Launch Ring Magnetic Launch System By LaunchPoint

The Launch Ring, a vast circle of superconducting magnets capable of hurling satellites and other cargo into space, is the subject of a new two-year study financed by the USAF. The study will be carried out by LaunchPont Technologies, based in Goleta, California. The study will be led by James Fiske, who has done advanced work in designing maglev (magnetic levitation) freight transportation systems.


(LaunchPoint Magnetic launch ring concept drawing)

The Launch Ring will be similar in some ways to the enormous particle accelerators already in use. Most importantly, the device will (as its name implies) use a circular track, rather than the straight track considered in earlier designs (not to mention being considered in early science fiction novels).

The system would work by gradually accelerating a sled with a cone-shaped shell containing the cargo to a speed of ten kilometers per second. The shell would then separate from its sled and slide into a side tunnel angled at thirty degrees upward. The cone would emerge from the tunnel with a net speed of about eight kilometers per second, sufficient to achieve orbit. The shell would also contain some fuel for trajectory adjustment and placement in a proper orbit.

One disadvantage would be the substantial acceleration forces encountered when circling the ring at speed - up to 2,000 g's. The company points out that the US military uses electronics in laser-guided artillery, which survive being fired out of guns at up to 20,000 g's.

Key to the proposed usefulness of the Launch Ring is the hoped-for low cost to orbit. The cost per pound to orbit is about $6,000 for the space shuttle; it is estimated that if the Launch Ring is used 300 times per year, the cost would be about $745 per pound.

If this study pans out, funding would be sought for a small 20-50 meter diameter model, which would take at least four years to build. Obviously, we won't be launching payloads this way for quite some time, but this is a good first step.

Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein also thought about the concept of a similar launching device. In his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, published in 1966, he wrote about an escape-speed induction catapult built on the Moon. In the novel, the Loonies have this advice for a similar device to built on Earth:

"...But the site must be a high mountain. It's that air pressure you spoke of, or air density. The catapult head should be at as high altitude as feasible but the ejection end, where the load travels over eleven kilometers per second, must be in air so thin that it approaches vacuum. Which calls for a very high mountain. Take the peak Nanda Devi, around four hundred kilometers from here. It has a railhead sixty kilometers from it and a road almost to its base. It is eight thousand meters high. I don't know that Nanda Devi is ideal. It is simply a possible site with good logistics; the ideal site would have to be selected by Terran engineers."
"A higher mountain would be better?"
"Oh, yes, sir!" I assured him. "A higher mountain would be preferred over one nearer the equator. The catapult can be designed to make up for loss in free ride from Earth's rotation. The difficult thing is to avoid so far as possible this pesky thick atmosphere... The length of an escape-speed catapult is determined by the acceleration. We think--or the computer calculates--that an acceleration of twenty gravities is about optimum. For Earth's escape speed this requires a catapult three hundred twenty-three kilometers in length.
(Read more about Heinlein's escape-speed induction catapult)

Read more about the Launch Ring and visit the LaunchPoint magnetic satellite launch system page. Thanks to Baja for writing in with the tip on the story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/6/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

How Many Systems In That Galactic Empire Now?
'An Empire to twenty million stellar systems...'- Isaac Asimov, 1953.

Britain To Build Spaceport, First In Europe
'The space-ports at the three great cities...'- Breuer/Williamson, 1930.

Testing New Spacesuits In 1929 And 2015
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'- Otto Willi Gail, 1929.

Space Station Kitchens 1929 and 2015
'Plates and cups ... slowly floated down to the floor and were not broken.'- Otto Willi Gail, 1929.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

XM82 Personal Flamethrower Now In Development
'Skeletons in tatters. Burned by a flesh gun'

Graphene Cytobot - Cyborg Bacterial Spores May Help Astronauts
'[It] had not yet objected to being made over into a portion of an electronic system... '

Delightful Plen2 Mirror Robot - The Anti-Terminator
Time for fun, Will Robinson!

LiquiGlide Will Be Everywhere
'They poured the remnants of eggs out of their frictionless cups...'

US Customs Now Doing Facial Recognition At DC Airport
Are you who you say you are?

How Many Systems In That Galactic Empire Now?
'An Empire to twenty million stellar systems...'

Petman Robot Pushes Itself To The Limit
'There was the butler robot, hard at work, his copper face expressionless...'

Coleus LED 'Skylight' Dispenses Natural Sunlight Indoors
'How do they work it so that the sky is visible at every level of the city?'

UR3 Robot At Work On Copies Of Itself
'I don't mean that you should construct this ultra-microrobot with your own fingers, of course...'

3D Printing 'Terminator T-1000-Style'
Not quite 'a mimetic polyalloy...'

Bridge-MINDER Repair Robot
'The repair robots had started out on their rounds...'

Super Ball Bot Tensegrity Robot For Solar System Exploration
'Each leg in turn acted as a pivot around which the creature whirled its body...'

Norlin Shoe Drone Robot UAV In-Store Delivery Thing
'Robot-salesmen were everywhere, gesturing, pleading, shrilling.'

iSkin On-Body Touch Sensors
'Three rows of four colored dots appeared on the heel of my left hand.'

Britain To Build Spaceport, First In Europe
'The space-ports at the three great cities...'

MC10 Electronics Skin Stickers
'Every diaper... a fine copper wire…'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.