NASA Dreams of Launching Spacecraft With Rail Gun

Posted by on December 19th, 2010

NASA engineers have proposed a system comprised of a two-mile-long rail gun and a scramjet to launch a spacecraft into orbit. The rail gun would have a 240,000- horsepower motor that would convert 180 megawatts into enough force to accelerate the scramjet down the rail gun to Mach 1.5 in under 60 seconds. The scramjet would then launch from the track carrying the payload. Once it hit 200,000 feet at Mach 10 the spacecraft would separate from the scramjet and fire its rockets into orbit.

The system calls for a two-mile-long rail gun that will launch a scramjet, which will then fly to 200,000 feet. The scramjet will then fire a payload into orbit and return to Earth. The process is more complex than a rocket launch, but engineers say it’s also more flexible. With it, NASA could orbit a 10,000-pound satellite one day and send a manned ship toward the moon the next, on a fraction of the propellant used by today’s rockets.


3 Responses to “NASA Dreams of Launching Spacecraft With Rail Gun”

  1. Shawn Shelton-Zieger Says:

    About time! It isn’t as if this idea hasn’t been floating around since the 40s or 50s. (Maybe earlier?)

  2. Shawn Shelton-Zieger Says:

    I wonder what kind of forces are exerted on the cargo. In which case, launching people?

  3. Busterggi Says:

    Shawn, take a look at a mid ’30’s movie “Things to Come” which should be porn but is really boring sci fi.