Electromagnetic Launch to Space

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I.R. McNab (2007), JBIS, 60, 54-62

Refcode: 2007.60.54
Keywords: Electromagnetic, launch, space

Many advances in electromagnetic (EM) propulsion technology have occurred in recent years. Linear motor technology for low-velocity and high-mass applications is being developed for naval catapults. Such technology could serve as the basis for a first-stage booster launch--as suggested by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the Maglifter concept. Using railguns, laboratory experiments have demonstrated launch velocities of 2-3 km/s and muzzle energies > 8 MJ. The extension of this technology to the muzzle velocities ( 7500 m/s) and energies ( 10 GJ) needed for the direct launch of payloads into orbit is very challenging but may not be impossible. For launch to orbit, even long launchers (> 1000 m) would need to operate at accelerations > 1000 G to reach the required velocities, so it would only be possible to launch rugged payloads, such as fuel, water, and materiel. Interest is being shown in such concepts by US, European, Russian, and Chinese researchers. An intermediate step proposed in France could be to launch payloads to sounding rocket altitudes for ionospheric research.

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