Huge cannons could end the rocket age. Filled with a special gas mixture, they accelerate their cargo fast enough to put it into orbit.
Can guns instead of rockets be the best means of launching payloads into space? Green Launch says yes and is working on a space cannon. The advantages are obvious, you don’t need any complex rockets. Only the much lighter payload with a small power stage is sent into space. Correspondingly less space debris accumulates. The capacity of such a cannon cannot be compared to that of a rocket launch. Green Start expects to be able to make a kill every 90 minutes. The payload would be in space in ten minutes.
The idea is not that exotic. Ever since man dreamed of going to the moon, the cannon has played a role. In Jules Verne’s novel “From the Earth to the Moon” (1865), the space travelers are shot into space by a howitzer. That was only science fiction at the time, but until the 1960s the USA worked on the concept of such a super cannon to get payloads into space. But with the plans at that time, it was not possible to bring a large, manned capsule to the moon. And so the rockets of Wernher von Braun’s Apollo program supplanted Gerald Bull’s cannon competition.
But he didn’t give up and continued to research the super cannon, always looking for sponsors. Last for Saddam Hussein, that’s where the construction of a cannon was started – the Babylon project. But in 1990 Bull was murdered in front of his apartment in Brussels.
Throttled exit speed
Also the CEO of Green Lauch, Dr. John W. Hunter, has a career in government research organizations. At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory he built the most powerful “hydrogen pulse launcher” in the world. The technology of Green Launch is also based on the concept. The technology is very different from that of artillery in the military. The starter is a very long tube, it uses no propellant or cartridge. A mixture of hydrogen and oxygen is pressed into the tube. When ignited, the gases expand much faster than in a military cannon.
As a result, the projectile achieves a very high exit velocity. With a space cannon, it has to be so high because the momentum that the projectile receives in the barrel has to be enough to launch it into space. Without an additional engine, the projectile only loses energy and speed after leaving the barrel. In this way, 32.7 times the speed of sound has already been reached, i.e. around 40,000 kilometers per hour. Green Launch wants to throttle the speed at 17.5 times the speed of sound. Even with Bull’s work, the most challenging problem was to get the loads on the barrel under control.
Despite a successful start, Green Launch, like comparable projects, is still a long way from being used commercially. However, the increasing number of satellite launches makes the concept of the single-use rocket more and more problematic. People like in the Jules Vernes novel cannot be brought into space in this way, they would not be able to withstand the extreme acceleration.
Quelle: Green Launch