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Space Technology

"Slingatron" To Hurl Payloads Into Orbit 438

Posted by samzenpus
from the throwing-it-out-there dept.
cylonlover writes "People have been shooting things into space since the 1940s, but in every case this has involved using rockets. This works, but it's incredibly expensive with the cheapest launch costs hovering around $2,000 per pound. This is in part because almost every bit of the rocket is either destroyed or rendered unusable once it has put the payload into orbit. Reusable launch vehicles like the SpaceX Grasshopper offer one way to bring costs down, but another approach is to dump the rockets altogether and hurl payloads into orbit. That's what HyperV Technologies Corp. of Chantilly, Virginia is hoping to achieve with a 'mechanical hypervelocity mass accelerator' called the slingatron."

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"Slingatron" To Hurl Payloads Into Orbit

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  • Limited cargo use (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stewsters (1406737) on Monday July 29, 2013 @10:35AM (#44412143)
    That sounds cool for launching tungsten balls into space, but probably wont work if you put any astronauts in it.
  • by ron_ivi (607351) <[moc.secivedxelpmocpaehc] [ta] [ontods]> on Monday July 29, 2013 @10:36AM (#44412153)
    Anything that can launch stuff into orbit can probably also be tweaked to drop stuff literally anywhere in the world.

    Wonder if this'll turn into the poor-man's ICBM -- where you target a house of an enemy with google maps; and drop rocks on it with this 15,600 mph slingshot.

  • Re:My oh my (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sweatyboatman (457800) <sweatyboatman AT hotmail DOT com> on Monday July 29, 2013 @10:37AM (#44412161) Homepage Journal

    TANSTAAFL

  • Cargo is expensive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 29, 2013 @10:41AM (#44412195)

    Everything astronauts need is currently either on board or was put into orbit using expensive heavy lift rockets.

    Imagine a low cost way of getting things into space, it would be an instant game changer.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday July 29, 2013 @10:50AM (#44412309) Homepage

    Anything that can launch stuff into orbit can probably also be tweaked to drop stuff literally anywhere in the world.

    I don't think there's any probably to it ... if you can get something into space, you can get it pretty much anywhere you like if you can figure out the flight mechanics of it. Which is why when people do any rocket testing, people are paying close attention since a rocket and an ICBM are pretty similar -- if you can do one you can do the other.

    At those speeds, even a few kilos of mass is going to hit anything with some pretty serious force.

  • Re:My oh my (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 (694492) on Monday July 29, 2013 @10:56AM (#44412379)
    Yup. In the West, they vote with dollars. The voter with the most dollars elects their own government.
  • by Firethorn (177587) on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:04AM (#44412439) Homepage Journal

    Just because you can't put astronauts or unhardened electronic/mechanical bits up with it doesn't really reduce it's value.

    If it can reduce launch costs for the stuff it can launch to around $100/pound vs $2k, it changes the dynamics even if it's just launching oxygen, water, and such to the station.

    "One true solution" arguments (it doesn't replace every use so it's useless!) don't help solve problems.

  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:11AM (#44412529)
    The payload heats up quite a bit through friction - and then ends up in space, where basically the only way of getting rid of excess heat is radiating it away (slowly).

    This is quite unlike atmospheric braking and descent, where the heat can easily be dissipated by convection once the payload has slowed down enough.

  • by mmcxii (1707574) on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:14AM (#44412567)
    "One true solution" arguments (it doesn't replace every use so it's useless!) don't help solve problems.

    True but pointing out how a solution doesn't solve every aspect of every problem is what gets a post modded up around here. This reinforcement of short-sightedness keeps rearing it's ugly head with nearly every article. Thus even people who know better are still prone to postings such as this just because they know it'll be modded up. The cycle continues and we help to breed a new generation of cynics who don't think that things getting a little better today is a worthwhile goal if it's not the future promised to them by the most optimistic sci-fi stories.

    Welcome to Slashdot.
  • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:37AM (#44412837)

    Payload on a ballistic arc is worthless (**) unless you can do a subsequent burn at apogee to raise the perigee above the atmosphere. They are unlikely to be able to build a rocket that is hardened enough to survive launch, but is large enough and has enough thrust to raise perigee before it and the payload reenter and burn up.

    (** Outside of lobbing nukes at people.)

    That said, this might be more useful on a low-gravity, atmosphere-free body like the moon, where you can build the spinner much larger, and launch at a much more horizontal trajectory (improving efficiency, and making interception easier, via an orbital tether). So as long as these guys aren't wasting my money, I'm happy for them to waste their own time and money to develop and prove version 0.01a of the technology.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:39AM (#44412859)

    Right, we can all live on the surface of Venus.

  • by cusco (717999) <brian.bixby@gma i l .com> on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:57AM (#44413021)
    They are unlikely to be able to build a rocket that is hardened enough to survive launch, but is large enough and has enough thrust to raise perigee before it and the payload reenter and burn up.

    Why would you assume that? They built nuclear weapons in the 1950s that could survive being launched from a howitzer, there were (are?) missiles that were launched from naval 5 inch guns. The advances in engineering and materials science in the last half century would imply (to me anyway) that this shouldn't be an insurmountable obstacle.
  • Re:Hmmm ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Type44Q (1233630) on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:59AM (#44413039)

    Might be sure your payload doesn't get any sudden G-forces it's not built for

    Can't be any worse than UPS. :p

  • by Andrio (2580551) on Monday July 29, 2013 @12:13PM (#44413181)

    Yeah.

    Taking stuff into space requires a huge amount of energy. Right now, the stuff we sent into space has to carry its own energy, stored in fuel. Because so much energy is needed, lots of fuel is needed. But fuel is heavy, so even more energy is needed.

    Externalizing the energy source for what gets sent into space can severely lower costs of getting stuff up there. I don't know if a slingshot is the best way to do it, but at least it's thinking in the right direction.

  • Re:My oh my (Score:5, Insightful)

    by organgtool (966989) on Monday July 29, 2013 @12:14PM (#44413199)
    Just to clarify: it's not that the person with the most dollars gets his guy into office. The system currently allows someone to contribute money to all possible candidates and without those candidates knowing that you paid their opponents as well. Since you have paid all possible parties, your views are guaranteed to be represented regardless of who wins. And then a whole bunch of people will call the voters stupid for electing these guys when the fact of the matter is that all sides were bought because the system is corrupt. I hate to sound cynical, but at this point, it really doesn't matter who you vote for in federal elections.
  • by butalearner (1235200) on Monday July 29, 2013 @01:30PM (#44414267)

    Space nutters... Man they are nuts.

    And yet, between the ones who want to terraform Mars tomorrow (which I will note that GP is not), and the people like you who want to kick the can down the road forever, we will make progress. Just as GP said.

    One important thing to note is that astronauts will need cargo for the foreseeable future. Just because it doesn't look like we'll ever be able to Sling people doesn't mean it's not useful to manned spaceflight.

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