Giant hydrogen cannon will launch rockets and satellites into space

(ORDO NEWS) — Rockets are expensive, complex, harmful to the environment and prone to explode from time to time, so engineers are currently developing alternative launch technologies.

Some companies have been able to put into practice simple, powerful methods that experts say can launch rugged launch vehicles and electronic payloads nearly three times faster than existing alternatives. For example, with the help of a huge gas gun.

Green Launch COO and Chief Scientist Dr. John W. Hunter led the High Altitude Research Program (SHARP) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory about 30 years ago. The team under his leadership was engaged in the creation of the largest and most powerful “hydrogen pulse launcher” at that time.

Space gun

It is essentially a long tube filled with hydrogen mixed with helium and oxygen into which a projectile is inserted. When the cannon is fired, the gases expand extremely rapidly and the projectile is hit hard in the rear.

Under the SHARP program, a 122-meter pulse launcher was built and tested in 1992, which broke all records of an electric railgun-type launcher in energy and speed, and also launched a payload (including test hypersonic scramjet engines) with an initial speed of up to Mach 9.

This approach, according to Eric Robinson, director of business development at Green Launch, scales much better than a spinning accelerator like the SpinLaunch system.

“The record for a projectile launched with hydrogen fuel is 11.2 km / s (Mach 32.7),” he said in an interview with New Atlas. “We plan to limit the launch speed to 6 km/sec (Mach 17.5) to enhance reusability and prevent barrel wear.”

The Green Launch projectile will have to launch a small two-stage rocket to give it a final boost and steer it into the correct orbit. But since the hydrogen gun will launch it much faster, the rocket itself could also be significantly smaller and lighter than today’s vehicles.

Congestion and risk assessment

Green Launch estimates that the acceleration forces involved will peak at around 30,000 Gs, and a fairly simple test to determine if the electronics can withstand such overloads is as simple as gluing the component to a golf ball with epoxy and hitting it with a block of wood.

According to the company, this provides a similar level of acceleration and, of course, is not a problem even for many electronic components that are already ready today. Accordingly, with the help of a gas gun, small satellites can also be launched into orbit, which will have at least minimal protection.

Giant hydrogen cannon will launch rockets and satellites into space 2
Made from prefabricated parts, this rugged satellite has been tested at 3200 g, prepared “using sound mechanical construction and a small amount of epoxy”. The design includes a camera, GPS, communications, solar panels and a battery power supply. After launch, it remained fully functional.

Green Launch also assures that the cost of the project will be minimal – maybe a tenth of the cost of launching a modern rocket. In addition, eliminating the rocket’s first stage saves a lot of burnt fuel and associated emissions, since hydrogen burns cleanly and releases only water and a lot of heat.

It will also allow constellation owners to spread the risk over multiple launches, rather than losing 200 satellites to a single launch vehicle explosion.

The hydrogen cannon can launch objects into orbit every 60-90 minutes, sending a projectile into the sky at hypersonic speeds.

There, the body “penetrates the atmosphere within a minute and sheds its aerodynamic shell.” Low Earth orbits between 300 and 1000 km can be reached in less than two hours, and some much faster. “Your satellites and supplies can be in orbit in 10 minutes,” says Robinson.

The company built a 16.5-meter experimental launch tube, and shortly before Christmas last year, sent it vertically upwards at the Yuna test site in Arizona. During the first shot, the projectile reached an initial velocity of over Mach 3 and flew far into the stratosphere.


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