Historically, reaching space has always relied on rocket engines, however, the need for rockets is changing with a company called SpinLaunch celebrating the first successful test launch for its kinetic launch system. The launch system is an innovative catapult style machine, and doesn’t use a rocket and is zero emissions. SpinLaunch says its creation could reduce fuel consumption by a factor of four while costing ten times less than similar launches using traditional rockets.
The current test device is a Suborbital Accelerator featuring an upright vacuum chamber shaped like a disc and a carbon fiber tether. Once the payload is accelerated fully, the tether is released, throwing the projectile out of the launcher, into the atmosphere, and into space.
A larger accelerator will be required to place payloads into orbit, known as the L100 Orbital Mass Accelerator. SpinLaunch conducted its first test of the suborbital launch on October 22. The prototype vehicle launched during the test flight did reach supersonic speeds and was later recovered to be reused.
Additional flight tests will occur in 2022 utilizing different vehicles at different launch velocities. Currently, SpinLaunch plans to put the first customer satellites into orbit in late 2024.
With the push towards being green, an emissions-free space launch technology will prove popular. SpinLaunch says in the future, it will be able to launch entire constellations of satellites into what it describes as the most mission-critical layers of the atmosphere.
The company also mentions that in a future where large numbers of people are traveling into space, there will be a massive need to cheaply and frequently launch material structures, equipment, and supplies.
That statement seemingly suggests SpinLaunch sees a future where it will be able to launch objects larger than 440 pounds satellites.
The most significant milestone reached in the project so far was the launch last month. It’s unclear how much larger the orbital-class accelerator needs to be. The suborbital accelerator stands 50.4 meters tall, and undoubtedly the orbital-class accelerator would be significantly larger. SpinLaunch points out that its suborbital system also provides long-term value as a satellite qualification facility.