How is the rocket slingshot that NASA wants to test?

NASA has been researching viable alternatives to rocket launches for some time. Specifically, the high fuel consumption involved in each of the launches and the millions of investments that evaporate in seconds. In this sense, one of these projects consists of a sort of slingshot to launch unpowered spaceships into space. The project, approved in 2021, has just successfully passed its first test. Hand in hand with SpinLaunch, the company that created the rocket launcher, NASA is one step closer to saving millions of fuel for the conquest of space. And also to launch rockets left and right.

The SpinLaunch project bears little resemblance to a conventional launchpad. It might just look like a giant antenna or even a vacuum cleaner – one of the automatic ones. The model is based on a kinetic system in which, in simple c terms, what is achieved is throw objects outside by creating a giant slingshot. In this case, the object launched would be a spacecraft that would have to reach sufficient speed to be able to do without the propulsion engines.

The space slingshot project for NASA, under consideration since 2015, has a diameter of 91 meters and reaches speeds of nearly 8,047 kilometers per hour. Spinning and operating like a disc or frisbie, the ship would remain anchored to the platform until it reached the required speed. It would then simply fly out of a tube to take its place in space. Explained for laymen, the visual effect is that of a confetti bomb exploding in the air.

Does that mean you could do without launch fuel entirely? For now they are realistic and assume there is still plenty of time to reach zero, but they point to a four times less fuel and a saving of 10 times the cost of a traditional launch. This would undoubtedly be a success for NASA, as it would increase the volume of launches and significantly reduce their cost. A goal that the space agency has been pursuing for many years.

A slingshot for all NASA missions?

Is it used to launch NASA spacecraft with humans? Its founder, Jonathan Yaney, answers this question in a simple way. “It’s a revolutionary approach to launching satellites into space”. An answer that takes on its full meaning, knowing that the weight of the load must be as low as possible and that the risks for the human load in this type of launch are greater. The satellites selected for this type of launch, on the other hand, should be prepared to withstand the speed at which they will have to be subjected before the launch.