SpinLaunch aims to change how we get to orbit by shooting payloads skywards from the surface at 5,000 MPH, and now it has a shiny new NASA contract to show off its capability later this year.
We’ve been hearing about SpinLaunch for years, but until fairly recently its idea for accelerating mass to orbit by means of a sort of underground centrifuge was, shall we say, only lightly substantiated.
It works by using a rotating arm in a large vacuum chamber, spinning faster and faster until the vehicle it’s holding is finally let out of an exit tube. In some ways a simple idea (essentially a giant sling), it is of course not so simple to engineer. But a low-altitude test launch late last year showed that they could at least fire a payload at 1,000 MPH and recover it.
The system is a work in progress but the prospect of reducing the fuel and mass of even suborbital payloads by more than half is clearly enticing to NASA, which signed a Space Act agreement with SpinLaunch to test it out.
A test deployment is scheduled for later this year, when SpinLaunch will send a NASA payload up at supersonic speeds and recover it shortly thereafter. The two organizations will then examine the performance of the mission and evaluate its usefulness for future launches, as well as publishing any non-confidential results online.
I’ve asked SpinLaunch for further details on the project and will update this post when I hear back.