SpinLaunch aims to change the way we get into orbit by shooting payloads at 5,000 MPH into the air, and now it has a shiny new NASA contract to show off its capabilities later this year. .
We’ve been hearing about SpinLaunch for years, but until recently his idea of putting mass into orbit by means of some sort of underground centrifuge was, say, only lightly substantiated.
It works by using a rotating arm in a large vacuum chamber, which spins faster and faster until the vehicle it’s holding is finally let out from an exit tube. A simple idea in some ways (essentially a giant pendulum), it’s obviously not that easy to engineer. But a low-altitude test launch late last year showed they could fire at least a 1,000 MPH charge and recover it.
The system is a work in progress, but the prospect of cutting the fuel and mass of even suborbital payloads by more than half is clearly alluring to NASA, which signed a Space Act agreement with SpinLaunch to test it out. .
A test deployment is planned for later this year, when SpinLaunch will launch a NASA payload at supersonic speeds and recover shortly after. The two organizations will then examine the mission’s performance and evaluate its usefulness for future launches, and publish all non-confidential results online.
I’ve asked SpinLaunch for more details about the project and will update this post when I hear back.