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Nov 13, 2021

Space startup wants to sling satellites into orbit with a huge centrifuge

Posted by in categories: energy, satellites

In a nutshell: In the 21st century, there’s a new space race, primarily between Tesla (SpaceX) and Amazon (Blue Origin). Both are concentrating on traditional methods of launching satellites into space—namely, big rockets. However, a small space startup called SpinLaunch is developing a cheaper and environmentally cleaner way of launching satellites.

SpinLaunch is using a gigantic centrifuge to shoot stuff into space. By “stuff,” we mean things that can withstand the G-force created by being spun at 5,000 miles per hour (over 10,000 Gs), which is a category of stuff that does not yet include satellites. However, it did launch a missile-like projectile tens of thousands of feet into the air last month, using only 20 percent of the accelerator’s power.

The design is relatively simple. A carbon fiber tether holds the projectile inside a span vacuum chamber as it spins up to speed. Once the centrifuge has reached the desired velocity, the launch vehicle is released out a tube taller than the Statue of Liberty (50.4 meters). It is not unlike launching your friends off the merry-go-round when you were a kid. A more mature and controlled application of the principle would be the hammer throw event in the Olympics.

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