Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hurling Satellites Into Space – Meet The Slingatron.

David and Goliath showed us one thing, that size wasn’t necessarily might when it came to hurling something. All that really was necessary was a sling-shot. That is all the Slingatron is. What limits the factors of a sling-shot are the speed of the slinger’s arm and the strength on the thong.

In order to hurl a satellite into space, what is required? In the case of the slingtron, it is based on achieving the same result mechanically that our hero David used with physical prowess. A spiral tube gyrates in circles around its axis – think of swirling a liquid in a glass. Inside this glass, or slingatron, is a series of connected spiral tubes that gyrate on a series of flywheels. A projectile, the satellite, enters the tube, centripetal forces pull it down and then the gyrations become greater. Eventually it shoots the satellite out its muzzle in the rim of the Slingatron traveling at speeds of several kilometers per second.

While the goal is to build a slingatron that is able to fire a projectile 7 km/s in order to reach orbit, a small rocket will be necessary to reach the final orbit. Overcoming friction is a problem but it is easily solved by the Teflon skin. Of course such a skin would rapidly wear away, but thanks to a substance called polycarbonate, the substance is wrapped in the substance which then vaporizes and forms a friction-free layer of gas.

There is another problem to be overcome. The projectile, or satellite, needs a heat shield to leave the atmosphere. Once an expensive proposition, one form of heat shield is the inflatable sort that NASA developed that is inflated by Nitrogen and protect the projectile like a blanket. It can be setup to release once the satellite has achieved orbit.

There is an even bigger problem. At present this has not been developed. This idea contemplates the cost for a launch, how the frequency could be increased, and makes a good case. It does seem to break down some when each of the forces are looked at. One of the small CubeSats might be possible but what about the more complicated communications satellites or the NOAA satellite or other ones that contain numerous scientific instruments? At the risk of repeating a common theme, the Space Elevator could make satellite placement a daily occurrence.

The slingatron is a possibility, if all the details are finalized, then again it could just be a shot in the dark.

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