired could give you the ability to alter your trajectory. The same rocket nozzle used on the steam engine could be fed with hypergolic fuel through separate injectors once above the atmosphere to circularize and raise the orbit.
Rail guns are expensive, I thought this approach was rather innovative. I don't know nearly enough physics or engineering to hypothesize on how well it will scale in comparison to other approaches. One neat thing about the slingatron is it looks like you could launch a constant stream of objects they may actually want to do that to keep it balanced.
My favorite space launch design is still the ram accelerator.
i'm no aerospace engineer but here's the basic issue about "rail-gun" tech applied to lifting objects into space. A rocket lifting a cargo into space practically takes its time in building up escape velocity to leaves Earth's gravity clutches. As it spends its fuel, it is shedding its weight making it accelerate even further. It's gradual so at most I suppose any of the payload may experience 2 to 3 gravities on average (feel free to correct me here)but at least it is not applied all at ONCE. But in comparison, in this project, the payload must achieve all of that escape velocity of 9.6 meters per sec per sec the moment it leaves the machinery. To make the payload more robust to withstand those crushing gravities, you must then spend more on materials to make them more stronger. But what is the point of spending extra gazillions to buff up the payload for a need that only happens in the first few seconds of launch -- and still end up as noting more than a crushed beer can. For now, until such time as someone perfects the art of deflecting gravity (no such thing as anti-gravity), rocketry is the only viable option. Good try but this needs more thinking. Make your math count and mind your decimals.
A normal person in eyes down (sitting position) can get around 5 to 6g before they pass out apolo hit about 7 fighter pilots can hit 12 or so. With an eyes back (laying position) untrained people can handle 16g without injury or black out for several seconds. Inadequate blood supply is the key reason people pass out and it is much higher of a factor in a sitting or standing position than a laying position. The optimum position for high g forces may be being suspended in a gel having a density near that of your body, being hypothermic and having your lungs filled with an oxygenating fluid. Breathing fluids occasionally used in deep sea diving are too high of density but this could be corrected by suspending foam or gas bubbles in it.
Not that that really matters, they aren't planning on shooting people to orbit on a rail gun. While its not trivial to build components that survive extreme g forces they do exist, air to air missiles are built to survive hundreds of g's pistons in engines survive thousands a bullet peeks out over 100,000g and high end centrifuges can sustain almost 300,000g. Btw there are people building active electronics to be used inside bullets. Consider the g forces and other stresses on a bunker buster bomb that counts how far under a surface it is before detonating. Or the complex nature of a nuclear bomb and fiering that off in an artillery shell.
G force is an issue but its one we know how to deal with.
Ah, cyclotron space travel...interesting...
Can we please chalk this up to crazy hairball schemes before we actually waste the money to build a flop technology?
One does not simply fix air resistance. Look at the waverider missle tests.
Thank you John. Adaptation, you are way underscoring the forces of air resistance. We have trouble going Mach 6 in the UPPER atmosphere, going Mach 20 in the lower atmopshere is practically impossible. The only way to break out of our atmopshere (at this point) is with rockets, plain and simple. You can go the elevator idea but the principle is the same, constant and steady acceleration to reach escape velocity. You cant hit a velocity high enough to escape earths atmopshere when launching from the ground and adding no acceleration during the flight. Not only would you need to greatly exceed escaple velocity at the point of launch (because you would be slowing down not speeding up as the travel progressed) but the forces would blow apart anything we have. Super impractial idea, Rano has it right, we should not waste money on far fetched technology. You want a safe, steady and efficent way, go with the elevator or rockets. Then when you get to space or the moon we can talk about rail gun launches and high speeds.
TOTALLY not worth it.
Current maglev tech has managed a 503kmph velocity.
On a shuttle launch that's about 14 seconds of burn.
This installation would cost hundreds of billions of dollars just to build and would take tens of millions per launch and millions per year of maintenance just to keep the squirrels out of the transformers...
All for MAYBE five launches per year? Fifty Six seconds?
The pollution of making and running it would be worse than a boost stage of Monomethyl Hydrazine and Nitrogen Tetroxide.
Not to mention what happens if the rocket doesn't burn.
