The American space agency NASA wants to test a new technology that allows smaller payloads to go into space with much less energy consumption. The method was developed by the Californian company SpinLaunch. It is a catapult, a small rocket that holds the cargo in the hold. Accelerated to hypersonic speeds and accelerated into space. At the highest point it reaches, the rocket’s engine is ignited. It accelerates so that it reaches the target position. There the cargo is released.
More than 70 percent less fuel
When launching small satellites, this technology should save more than 70 percent of current fuel needs and thus drastically reduce emissions. That could give the small satellite sector a real boom. Several companies, including Google, Amazon and space company Space X from Tesla builder Elon Musk, want to station thousands in space to enable high-speed internet everywhere in the world.
Acceleration up to 8000 kilometers per hour
Located in the desert in the US state of New Mexico, the centrifugal pendulum works on the simple physical principle that its name implies. Inside the facility, which looks like a giant yo-yo with a small chimney, is a steel vacuum chamber 300 feet (91 meters) in diameter. In it, a load attached to a carbon fiber arm is flung upwards at a speed of 8,000 kilometers per hour. Then it is released and the charge shoots out of the supposed chimney into space. Depending on the size of the payload, SpinLaunch plans to attach rockets to the payloads that will deploy the thrust needed for orbital entry once it reaches the outer layers of the atmosphere.
Three times bigger catapult planned
The giant catapult in New Mexico is just the beginning. SpinLaunch wants to build a facility that is three times the size of the current one closer to the coast. It is said to be capable of launching small satellites, which must be built particularly robustly so as not to be damaged by the extreme acceleration, into space. The contract with NASA paves the way for this.