A company called SpinLaunch has built a giant centrifugal slingshot called the “suborbital accelerator” to launch small objects into space. The accelerator can essentially save from using rocket fuel to launch cargo rockets, and it’s just successfully launched a test “throw” on 22 October.
Currently, the only method of launching stuff into space is the classic rocket blast off—which is still pretty cool. However, it’s been done like that since the beginning of space exploration, and just launching cargo into space might be a waste of rocket fuel if we now have a rocket fuel-less way to do the same thing.
Albeit, the thought of having cargo spin at an insane speed (up to 5,000 MPH, to be exact) before throwing it up to the sky is wild, which means that the suborbital accelerator is definitely not for launching astronauts or space tourists alike. The SpinLaunch accelerator stands 50.4 meters tall—taller than the 46-meter Statue of Liberty, and is at Spaceport America in New Mexico where it successfully sent a 3-meter projectile to tens of thousands of feet… and that was with the centrifuge running at about 20% of its power.
The United States Department of Defense and Canada’s Department of National Defence had previously formed an alliance in the 1960s to develop something like a giant gun to launch objects to space for Project HARP. It’s similar to what SpinLaunch has now, but by the late 60s, both governments withdrew funding for the research project.
Eventually, SpinLaunch is also planning on building an “orbital accelerator“—which is a much larger space slingshot for objects like satellites weighing up to 200KG. This one would be placed in a more slanted position compared to the more upright suborbital slingshot, and the company hopes to offer its services as early as 2024.
We might see space tourism be more of a common thing in no time. But rocket fuel is expensive and there would be a foreseeable demand for cheaper alternatives for “shipping” cargo, and eventually—satellites.