Hurling Stuff Into Orbit With The Slingatron
A Virginia company is developing an alternative transportation system to send small payloads and bulk cargo, like water or fuel, into space. Rather than chemical rockets, HyperV Technologies Corp., proposes to slingshot objects off the planet.
“Imagine the old-style sling, with a string that you would whirl a payload around and then you’d let go and it’d go flying off,” HyperV president and chief scientist Doug Witherspoon said in a promotional Kickstarter video.
“You can only get a certain velocity out of that before the string breaks,” Witherspoon said.
The company’s so-called “Slingatron” avoids that problem by using a spiral-shaped steel track that accelerates a payload with gyrating, hula hoop-like motions.
Witherspoon said that at about 60 cycles per second and precision timing, a payload traveling along the inside of the spiral will synchronize with the hula hoop-motion and continue accelerating.
“You can theoretically get velocities that are many, many kilometers per second,” Witherspoon said.
The firm last week launched a $250,000 fundraising initiative to build its third Slingaton prototype. The machine would have a five-meter diameter spiral track that theoretically could get a 1-pound payload moving along at 1 kilometer per second (0.62 miles per second.)
To get into low-Earth orbit, such as where the International Space Station flies, an object needs to be moving at about 7.6 kilometers per second (4.7 miles per second.)
For its demonstration run, HyperV intends to use a quarter-pound payload.
Slingatrons would not replace traditional chemical rockets. For starters, acceleration at launch would reach thousands the times of Earth’s gravitational force — far too high for launching humans.
“You’re not going to launch people or fragile satellites with that, just bulk materials like water, and fuel and building materials in orbit,” Witherspoon said.
Image credit: HyperV Technologies Corp.