NASA prepares for revolution

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NASA directs its research toward new horizons and relies on … a large centrifuge. In a press release issued on April 6 by the site Business WireThe US space agency has announced the start of a collaboration with a young Californian company, SpinLaunch. The goal is to test the capabilities of the project implemented by the company from 2022: sending satellites and objects into orbit thanks to the kinetic force caused by a centrifuge. with signature space law conventionNASA will be able to offer its expertise while analyzing the possibilities offered by this innovative system.

Environmental and economical solution

founded in 2014SpinLaunch advocates an environmental and economic development for space exploration. His system is based on a massive architecture called a “block accelerator”. orbital ” (where orbital mass accelerator L100, in English). This giant cylinder has a height of 50 meters and a diameter of 33 meters and inside it is a large boom to which the projectile is attached. Rotating the arm, gradually gaining speed, will increaseKinetic energy of the object to be pushed into space.

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Once the velocity is high enough, the projectile will be fired vertically from a tube adjacent to the cylinder, similar to chimney. The force due to the rotation of the body is likely to be between 9000 and 10000 J. The force exerted on astronauts take off in capsule Soyuz equivalent to 5 c.

One advantage of the system developed by SpinLaunch is its environmental aspect: Launches require approximately 70% less fuel than take-offs of conventional launchers. The company’s CEO, Jonathan Yanley, confirmed that SpinLaunch was a true alternative to missiles Pollution in the face of the constant increase in missions to space, with transmission satellite fleet like constellations star link where OneWeb. Thus, these devices require less fuel to adjust their positions once in a low orbit.

At the same time, SpinLaunch centrifuges are also supposed to be economical, allowing satellites to be launched into space at a lower cost. Depending on the vehicle used and the payload carried, sending a probe into orbit can cost several million euros, or even tens of millions. Thus, a Ariadne 5 It can carry nearly 20 tons of payload for a modest sum of €170 million. SpinLaunch wants to lower that big fee, up to a maximum of $500,000 per launch.

Imminent launch of SpinLaunch?

The SpinLaunch centrifuge is still only in its experimental stage, but the first test conducted in October 2021 demonstrated the feasibility of the project. A three-meter object was propelled to a height of 10,000 meters above sea level at a speed of more than 8000 kilometers per hour. The company’s first success, the engineers noted, the centrifuges were only operating at 20% of their theoretical maximum capacity.

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The collaboration between NASA and SpinLaunch could speed up project development. The company had earlier indicated that, to send satellites of 200 kg In space, the diameter of the centrifuge should increase proportionally, reaching one hundred meters. SpinLaunch and the space agency are expected to conduct the first joint test sometime in 2022.

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