Author Topic: UTSTAR Launcher Concept - Idea  (Read 3783 times)

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UTSTAR Launcher Concept - Idea
« on: May 07, 2011, 12:20:05 PM »

UTSTAR Launcher Concept
( a way to send resources and parts to and from Mars using electromagnetic railgun )

The UTSTAR concept is a NASA idea that says that instead of using rockets or shuttles to deliver supplys to space, you could simply fire them there at less than one percent cost by using electromeganetic railgun. This concept isn't new (in fact: Julius Verne was the one who first came up with it) and recently a greate advance was made in this technology (2003). Almost 7 years ago, scientists have archieved in laboratories more than required velocity to send a "bullet" to space using EM railgun. They anounced that it was now simply a matter of size, becouse there is no technical difficulities that wouldnt allow sending resources to space using a big gun. In fact: using electromagnetic railgun is economicly viable (500$ for 1 kg to LEO. Shuttles and rockets use >20.000$ for 1 kg).
So how does an railgun work?
It's simple realy. Ther's a big non-conductive pipe, surronunded by magnets and two rails. When a "bullet" is inserted and connect to the rails by high voltage current, it will be thrown out the pipe at a gigantic speed.

In fact - the speed is so greate that the tip of the bullet would melt and even evaporate.
That is why not all equipement can be send to space - no fragile equipement...and no humans.  :)
But that doesn't matter - most of the equipement send to space is fuel, oxygen, water, food, simple parts and raw materials which can be easily send that way.

So does this all have to di with Mars?
I think everything. I've recently reed that the technology for EM railgun will be ready for practical use in 2020-2025 and will be tested...on the Moon?
Why there? Why not Earth?
Simply: no air and low gravity.
The railgun there would be as big as a truck, so it would be a greate prototype. It was even consideret that there should be constructed a big railgun on the moon. At first it would be used only to deliver samples and other small things to Earth, but later-on it could be used to deliver Helium-3 to Earth in greater quantities than it would be possible using shuttles and rockets. Finally: the moon railgun was to be used to resuply Mars and the asteroid belt colonies, since it would cost only a fraction of sending an interplanetary transfer ship there. But that's not all: using EM railgun technology on the Moon would allow to send cheap space-prbes around the solar system. The whole space industry would shift gradually from heavy Earth to light Moon.
And what about Mars? Does it only gets the supplys from Earth/Moon by railgun? NO! It can have one of it's own! It's quite easily actually, since Mars has also smaller gravity and lesser air. The railgun builded there would also be small, and could be even constructed from local resources. That would be a greate way for a colony to gain financial profit: send cheapily resources to a transfer ship around Mars using railgun, that would gather them in houndrets of tones (500 tones a year) and than goes to Earth by using cheap Hoffmans orbit trajectory.

There is so mych to speak about that technology that it would take about couple pages. Instead: please read this from top to bottom:

US Navy railgun test:

Poland here. My time: GMT + 1h
Writing a book about Mars. Any ideas? Type to me.
I'am an Astrobiology/Biology student.


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Re: UTSTAR Launcher Concept - Idea
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2011, 01:59:11 PM »
Also if you could launch objects that weighed a couple tons, you could bombard the earth with things that had the equivalent impact energies of  good sized nuclear weapon.    Yeah... I dont see politically a rail gun ever being built on the moon or mars.


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Re: UTSTAR Launcher Concept - Idea
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2011, 03:18:54 PM »
I love that Idea... I reckon it could be controlled to put objects in Mars orbit, and for in game it would make for nice way of 'explaining' how resources are sent away without the use of a lander... hehe maybe it could be used to fire a emergency escape vechile (@profit, yes I know the acceleration shock would prob kill the nauts inside- lets say its filled with water before launch)


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Re: UTSTAR Launcher Concept - Idea
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2011, 04:23:20 PM »
For ... political issues, see Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  For technical concerns, realize that you're slamming alternating voltages on the order of megajoules of energy per kg at a rapid alternating rate through the linear accelerator's coils.  The speed of switching and amount of current required means a LOT of heat due to inherent lossiness of standard wiring.  Room-temperature superconductors, easier on the Moon or Mars due to much lower "room" temperatures, are one way around this.  Another requirement is to evacuate the atmosphere along the projectiles path, at least while still inside the linear accelerator.  Otherwise you've got a massive plasma trail like a home-sick meteor.  Visually very impressive, but not exactly something you want inside your launch apparatus.  Outside of these three concerns, there's really no reason why this wouldn't work.  Heck, check out the HARP project of the early 60s.