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2006-10-04, EM Space Launch Ring

2006-10-04, EM Space Launch Ring

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Published by Colin Kline
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Published by: Colin Kline on Nov 30, 2010
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Giant Electromagnetic Space Launch Ring
Written by Hank GREEN Wednesday, 04 October 2006

Satellites are important for our gadgets. For our cell phones, GPS units, Google Earth pictures and more. But sending satellites into space is a pretty darned unsustainable prospect. We’re talking $2000 per kilogram of payload and almost all of that goes into fossil fuels. So what’s the alternative? A space elevator would certainly be more efficient, and would only cost several trillion dollars to build. Well, we could just stop sending up satellites and let our gadgets crumble into museum pieces. Or how ‘bout this. We build a gigantic ring superconducting electromagnetic track with a diameter of 2 kilometers in the desert and continuously increase the speed of an object until it reaches 10 k/s and then shift the track to an inclined portion that rockets the object into orbit! Amazing! This has been proposed before, but usually with a straight length of track that would have to either be extremely long, or give the satellite a massive amount of speed in a short time. A recent AirForce study of this very concept has concluded that this device could decrease the cost of launches (and fuel consumed) 100 fold. The space ring shown here could increase the speed of the object over a period of hours on an infinite length of track. The problem being, of course, that anything travelling in a circle at high speeds is going to have to deal with unfortunate G-forces. The kind of G forces that would have any living organism seeping into the upholstery before launch. Most communications satellites are too fragile for this kind of treatment. CK (06-12-2008):
No need for a track ! Use a horizontal rotating “whirligig”, atop a vertical tower, spinning a launch canister on one end of a “rope” (or cable, or solid arm), and with a counterbalance spinning diametrically opposite. When the canister reaches launch velocity, a trigger mechanism frees it (perhaps the plane of rotation is canted slightly, to launch upwards) on an appropriate trajectory. At the same time, a small weight in the counterbalance, equal to the departed canister, will quickly fold inwards to maintain equilibrium of the spinning mass. Or use a spinning “flat disc”, with X canisters mounted every X degrees, and one by one these are released.

Which is making a lot of people wonder why the Air Force really put together the plan to study the device. Is it really efficient satellite launches they’re after, or is it efficient and constant weapons launches. I might have thought that we were beyond that, but I’m marking this one down under ‘cool, but dangerous.’ Via NewScientist

Comments (17) Subscribe to this comment’s feed
That’s really fast!!!! written by rob, October 04, 2006 If my maths is correct (school was a long time ago), the track would have a circumference of 6.28k, so at 10k/s, the spaceship would be making almost two laps a second. That I would like to see, I wouldn’t want to be in it, but I would like to see it. First stage written by Paul Barthle, October 05, 2006 If a re-usable space plane were to use this concept as a first stage rather than solid fuel, o-ring equipped rockets, the g-forces wouldn’t have to be as high and past disasters could be avoided as well. The real application might be on the proposed moon base, using solar power to launch toward Mars. Fewer G’s necessary under less gravity and no need to ferry fuels from here. Tech. Ed. written by S. E. Robinson, October 05, 2006 Great idea, but a couple concerns. The constant earth rotation would create a problem for the stationary Ring on earth or either its free floating point in space and the airspace this object would demand and tie up. Move on it, this could be wonderful. You’re over a bit on the cost written by Brian, October 06, 2006 So what’s the alternative? A space elevator would certainly be more efficient, and would only cost several trillion dollars to build. We think you’re over just a wee bit on how much a space elevator will cost. Dr. Edwards guess-timates 10 billion, we think based on the work we’ve done this summer it will be about twice that. garbage gun? written by SauZheR, October 07, 2006 What about a ring-garbage gun?? Is really stupid to think to shot straight into the space (or the sun) tons of grabage? i don’t think so. bye Never mind satellites written by John O’Leary, October 07, 2006 I’ve worked all my life in the space industry and I appreciate any progress. But this is probably only realistic if placed on one of the lunar poles. But as a means of safely disposing of nuclear waste, by launching it into the sun, it sounds like a good idea placed on Earth’s north pole. problem and solution written by Fred steel, October 07, 2006 at 10k/s you can not shift any sensitive equipment of any mass grater than a few grams on to an inclined track as you propose. The inertial forces would be far to great. However, if you instead of building your ring horisontally, build it vertically, you would eliminate the problem intierly. Naturally, you would have to construct your ring below ground, wich raises a new problem. Tectonic movements and other ground displacing phenomena (these problems exist for a horisontal ring aswell but are easily solved by letting the ring move with some freedom). This could be solved by finding a solid, dense and homogeneous mountain into which you drill your ring hole using conventional tunnel drilling equipment. Engineer written by John, October 07, 2006 Great idea Fred, at 10k/s it really wouldnt make much difference if you were vertical. and building it underground gives your track the strength it would need to handle the forces. I do think that 2km might be a little short, but I have seen some jet cars on those crazy little tracks go insanely fast held only by a thin wire. I wonder if thats where this idea was spawned. Either way, what an Idea! Another problem written by John, October 07, 2006 If the payload is revolving around the track 2 times a second you will have to switch the tracks ‘very’ quickly. A couple things not being taken into aco written by ElAsturiano, October 07, 2006 At the speeds you are talking pre launch, the air resistance would be significant, keeping a vacuum on the ring while accelerating would solve that, but then, when you divert the payload to the launching ramp you would loose a lot of your energy to air resistance (and lets not talk about the supersonic boom at the spot where the vehicle touches air for the first time). I am sure you get my idea...

Force written by Moto, October 09, 2006 I’m not en engineer, but I would think speed and force factors are going to be very hard to overcome. The G force acting on the projectile would be insane I know that we can make some strong components, but if you break it before you launch it you just shot a billion dollar chunk of metal into space. It’s a good idea but they might need to revise some of the technical specifications. "Durable goods" written by Obvious, October 22, 2006 Sensitive electronics aren’t the only thing sent into space. What about structural components of sattelites and space stations? What about fuels and consumables for those living in space (milk, green beans, toilet paper.) Who says we have to send stuff up all in one expensive chunk. Anything that can’t survive this kind of treatment can be sent the $2,000/kg way. We can send the socks and liquid 02 using this thing and go up and collect them from orbit as needed. Units written by Rick, October 23, 2006 10k/s 10 kilo... per second? With those units this thing won’t be launching anything. Did you mean 10 km/s ? Power written by Govind, March 19, 2007 My question is that exactly how many Mkwh would be required considering a payload like 500 kg.Also I have a suggestion.Its basically an update of Mr.Berthes idea.launch the payload with a small rocket motor(say it wants to go geosynchronous) and launch another motor,make it dock with the paload in space so it can boost it from Gto to Gso weapons launching written by Dustin, July 25, 2007 weapons have a lot of sensitive electronics in them too. we’ve come a long way from gunpowder in an iron ball. also, the navy is already developing a railgun(http://www.popsci.com/popsci/t...drcrd.html) that they would be fitting to their ships. so what would be the point of a stationary railgun in the middle of a desert? What about nuclear waste? written by Perry, September 10, 2007 If this thing could be developed as a highly reliable means of delivering material to space, would it be possible to collect nuclear waste in space and then send out of earth orbit as a low risk operation? Let’s watch. written by Randy, December 27, 2007 I agree with Rob, this would be an awesome thing to watch, but I would hope that he would join me in the ‘center’ of the circle. At least that way, we would have a chance to ponder the reasons surrounding a track failure, maybe.

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