This entire concept was investigated by science fiction writers a long time ago and mostly abandoned. The density of power necessary would require a fusion generator of massive output.
Then again if we're talking accelerating something to a speed at which it will REACH orbit, we're talking about it being slowed down to "only" 28,000kph or so...
This kind of device is pointless showmanship.
I've read that you can remove air resistance by somehow ionizing the surrounding area of the craft. Ionizing the air surrounding the craft is supposed to make arrow dynamics go bye bye. I've read this is termed Air Spike.
Couldnt agree more Thunderloon. Turvix, I am going to assumer your post is bologana. Mostly due to the fact you spelled aerodynamics "arrow dynamics", thats not a good start.
Second there are scram jets like ajax that propose the ionization of air with a shock at the inlet to the air intake and then the use of giant magnets to help propel the air through the inlet. Saying this makes air-resistance go bye bye though, is completely naive.
@adaptation . mil-spec is not the same as commercial specifications nor budget. Isn't the point of this is to gain more ground in the commercial inroads into space rather than military. No business mogul but building satellites or payloads to be more robust would mean extra expenses that would not look good in the books.
an ittybitty-sized bullet is not the same as a satellite payload. it does not necessarily mean that the effects of mechanical forces applied on a "solid", object like the example you used -- a bullet or bunker-buster, i believe -- would necessarily be the same on those on much bigger multi-component object like a satellite that are connected by screws, baling wire, ducktape and whatnot; the effects are dissimlar. by analogy, an ant falling from 18 floors would survive the fall but not a much human; too many stuff to break. this project and similar "rail-gun" space launchers has never been just about speed. its has always been about escape velocity and ballistics. you see any payload you lob up must constantly fight against the neg. acceleration of gravity pulling it back down. for this machine to work at ground level once their payload leaves the "cannon" it must be moving out initially at least 7 miles per second (or 25,000 miles/hr) for at this speed no further force is needed to totally escape earth's gravity. at these velocities, however, it places Extremely - nay, Tremendous - mechanical loads and gravities upon payloads (not to mention people). this project does not take into account for what happens to their payload 's acceleration and "gravitational forces". Do the math using this formula to make things simple & basic: F = M x A where 'M' is the mass of the object and 'A' is its acceleration; in this case the acceleration of gravity 9.8 meters / sec /sec. you basically end up with the analogy of a crushed beer can at the end of the journey in earth orbit. By the way, in this project, there is no acceleration on the payload once its leaves its "cannon", the payload would start slowing down the second it leaves its "rail" if does not achieve the Golden speed of escape velocity of 7 miles per second. Anything less and it just starts to fall back down to earth. So what now? Place a rocket booster? but we're now back to rocketry then. they should make their math count. and mind their decimals.
So this is only intended for ruggedized satellites, just like that one program back in the 60s-70s to literally shoot satellites out of a gigantic cannon into space.
There are 2 proposals which I believe have real potential to enable cheap spaceflight:
The Skylon Spaceplane, which could be refueled at some specialized airports, take off from a regular runway, and then blast into space from there. This would enable modular space stations to be built faster and bigger than ever, cargo such as satellites and supplies to be delivered at a much cheaper cost, and open up space as a destination for people to visit.
The other is SpaceX's goal vision, which is to build a completely reusable rocket that could be prepared for another mission in an even shorter amount of time and much more efficiently. SpaceX's plan is for the Stages that fall off the rocket as it goes into space to guide themselves back to the launchpad, where they would actually land, ready to be reused maybe a week later for another launch.
A while back for my own amusement I tried to back of the envelope design a magnetic linear accelerator for orbital (17000 MpH) or moon (2500 Mph).
The assumption was that accelerator would launch at a velocity of 10 KM per Second. At the low extreme I had 10M/S or 1G for 1000 seconds (16.666... Minutes) but the catapult was 5000 Km long. At the high end I had 80M/S or 8Gs (posibly lethal) for 125 Seconds with a 625 Km (391 Mile) catapult.
One idea that I think is innovative is that the passenger would stand in the capsule with his/her back to an empty water bed that would fill and float the passenger as the capsule accelerated- almost a shirt sleeve environment.
At high G launches fragile cargoes could be frozen in blocks of ice and then thawed in orbit if they could tolerate being wet.