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Is it possible to slingshot satellites into space?

Answer: It looks like it.

Shutterstock/Andrey Armyagov
Why strap a satellite to a rocket and ignite all those fossil fuels to get it into space when you could just throw it up there with a big high-tech version of a slingshot? That’s the thinking behind the new Suborbital Accelerator from SpinLaunch.

The accelerator uses an electric-powered centrifuge instead of explosives to launch objects skyward by spinning them inside a vacuum chamber before releasing them through a launch tube. In the scaled-down version that SpinLaunch is currently testing, the centrifuge spins at up to 5,000 mph and the launch tube is about the height of the Statue of Liberty without its pedestal. On Oct. 22, the machine successfully launched a 10-foot-long projectile tens of thousands of feet into the air during a test run.

The team behind the Suborbital Accelerator says that the current version is only one-third the size of what the full-scale one would need to be in order to get satellites into space. And this machine would definitely not be suitable for human use. An object spinning at 5,000 mph experiences forces of more than 10,000 Gs — human beings can easily pass out at 3 Gs, and can only survive as high as 9 Gs for about a split second.
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