Slingatron: US company tries to crowdfund giant space slingshot

An artist's concept for a full scale Slingatron space launcher about 200-300 meters in diameter. The spiral track is mounted on support pylons which contain drive motors and counterweight flywheels. Payload assemblies are prepared for launch nearby. Source: Slingatron/Kickstarter

An artist’s concept for a full scale Slingatron space launcher about 200-300 meters in diameter. The spiral track is mounted on support pylons which contain drive motors and counterweight flywheels. Payload assemblies are prepared for launch nearby. Source: Slingatron/Kickstarter

File this Kickstarter project under “that’s so crazy, it… almost certainly won’t work”.

A US company wants to herald a new era of space exploration by flinging things into space with a giant slingshot called the “Slingatron”.

HyperV Technologies Corp calls it a “railroad to space” and is trying to crowdfund $250,000 (£165,000) for the project.

Put simply, the Slingatron would hypothetically involve accelerating payloads around and around in an ever increasing-diameter circle until the payload was travelling fast enough to escape the Earth’s gravitational pull and fly into space.

On Earth, that speed is 11km per second, or around Mach 30 (30 times the speed of sound). Orbital velocity is a little slower, around 7-8km per second. That’s not including the effect of air resistance.

According to the Slingatron Kickstarter page, the Slingatron would first power on, speeding up until it reached peak rotation speed. At that point the payload, a satellite perhaps, would be released into the centre of the Slingatron, accelerating in circles along a track until it reached the exit. Alternatively, the payload could be accelerated using magnets, with the Slingatron remaining stationary. The payload would be held inside an aerodynamic module, to help it cut through the air like a dart.

Rocket propulsion would be used in the later stages to climb the final part of the journey into orbit and to position the payload properly.

At the moment the team have only built an one-metre diameter prototype, and even if they raise $250,000 that will only allow them to develop a 5-metre diameter prototype that could fire a 0.5 kilogram payload.

Head over to their Kickstarter page for more details. In the meantime, we’re keeping our bets with the Skylon spaceplane for technologies that will revolutionise space travel.

[Source: Khadhim Shubber @ Wired UK]

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-07/31/slingatron-space-railroad

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