Using centrifugal force to send payloads into space, SpinLaunch is aiming for an environmentally sustainable approach to space access.
SpinLaunch, a California-based company, is looking to take on an innovative approach to launch payloads into orbits. Unlike traditional fuel-based launchers, SpinLaunch has developed an alternative launch system that uses a large, ground-based electric powered kinetic launch system to harness centrifugal force and fling payloads into space.
The star of the show is SpinLaunch’s 33-meter Suborbital Accelerator, the centrifuge responsible for launching payloads. The accelerator uses an aerodynamic launch vehicle attached to a rotating arm inside a large vacuum chamber to speed up a projectile, launching it at hypersonic speeds.
Suborbital Accelerator (Source: SpinLaunch)
But this equipment, located at Spaceport America in New Mexico, is only the forerunner. The company’s full-size Orbital Launch System is expected to be a 100-meter orbital centrifuge with a larger accelerator, and is projected to be ready by 2026.
Last year, on 22 October 2021, SpinLaunch successfully conducted their first test launch and propelled a test vehicle at supersonic speed. The reusable flight vehicle was later recovered as well. Since then many more test launches have taken place where the suborbital accelerator shot payloads skyward at 1000 MPH to nearly 30,000 feet. SpinLaunch targets to launch satellites into orbit by 2026.
Apart from the orbital launch system itself, SpinLaunch is also developing their own line of satellite products, possibly designed to withstand the staggering amount of G-force generated during launch.
Anatomy of a full-size Orbital Launch System (Source: SpinLaunch)
Essentially, the accelerator’s objective is to function as the first stage of a launch system, with the launch vehicles carrying rocket engines that will act as upper stages to transport a payload into orbit. This unique approach will be a game-changer in the space industry when it comes to launching satellites. The centrifugal system, that omits traditional fuel-based launch systems, is “substantially less expensive and environmentally sustainable approach to space access”. If SpinLaunch’s system enables launch vehicles to ignite their engines after launch when they are hurtling through the air, the company will be able to significantly save on fuel, hardware and money required for payloads to reach orbit.
And many are invested in the direction SpinLaunch is heading towards. In its latest update, the company has managed to secure a funding of $71 million, bringing its total funding to $150 million. With the growing shift towards sustainability in space, SpinLaunch’s innovative system paves the road for a future where constellations of payloads can be launched with zero emissions and least environmental impact possible. And this is an initiative everyone is keen to be onboard.