According to the details already disclosed in November, the seed version of the SpinLaunch propellant structure was tested on October 22 this year. The demonstration, considered a successful one, was to confirm the operation and open a whole series of tests (ultimately as many as thirty trials) of a system that uses centrifugal force to throw objects up at supersonic speed. The assumption is to move to the launching of sub-orbital segments, ultimately those using rocket engines, that will enable continued flight and placement of the payload in low Earth orbit. This goal is to be achieved after 2025.
The LEO load lifting system proposed by SpinLaunch is to consist of several elements, including a circular vortex chamber with a diameter of just over 90 meters (for orbital missions, its diameter would be about 50 meters in the case of suborbital missions). Inside it, a centrifuge made of carbon fiber would rotate (a centrifuge similar to those known from training missions for pilots and astronauts / astronauts). Its application would allow for the ejection of objects at supersonic speeds (from 1,400 km / h to as much as 8,000 km / h).
The load is to be thrown through a special tunnel that is part of the structure. After the segment was thrown up (in the case of the assumed orbital mission), the further flight is to start the engine at an altitude of about 60 kilometers, after a minute of unassisted flight of the vehicle, while another sixty seconds would take the ship to an orbital speed of about 28 thousand kilometers per hour ( nearly 7.9 km / s).
Thanks to the above method of launching spacecraft, according to the American company, it would be possible to reduce the price of a single launch ten times or even twenty times and speed up the process of placing the charges in orbit. The company also indicates that the number of satellites carried on LEO will increase tenfold in the next decade.
Therefore, she noticed a problem of a purely ecological nature – quite frequent launches of rockets using chemical propellants would be harmful to the environment. This prompts the team to work on an electric ‘space centrifuge’ that leaves as little carbon footprint as possible.
SpinLaunch, based in sunny California, was founded in 2014. From the outset, its goal was to cheaply and efficiently carry satellites into low Earth orbit using a centrifuge. In their opinion, this could happen by 2025. The company is backed by the US Department of Defense and investors such as Google Ventures and Airbus Ventures.
Unveiled in the second week of November, a successful October test was conducted at a facility in New Mexico. There, with the help of a smaller version of the target rotating structure (compared to that planned for orbital missions), a three-meter segment imitating a rocket was launched. The company did not provide many details on the course of the trial, albeit from the company’s president Jonathana Yaneya We know that the device has not been fully “disassembled” (only in 20 percent), and the “rocket” has reached its apogee, amounting to several kilometers above sea level.
It is worth emphasizing that the test device, according to information provided by the Popular Mechanics portal, took eight months to build, and the parts needed for the operation of the centrifuge, such as vacuum pumps, were purchased by the SpinLaunch team on eBay for the amount of USD 500,000.
Despite the promising results of the preliminary test, concerns remain about the impact of targeted gains (due to sudden acceleration) on the performance of SpinLaunch’s on-board equipment. However, as reported by SpinLaunch, on a smaller scale, devices without moving parts such as smartphones, solar panels, computers, batteries, sports cameras, telephoto lenses for cameras and SLRs survived the spin without damage. In the case of other devices, such as satellites, appropriate adaptation would be required, which the company’s engineers are already working on. Ultimately, the SpinLaunch launcher could place loads up to 200 kilograms in low Earth orbit.