For behind the scenes pictures, stories and special contests, follow us on Facebook!

Launching Satellites With A Magnetic Slingshot

Launch Point Technologies Magnetic Slingshot (Images courtesy LaunchPoint Technologies)
By Andrew Liszewski

Launching stuff into space would be quite a bit easier if it wasn’t for this pesky gravity we have to deal with. This is one of the biggest reasons a space station is an important next step for space travel since it’s far easier to launch a craft that’s already in orbit.

But that’s still a few years away which is why companies are still looking for cheaper ways to get things like satellites into orbit. LaunchPoint Technologies recently received $500,000 from the US Air Force to further develop an idea they have for a launch system using magnetic levitation technology. Basically the design has a payload of up to 220lbs being accelerated around a giant ring using magnets up to a speed of about six miles per second. (The payload would be facing about 10,000 Gs of force, most people pass out at 3.) When it reaches this speed it would then be routed to a launch ramp where it basically gets hurled into orbit.

The biggest advantage to this system is of course the cost. The first magnetic launch systems are expected to only cost about $750 / lb. Considering current rocket based systems run about $4,000 / lb it means I could finally get my home made satellite up in orbit. (It will be exclusively used for off-planet gambling.)

[ LaunchPoint Technologies Magnetic Satellite Launch System ] VIA [ Popular Science ]

  • Ron

    How innovative can it be? Robert Heinlein described such an accelerator in his 1965 novel “The moon is a harsh mistress”

  • JB

    Heinlein’s (and most other concepts that I’ve seen) was a linear accelerator, this launcher seems to use multiple trips around a ring to get up to speed and then sends the launch package to the ramp tangentially. This could result in a fairly significant reduction in the size of the launch site, which would have some significant advantages. More available site locations and a much smaller area requiring security come readily to mind.

  • Keith Miller

    Air pressure would be a better way to launch a satellite. It would be cheaper to build and easier as far as technology needed.

  • Jason

    Robert Heinlein just wrote about it, these guys are doing it. I’m not sure how much air pressure it would take to force 220lbs to 6 miles per second, but that seems a little too much like the old Air Jammer Road Rammer toys I got for Christmas about 25 years ago.

  • Ron

    The first linear accelerator was built in 1976. Search for “mass driver” in wikipedia.

    JB: If small size is a factor, then why is the picture at a salt flat (in the desert)?

    Jason: And Arthur C. Clarke just wrote about communications satellites in 1945. When they finally flew 15 years later, they weren’t innovative. The first mass driver prototype was built 30 YEARS ago. This one may be successful, but hardly innovative.

  • Mark

    At 180 pounds each, slinging some unwanted persons into outerspace is still out of reach for me. So how innovative is it really?