NASA is preparing for the revolution

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NASA is directing its research to new horizons and is dependent on … a large centrifuge. In a press release issued on April 6 by the site BusinessWire, the US space agency announced the start of a partnership with the young California company SpinLaunch. The goal is from 2022 to test the capacity of the project that the company has carried out: to send satellites and objects into orbit thanks to the kinetic force caused by a centrifuge. With the signing of a Space Act agreementNASA will be able to deliver its expertise while analyzing the opportunities that this innovative system offers.

An ecological and economical solution

Founded in 2014, the company SpinLaunch is in favor of an ecological and economic development of space exploration. His system is based on a massive structure called a “mass accelerator”. orbital ” (Where L100 orbital mass accelerator, English). This titanium drum, which is 50 meters high and 33 meters in diameter, has a large arm to which a projectile can be attached. The rotation of the arm, gradually increasing speed, would increasekinetic energy of the object to be driven out into space.

When the velocity was high enough, the projectile would be fired vertically from a tube adjacent to the drum, corresponding to a chimney. The force caused by the rotation of the object would potentially reach between 9,000 and 10,000 G. For comparison the power of the astronauts taken off in a capsule Soyuz corresponds to 5 G.

One of the benefits of the system developed by SpinLaunch is its ecological aspect: the launches require approximately 70% less fuel than the launchers of traditional launchers. The company’s CEO, Jonathan Yanley, confirmed that SpinLaunch was a real alternative to rockets polluting in light of the constant increase in missions to space, with the dispatch armadas of satellites such as the constellations star link Where OneWeb. Thus, these devices would require less fuel to adjust their positions once in low circuit.

At the same time, the SpinLaunch centrifuge is also designed to be economical, enabling the launch of satellites into space at a lower cost. Depending on the vehicle used and the cargo transported, it can cost several million euros or even tens of thousands of millions to send a probe into orbit. Thus is one Ariadne 5 can carry almost 20 tons of payload for the modest sum of 170 million euros. SpinLaunch wants to reduce these significant fees by a ceiling of $ 500,000 per spin. launch.

Launch imminent for SpinLaunch?

SpinLaunch’s centrifuge is only in its experimental phase, but a first test carried out in October 2021 showed the feasibility of the project. A three-meter-high object had been driven 10,000 meters above sea level at a speed of more than 8,000 kilometers per hour. An initial success for the company, as the engineers had pointed out that the centrifuge had only run at 20% of its theoretical maximum power.

The collaboration between NASA and SpinLaunch can accelerate the development of the project. The company had previously stated that sending satellites from 200 kg in space, the diameter of the centrifuge had to be increased proportionally to reach one hundred meters. SpinLaunch and the space agency are expected to conduct a first joint test sometime in 2022.

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