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Spacegun + Catcher Thoughts for Payload Transport

03/03/2014 1:33 PM

Hey All,

Recently discovered these forums, fell in love immediately :)

I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this technology. I did some preliminary research to refine my thoughts, but I think a forum such as this might be a healthier way to discuss the limitations of the idea.

The original thought was eliminating waste/garbage by using some sort of space elevator and sending the garbage into space/sun/moon/planet. Looking at cost to build, maintain, payload size and cost to fire. This is just an idea of sorts, nothing official/professional/concrete. I also use some wikipedia articles for research so I have no idea how accurate the info is.

The idea spawned after watching a documentary about a proposed mine in Alaska that would require a trailing storage over hundreds of kilometers - if only they could fire the trailings into space I thought :)

Low earth orbit is approx 180km to 2000km. Medium orbit is 2000km to 35000km. High orbit is beyond 35000km. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_Earth_orbit (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/Orbitalaltitudes.jpg)

Initial research:

  1. Tethered space elevators are impossible currently due to massive stress placed on the cable and vibrations resulting from earth/wind/solar activity. One solution proposed is using a device called a space fountain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_fountain) which would reduce the strain on the cable, but doesn't account for vibrations.
  2. Non-tethered applications such as a energy beam used to power an engine on a craft. Would require a large amount of energy and I think it would be too costly to build/maintain/operate, plus the technology hurdles to overcome.
  3. Rail/coil guns are fascinating to me but I don't suspect a pure rail/coil gun for large payloads has been experimented on. Potentially a solution using super cooled applications or superconductive materials, but length of the gun would be quite big (50km+). See ideas below. (includes mass drivers)
  4. Chemical / fuel assisted guns, a combination of rail/coil guns with a propellent fuel used to launch or carry the payload. Has been tested in various projects in the 20th century, such as HARP (high altitude research project, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_High_Altitude_Research_Project) which was successful in reaching 180km. See ideas below. (includes catapult like devices, spaceguns)
  5. Rockets / jet propelled devices, depends on cost of fuel and fuel technology. Doesn't have long-term cost benefits currently imo unless the rocket/fuel can be recycled. (I haven't done much research on this topic)

The catcher idea:

The idea I am thinking about but I haven't found much research on is having some sort of machine that is stable in low earth orbit that could catch a spacegun's payload using magnetism and help it reach medium/high earth orbit (2000km+). This machine would be relatively small in size compared to the device on earth, and multiple machines at various intervals within low and medium earth orbit would move the payload further into orbit/space.

Using a spacegun (hybrid fuel+coil launcher), a payload+container would be launched into low earth orbit, caught by the machine above, which in itself is a coil gun and it accelerates the payload to another machine, which catches and sends it off to another machine, so forth until the payload has reached the end point.

The end point would be a catapult like gun that fires the payload into space without an attached container (thus being able to reuse the container). This could be on the moon, or in high orbit, but some place that the payload won't be affected by earths gravity, and thus won't fall back to earth.

The heat-resistant (won't melt during exit/entry) container would be built to be used in the coil/rail gun as well as caught by the machine. This would make the container reusable. Perhaps the container is dropped back to earth and it lands in the ocean or caught by a catcher machine on the ground (see further below), where it is retrieved.

The idea is partial to how a superconductive magnet works (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4XEQVnIFmQ) - the machine would capture a superconductive magnetic attached to the container. I am thinking some kind of funnel/tunnel that causes the magnet to fly towards the machine initially and as it approaches it becomes ensnared in a flux trap. The machine then moves the container to a coil/rain gun which fires it using similar technology.

Circular spacegun:

Potentially we could use a circular design to reduce the size of the space gun. As it stands, calculations estimate a 60km long coil gun would be needed to reach a stable low earth orbit (without a catching device). A circular gun could use a hybrid model, but it is much less needed as the circular model would be able to achieve greater speeds without the need of a fuel to assist.

