Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Newest Development In Space Tech: The Slingshot?

A "slingatron" prototype proposed by HyperV Technologies
could propel a 100 g object to a speed of one kilometre per second. 

Anyone who's ever witnessed  a space launch has a pretty fair comprehension of just how much power energy, and therefore, money, must go into the effort of getting a multi-ton apparatus of metal, composite, and computer systems off the ground and out of the Earth's gravitational pull.  So far, we've had one way of doing this: launching a shuttle with rockets pointing straight up in the air.  Makes sense, of course, since that's the place we're trying to get said shuttle to, right?  Shortest distance between two points and all that...

But it may not be the most efficient if you believe HyperV Technologies,  a start-up out of Chantilly, VA.  HyperV is re-defining our basic assumptions about the space launch with a prototype called the "Slingatron".  The Slingatron uses the physics behind the slingshot as a mass accelerator, essentially swinging a vehicle round and round until literally hurtling it into the sky, where rockets will kick in and handle the rest of propulsion.  The idea is this process significantly cuts into fuel and raw materials needed in the launching process.

In theory, the whole concept is interesting.  Applying it, however faces lots of challenges.  Firstly, the amount of g-force needed to achieve that kind of acceleration with that much mass would almost certainly kill anything living, so human cargo is out of the question.  Also, the site states a goal of getting objects into a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) of 7.6 km/sec, which in and of itself will take a large amount of energy to achieve, and that doesn't take into account air resistance either.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of HyperV's campaign, however, is how it is going about its fundraising.  The company has begun a kickstarter campaign with a goal of $250,000 in order to build a slightly bigger prototype than the one they have.

Conceptual image of a large-scale Slingatron
200-300 meters in diameter

Sure it's not exactly the most ambitious goal compared to most private space projects, but it is part of a growing trend of space and aeronautic tech ideas being marketed to the general public not only for awareness but for good ol' hard capital as well.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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