It is expensive and resource intensive to launch objects into orbit. NASA’s space shuttle and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 with Dragon are designed to reduce resource and cost of launches. Recovering spent rockets and of course the vehicle, help to lower costs. However, turning around a vehicle quickly is still a challenge. Refueling the rockets is part of the turn around time. What if we did not use rockets and had a system with rapid turn around? I have an idea and it is not just my own.
I have an idea on how to launch vehicles into orbit without rockets. Albeit, this is a rather novice view, it may not be completely unfeasible. What if the vehicle with payload was accelerated overtime in a super accelerator? Then slowly redirect the vehicle towards space via a very long, angled tunnel. Take the idea of a supercollider and expand it to a gigantic level and attach a long tunnel off a tangent. Basically, a circular mass driver.
Let me step you through the process. An orbital vehicle has been readied with some payload and is entered into the accelerator. The vehicle hovers in a magnetic field and is accelerated using the same field similar to mag lev. Prior to acceleration the tunnel has all air removed to become a vacuum. The vacuum will reduce drag during the acceleration process. The orbital vehicle has no issue with a vacuum as it will survive the vacuum of space. The vehicle is then accelerated at 1G or 1 x Earth’s gravity. For you math folks 1g = 9.8m/s^2 or 32 ft / s^2 . Accelerating at 1G is more comfortable for people but other non-human remotely flown payloads could accelerate much faster. As the vehicle accelerates it tilts onto its side and begins to move to higher acceleration lanes. This allows for more than one vehicle to be accelerated at once and could also be used to create a controlled deceleration if needed. The speed of the vehicle has now reached escape velocity of over 40,000 kilometers per hour (25,000 miles per hour), to enter orbit. When escape velocity is reached the vehicle is launched through a tunnel with a gradual incline.
The tunnel is critical to the rocket-less acceleration. The gradual incline would cause the vehicle to exit the tunnel at about 2 miles or 3.2 km in elevation. As an example, Pikes Peak in the Rocky Mountains is short of this elevation by ~0.62 miles or ~1km. The elevation is key to lower resistance as the air is thin at that altitude. At very high speeds slamming into a wall of atmosphere would be like a reverse orbital entry. Not the most desirable for keeping vehicle stress and damage to a minimum.
I have one last concept to keep this vehicle rocket-less, employ a gyroscope. As the vehicle is accelerated an on-board gyroscope is also accelerated. By the time the vehicle exits the tunnel it will have a wound gyroscope that can help with movement in space. Directing the gyroscope allows for acceleration and braking.
The vehicle itself could be a one time use to space only. Granted moving from space to Earth is also critical. However, not all vehicles need to be built for round trip. A one time use vehicle could be recycled into other space vehicles including a return vehicle. Building a modular vehicle easily assembled into other vehicles or space station modules greatly increases the value of the launch vehicle. Therefore, no recovery but rather a vehicle that is easily manufactured and has post launch value.
So, where do we build this colossal accelerator? If we use the Rocky Mountains as the incline then there is some very flat space to the east in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, and New Mexico. Construction like this would create many jobs both high and low tech. Materials and vehicles would need to be manufactured creating still more jobs. It would also be safe, clean, quiet technology versus a launch pad with rocket blasts and fuels. If constructed correctly, it would be something you would want in your backyard.
This is an epic idea that will pay for itself. Something the entire United States would need to be behind and contributing towards. A move towards space that has not been seen since JFK’s space race. It would resoundingly differentiate the United States from other nations. A new economy with as yet unrealized new jobs would be born around moving payloads to space. Hopefully, not alienating other nations but bringing all nations together as space becomes easily attainable. The first nation to accomplish this monumental feat will lead the new space economy. All because we chose to reignite the space race by not using rockets.