Let's face it: space travel is expensive and it requires a lot of fuel. Now that we're focusing on deep space travel, we need less expensive ways of launching and keeping spacecraft in space — especially if those vehicles will be carrying people.
Companies like SpaceX have made strides in affordability by offering reusable rockets, and now, a company called Escape Dynamics plans on taking that a step further by creating a space rocket that doesn't even require fuel — it gets its power through microwave energy.
It's a highly theoretical concept, obviously, but if tests of the system succeed (and if the infrastructure is secured to support these rockets), it could make space travel more affordable than ever.
"With this technology, we can uniquely bring to market reusable, single-stage-to-orbit spaceplanes, and aircraft-like operations to orbit, and significantly decrease the cost of access to space for payloads up to 200 kg," said Escape Dynamics president Laetitia Garriott on the company's official blog.
Considering all the problems fueled rockets have experienced recently, it certainly seems like a good idea. Even SpaceX has faced problems, most recently when one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded shortly after launch last month.
Escape Dynamics completed a series of test launches with prototype devices and now hopes to expand on those tests. The prototypes use helium, along with microwave emitters based on the ground to power an electromagnetic motor, which only requires a small amount of hydrogen or helium to operate and get it into orbit. By switching to hydrogen, the company expects its rockets to have increased efficiency and power.
Of course, one of the largest problems facing Escape Dynamics is that the system does require microwave emitters on the ground — something the company would have to plan its infrastructure around once it brings its prototype to larger scale. However, the company believes that this new technology is groundbreaking and that its prototype testing proves the efficiency of this new rocket system.
"We, for the first time, conclusively demonstrated that a new propulsion technology that goes beyond chemical rockets and that can be used for orbital launch works on a lab scale, and we are confident that we can take it to multi-megawatt scales and eventually introduce it into single-stage-to-orbit spaceplanes that will change the way we reach orbit," said Escape Dynamics CEO/CTO Dr. Dmitriy Tseliakhovich.