SpinLaunch Raises $40 Million for Radical New Launch System

Bloomberg reports that Silicon Valley startup SpinLaunch has raised $40 million for a new approach to launching small satellites.

The company remains tight-lipped about exactly how this contraption will work, although its name gives away the basic idea. Rather than using propellants like kerosene and liquid oxygen to ignite a fire under a rocket, SpinLaunch plans to get a rocket spinning in a circle at up to 5,000 miles per hour and then let it go—more or less throwing the rocket to the edge of space, at which point it can light up and deliver objects like satellites into orbit.

SpinLaunch’s so-called kinetic energy launch system would use electricity to accelerate a projectile and help do much of the dirty work fighting through gravity and the atmosphere. In theory, this means the company could build a simpler, less expensive rocket that’s more efficient at ferrying satellites. “Some people call it a non-rocket launch,” said [founder Jonathan] Yaney. “It seems crazy. It seems fantastic. But we are actually using relatively low-tech industrial components to break this problem into manageable chunks.”

An impressive group of investors have signed on to support Yaney’s vision. The bulk of the $40 million came from Alphabet Inc.’s GV (formerly Google Ventures), Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Airbus Ventures.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The sonic boom pattern will be intense! Mach 7 in a circle with shockwaves reinforcing each other. Not to mention the centrifugal forces.

  • Search

    A fool and his money are soon parted

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    … And the tank requirements to hold and contain those propellants under centrifugal g. Maybe they’ll store the rocket surrounded by a fluid with similar density to put the tanks under hydrostatic equib, and that way avoid having to make artillery shell rockets.

  • redneck

    The heat build up in the tether at Mach 7 should be quite entertaining as well. Last I read, heat sinks were not massless.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    The launcher needs to be at the top of a mountain to reduce the air resistance.

    This system will more useful on the Moon and Mars with their very low atmospheric pressure.

  • AdmBenson

    If non-rocket launch becomes a much cheaper way of putting payloads in orbit, it will revolutionize the space business. For one thing, you could inundate LEO with nano-sats. They wouldn’t even need propulsion systems for station keeping within a constellation. Just continue throwing more of them into the same orbital plane until you have your ground targets covered. Quantity will trump quality in this world. Satellites like kleenex instead of handkerchiefs.

  • Michael Halpern

    Not really, while theoretically possible, when you factor in the heat, noise, mach effect, and incredible stress on the payload, because you essentially need all the velocity the first stage would normally impart on the second stage and payload, to be imparted at once, it doesn’t work, at least not on Earth, gravity is too high and atmosphere is too thick

  • Michael Halpern

    Plus the payload also has to deal with it

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, but you have just added a great deal more to the construction costs. Also the higher above ground level the further the shock waves from the sonic boom will travel. And you will likely have the presence of other mountains that will lead to some interesting patterns.

    Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a good location for this. It will be hard to find a coastal sight with the needed safety zone for the sonic booms. And then you need to add in options in case it breaks apart in a direction other than the launch one. A floating platform far at sea might work best.

    What I don’t see, at least in terms of Earth launch, is any advantage over a rocket sled. They already have one at WSMR in that Mach range. A simple rocket sled running up the mountains on the east side of Spaceport America will be much cheaper to build and your shock wave will be traveling in a straight line over WSMR.

    I do agree on the Moon or Mars this would work well, but not on Earth.

  • Jeff2Space

    I give this a very low chance of success. The devil is in the details here.

  • Jeff2Space

    And even if you could impart all the delta-V necessary to counter gravity, air drag, and etc and get to orbital velocity, you still need a “kick stage” to circularize the orbit or else your orbit will intersect the earth at approximately the launch point plus the distance the earth rotated during the orbit.

  • Michael Halpern

    Yup and changing target trajectory will be an interesting endeavor

  • AdmBenson

    https://www.geekwire.com/2018/spinlaunch-raises-40m-airbus-google-others-space-catapult/

    Judging from the photo, I’d say that SpinLaunch already has that part figured out. (However, it’s a mystery to me how that thing gets slung into the upper atmosphere.)

