More private businesses are getting involved in the spaceflight market. A startup called SpinLaunch wants to send objects into space by using a catapult to lower the cost of the launch.
However, rockets wouldn't entirely be out of the picture.
Making Use Of A Centrifuge
SpinLaunch recently raised $30 million to develop the space catapult system. The idea of the catapult system is to lessen the costs of using fuel and rockets which drive costs up. Limiting the amount of fuel that is used at launch can help knock that price down.
The basis for the catapult technology that SpinLaunch is developing is a centrifuge. In order to be able to launch things into space, SpinLaunch would need a centrifuge spinning at around 3,000 miles per hour. At this speed, the objects would have enough speed to make out to space on their own.
SpinLaunch alternatively plans to also use rockets if the speed isn't fast enough to get things out into space.
The founder of SpinLaunch, Jonathan Yaney, spoke to Techcrunch about his plans for the future of space flight. He talked about the minimal advances made to rocket technology, which led him to think outside the box about a technology that would be completely different than what's been available.
"Since the dawn of space exploration, rockets have been the only way to access space. Yet in 70 years, the technology has only made small incremental advances," said Yaney. "To truly commercialize and industrialize space, we need 10x tech improvement."
Yaney hopes to be able to send objects into space for less than $500,000. This is much lower than the $62 million that it costs to send a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into space. SpaceX recently tested a rocket that could carry more weight than all currently available rockets.
This isn't the first time that the idea for a catapult has been raised. NASA had conducted research into a catapult system that could launch cargo into space using a track instead of a centrifuge. A prototype for the system was created in 2009.
This system would work with an electromagnetic track that would tether a spacecraft to a track then use a linear motor to accelerate it to the speed needed to send it into space.
The spacecraft would be on the track until it reaches the speed necessary then disengage from the track to take off into space.
NASA eventually found that a lucrative solution was not feasible.