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Don’t launch it! Don’t spin it! Fire your orbital payloads from a gun!

Capitalism in space: It appears there is another company attempting to develop a different radical method for getting payloads into space. Instead of launching them on a rocket, or spinning them up to escape velocity (as Spinlaunch proposes), the startup Green Launch proposes to fire them from a cannon!

Green Launch COO and Chief Science officer Dr. John W. Hunter directed the Super High Altitude Research Project (SHARP) program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory some 30 years ago, and in the process led the development of the world’s largest and most powerful “hydrogen impulse launcher.”

This is effectively a long tube, filled with hydrogen, with helium and oxygen mixed in, and a projectile in front of it. When this gas cannon is fired, the gases expand extremely rapidly, and the projectile gets an enormous kick in the backside. The SHARP program built and tested a 400-foot (122-m) impulse launcher in 1992, breaking all railgun-style electric launcher records for energy and velocity, and launching payloads (including hypersonic scramjet test engines) with muzzle velocities up to Mach 9.

This approach, says Green Launch Business Development Director Eric Robinson, scales up far better than a spinning accelerator like the SpinLaunch system.

On its website the company claims this technology could not only be used for bulk payloads, like oxygen or water, but also “acceleration-tolerant payloads in the cube-sat class and smaller.” I am not sure how any complex hardware in any satellite, no matter how small, could withstand such accelerations, but once again, such technology could provide a cheap way to get simple cargo into orbit.

Below is a video of the company’s December 21, 2021 vertical test.

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  • Jeff Wright

    The Excalibur shell has electronics.

  • John

    The Martians already did that in the War of the Worlds book.

    It looks hard to do, even if you get the velocity, there has to be a horizontal component. What goes up (mostly) must come down if you go straight up.

    The Martians had it easier with less gravity and a less dense atmosphere, but they weren’t trying to achieve orbit, just invade us.

  • Col Beausabre


    They achieved 15,000 G’s – and were aiming to fire payloads with electronics

    Grandfather of HARP

    You can’t imagine how the prospect of a giant gun warms the cockles of an old soldier’s heart

  • Kyle

    Talk about a moon shot

  • John hare

    What is described here is ramjet in tube. I had a reference on such things way back. More feasible than spinlaunch. Poor mans maglev.

  • Skunk Bucket

    Very reminiscent of Jules Verne’s moon gun, as described in his 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon. Verne developed the concept of the acceleration couch for his craft, but at the gees that it would have pulled, the crew would still have been red soup on the floor of the aluminum capsule, at least until it cleared the muzzle and burned up in the atmosphere. I read the book as a kid and immediately recognized the issues, but it was a lot of fun anyway!

  • There need be no “horizontal component” if the shell (post drag while departing the atmosphere) still possesses greater than Earth escape velocity. It can never fall back down in that case — at least not until many solar orbits have passed.

    (And actually, the rule out in space isn’t “what goes up must come down” so much as “what goes down must come back up”!)

  • Sounds like a reboot of spurned scientist turned weapons-designer-for-the-hightest bidder Gerard Bull. The Mossad whacked him for developing a super cannon for Saddam Hussein IIRC.

  • Jeff Wright

    HYPACC was similar.

    Poor Gerald Bill. The only Mossad hit I took issue with.

  • Star Bird

    Why dont we just send Biden and Obama to the moon

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