  • Bulldog

    I’m in agreement with everyone here that there are some huge practical and technical challenges that seem to be utter deal killers for this concept. Much the skeptic, I read the article and it names Airbus Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Kleiner Perkins as investors in SpinLaunch. Those firms have some very bright people and if they’re throwing money at the company, there must have been some plausible responses to the basic issues everyone here is pointing out (acoustics/shockwaves, thermal stresses, g-loading, etc.).

    I know, I know, “But Capt’n I cannot the Laws of Physics!”, but I think I’m going to grab some popcorn and watch this one.

  • Space Hack

    Pretty sure this is just a ‘Glomar Explorer’ for the upcoming mega-tech war between Larry Page and Elon Musk.

    By my math, Larry could set one of these Sling-o-Trons up in Arkansas and take out SpaceX in LA about 90 minutes later and wouldn’t have to spend a single dime on rocket fuel to do it.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    At sea level a very large amount of energy will be needed to overcome the air resistance. Since the shell is no longer powered much of the velocity will be lost as heat pushing through the atmosphere.

  • 76 er

    You’re right, it must have been a hell of a presentation. It’s very nice to see the venture capital people get out their wallets. For decades the launch industry has been moribund, then along come Musk and Bezos to tear the floodgates off their hinges. VC now wants a piece of the action! Engineering success or failure this Spin-O-Tron (so dubbed, good name!) turns out in future, new ideas are bubbling up and that’s good.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    And will Mr. Yaney one day find himself in handcuffs and an orange outfit for fraud? Or has he paperwork with small-print that will let him off the hook?

  • patb2009

    I wonder how this optimizes in terms of speed and launch mass and length.
    A normal rocket wants to be kind of skinny to reduce air drag, but, here, skinny makes it kind of
    long and bendy. So shorter and stubbier helps increase stiffness and reduce load but increases drag

  • Paul451

    Is this meant to be a Slingatron?

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Better still, instead of a centrifuge, use a rail gun and launch at Mach 50. Of course the payload or passengers would be instantly vaporised, but you could collect the vaporised molecules in orbit and reconstruct using 3d-printing. I’m calling it a thermo-electromagnetic teleport. For anyone interested with 10 million dollars to spare, I accept cheque, cash, or paypal.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Better still, instead of a centrifuge, use a rail gun and launch at Mach 50. Of course the payload or passengers would be instantly vaporised, but you could collect the vaporised molecules in orbit and reconstruct using 3d-printing. I’m calling it a thermo-electromagnetic teleport. For anyone interested with 10 million dollars to spare, I accept cheque, cash, or paypal

  • Tim Pickens

    This sounds like a modern day David and Goliath sling, but the rock is a rocket!
    I cannot imagine the lateral g force on the payload! Would be easy to calculate if we knew the rotating are length and rpm.
    This would make a great weapon system if it could be mounted at the highest point like a mountain, or maybe on an aircraft carrier with a Vaccum vacuum chamber they could tilt and then start the “Tilt a Whirl”. The room would have to be able to rotate on the yaw axis to so you could point the launch door 360 deg and the room would offer some azimuth to point the trajectory before the thing started spinning.
    In a battlefield situation, Mach shock is not a factor as is the case with most kenetic weapons in war times.

  • Vladislaw
  • patb2009

    It is my understanding he funded the first round with his own funds.
    That’s usually a sign of good faith in an endeavor.
    This approach has a lot of technical challenges, but if you have your
    own money in, it’s the absolute proof of belief.

  • patb2009

    i’d imagine the sonic boom dispersion is mostly horizontal so it’s a funny
    boom dispersion. It’s also originating at a fixed point, so I don’t know if some
    countermeasures to reflect the boom or attenuate it in certain directions is possible.

    I’d have to think on this, but, perhaps a sized grating might cause the boom to dissipate, or, a rough planar surface may break up the phase

  • Michael Halpern

    the sling would easily take itself out

  • Search

    Sheesh so what. There are plenty of people that believe in things that are entirely wrong. It takes more than believing in something for it to work.