NASA is preparing the revolution

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Climb aboard the New Shepard capsule, which has completed another successful test flight. The machine, which was more than 100 kilometers from the ground, reached space. Its passengers, if there had been any, could have admired the blackness of the sky and the roundness of the earth. A camera lets us experience live what the future customers of these short suborbital journeys can see.

Reaching new horizons for its research, NASA relies on… a large centrifuge. In an April 6 press release from the site BusinessWire, the American space agency announced the start of a collaboration with the young Californian company SpinLaunch. The aim is to test, from 2022, the capacities of the project carried out by the company: deliveries of satellites and objects in orbit thanks to the kinetic force of a centrifuge. By signing one Space Act AgreementNASA will be able to provide its expertise while analyzing the possibilities offered by this innovative system.

An ecological and economical solution

Founded in 2014SpinLaunch is committed to an ecological and economic evolution of space research. His system is based on a massive structure called a “mass accelerator”. orbital ” (From where Orbital Mass Accelerator L100, in English). This titanic drum, 50 meters high and 33 meters in diameter, has a large arm inside it to which a projectile would be attached. The rotation of the arm, gradually gaining speed, would increase itkinetic energy of the object to be launched into space.

Once the velocity was high enough, the projectile was fired vertically from a tube next to the drum, similar to a chimney. The force caused by the object’s rotation would potentially reach between 9,000 and 10,000 Gs. the force exerted on astronauts Lift off in a capsule Soyuz equals 5 G

One of the advantages of the system developed by SpinLaunch is the ecological aspect: launches require around 70% less fuel than launches pitchers traditional. The company’s CEO, Jonathan Yanley, reiterated that SpinLaunch is a viable alternative to SpinLaunch rockets Pollution in the face of the constant increase in missions into space, with the dispatch Armadas of satellites such as constellation Starlink or OneWeb. These devices would therefore require less fuel to adjust their position once in low orbit.

At the same time, the SpinLaunch centrifuge should also be economical in order to enable satellites to be launched into space at lower costs. Depending on the vehicle used and the cargo transported, a probe into orbit can cost several million euros or even tens of millions of euros. So a Ariadne 5 almost 20 tons of payload for the modest sum of 170 million euros. SpinLaunch aims to reduce these sizable fees with a cap of $500,000 per launch.

Launch imminent for SpinLaunch?

The SpinLaunch centrifuge is only in the trial phase, but a first test conducted in October 2021 showed the feasibility of the project. A three meter high object was hurled 10,000 meters above sea level at a speed of more than 8,000 kilometers per hour. A first success for the company after engineers pointed out that the centrifuge was only running at 20% of its theoretical maximum capacity.

The collaboration between NASA and SpinLaunch could speed up the development of the project. The company had previously indicated it would broadcast satellites starting at 200 kg in space, the diameter of the centrifuge had to increase proportionately to reach a hundred meters. SpinLaunch and the space agency are expected to conduct an initial joint test sometime in 2022.

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