Horizontal spacegun:

Another idea is about using a horizontal "space gun" (rail/coil gun) to push a payload at extreme speeds along a tunnel/surface, again where the container has superconductive magnetic components. This is just an idea for transporting goods across large distances quickly.

Earth-based spacegun + catcher:

Yet another earth-based transportation idea is to use a spacegun to launch a payload along an arc (potentially into low earth orbit and fall back to earth). The target would be a catcher machine that intercepts the payload during transit. The grander thought is being able to launch payloads across the ocean and having a catcher positioned along a coastline could catch the payload. To the extreme would have catcher machines across the global and spaceguns launching goods to wherever they are needed. But this is all fantasy because I have no idea if it scientifically possible or how much this would cost, lol :)

What do you guys think? Do you think it could be a cost effective method of payload transport (whether garbage, waste or commercial goods)?

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#1

Re: Spacegun + Catcher thoughts for payload transport

03/03/2014 2:21 PM

incredibly terrible idea on many levels. welcome to the club

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#2

Re: Spacegun + Catcher thoughts for payload transport

03/03/2014 4:36 PM

Well your logic is probably sound in one regard anyway, and that's that deep space is probably the only safe place to dispose of these tailings....The sheer size of this project screams environmental disaster, but the siren's call of vast wealth contained therein, is stronger still.....that being said it is probably going to happen and the pipe dream of safe disposal of oceans of acidic waste will fade quickly with ground breaking....it does present an opportunity for advancement of waste treatment, the cost of such a large containment for all of eternity cries out for a cost effective remediation solution...

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/alaska-gold/

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#3

Re: Spacegun + Catcher thoughts for payload transport

03/03/2014 5:21 PM

Getting material into space using an elevator involves increasing its angular momentum relative to the gravitational centre of the Earth. That momentum comes from the reduced angular momentum of whatever is left. Which means the Earth's spin slows down!

What is this <...waste/garbage...> anyway? Why is it being made in the first place?

Stopping the making of this stuff is a far more worthwhile occupation than launching it into space; concentrate on that instead.

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#6
In reply to #3

Re: Spacegun + Catcher thoughts for payload transport

03/03/2014 7:53 PM

AU and CU mining

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#4

Re: Spacegun + Catcher thoughts for payload transport

03/03/2014 5:43 PM

Wow, SomeGuy2014, that's so far out of the box that it is astronomical itself.

Can't tell where you are, so I'll assume that you are here in the USA.

In 2012 the good people of the USA created over 251 million (reported)tons of garbage. That leaves another 50-100 million tons unreported, illegally dumped garbage that we won't consider.

I won't bother to go over your proposal point by point, but the cost and scope of your pipe dream is also astronomical.

We've also polluted near earth with some 17,000 trackable objects larger than a coffee cup, so I think oyur idea is ahead of its time.

Today, it costs well over $13,000.00 per pound to launch something into orbit around the earth.

I'd try to find some way to reduce the amount of garbage we produce.

Keep those wheels turning.

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#5

Re: Spacegun + Catcher thoughts for payload transport

03/03/2014 6:19 PM

Yep, definitely a pipe dream, I was just thinking out loud to see what other engineers thought about it. I am in the automotive industry in Canada and have no experience with aerospace, but thought it sounded like an interesting idea for peer evaluation :)

According to this article (again wikipedia, sorry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quicklaunch), this company estimates $500 per pound, but looks like they are out of business, lol. They estimated approx 1 billion over 10 years of r&d which I think is an understatement.

The Frontline doc "Alaska Gold" is what sparked the thoughts. They were considering $500b in resources mined over 100 years, and 10b tons of waste.

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#7

Re: Spacegun + Catcher Thoughts for Payload Transport

03/06/2014 2:00 AM

Garbage and pollution should be regarded as wasted potential products.

In most cases, no one has yet devised an economical way of using the stuff but we should be continually researching ways to utilize our wastes instead of scrapping them.

This would remove the need for sending wastes into space (what a waste!).

An offshoot of this topic is the idea of space manufacturing and mining, which could bear closer examination.

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