Do you know how much it costs to go to space?
It varies, of course, depending on what’s being sent and where, and what type of infrastructure exists that’s capable of getting whatever you’re sending to wherever you want it to go.
But just to give you an idea, it currently costs about $100,000 to send a standard 3-pound satellite into low Earth orbit. Larger masses can be a little bit more affordable, but can still cost up to $5,000 per pound.
But who cares, right?
That’s a great question. And the answer is everyone. Well, that should be the answer, and I’ll give you two reasons why…
First of all, traveling the cosmos is relatively cheap compared with the cost of actually getting off the planet. That costs a whole lot of dough, and all that money has to come from somewhere.
While it’s true that there are many privately owned space companies out there, there are still plenty of government programs sending people (and things) into space.
In a nutshell, that means when the NSA launches a satellite they plan on using to spy on us, they turn around and hand us a bill.
So reducing the cost of throwing chunks of metal into orbit could mean that more of your tax dollars go toward something you actually care about (but I wouldn’t get my hopes up).
Secondly, space exploration is vital. It’s the future of humanity. And as our presence and activity outside our own atmosphere increases, there will be a massive demand for supplies that we aren’t yet able to produce anywhere else.
Food. Water. Fuel. Building materials. Manufactured goods.
These kinds of supplies will be essential during the infancy of our forays into the stars.
And they’re all heavy.
Lucky for the human race, there are smart people out there trying to solve this problem.
One company, HyperV Technologies Corp., has proposed a “railroad to space using a mechanical hypervelocity launcher to enable large-scale space utilization” that will be only one-hundredth of the cost of the rockets we currently use.
Fancy, I know.
They’re calling it the Slingatron.
The Slingatron is designed to work by “slinging” bulk payloads into orbit using a unique mechanical acceleration approach that can launch payloads at up to 7 kilometers per second, matching the velocity of vehicles that are currently in low Earth orbit (LEO).
If it works on the scale they’re planning, the end result will be a 100% electrically powered, land-based Earth-to-orbit launcher capable of hurling virtually any g-force-resistant payload into orbit.
The math to how it works is somewhat technical, but it basically uses a gyrating spiral rail (hence the train analogy) to harness centripetal force.
By placing the payload at the center and releasing it once the rail has reached launch speed, the payload continues to accelerate as it travels outward on the spiral arm until it’s launched, hopefully into space.
The technology is very promising, and even though they haven’t sent anything into space yet, the company has already successfully built and tested two prototypes, each a scale up from the last.
The Mark I Slingatron was the first demonstration of a spiral launch track, but still using a rolling sphere. They were able to launch a 1-ounce, ¾-inch-diameter steel ball bearing at 152 meters per second.
The Mark II Slingatron was the first attempt at a semi-modular design for launching a heavy sliding payload. With this design, they were able to launch a sliding, half-pound payload at 100 meters per second.
These are impressive results, if you ask me…
Right now the company is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their third prototype, which will be used to launch a quarter-pound payload to 1 kilometer per second. This latest model will be the largest yet, and I’m sure they’re hoping its success will lead to larger-scale funding for research and development.
I, for one, am excited, not just about this idea, but about the face of the future in general. With all these people coming up with so many unique ideas and working so diligently, it seems inevitable that we’ll see a real expansion into space in our lifetime.
For more information on the Slingatron project, check out their Kickstarter page, below.
Here’s to the future,
Patrick Copelandfor Tomorrow in Review
The 3-D scanning market is bigger than most people think: Currently, it is a larger global market than 3-D printing alone and will continue to be well into the future. Industry analysts expect a 26.7% compound annual growth rate in 3-D scanning over the next five years.
Patrick Copeland is a copywriter for Agora Financial and writes an editorial that is published in Tomorrow in Review. Before working for Agora, he worked as a freelance writer, writing mostly for the fitness and hydroponics industries.
Throughout history, financial markets have been comprised of a series of bubbles and crashes. However, the Fed’s endless policy of easy money has broken the mold when it comes to these financial bubbles. But, as Doug French explains, it seems some investors refuse to learn from the lessons of the past. Read on...
Remember the Fed's "taper talk"? Well, it's starting to rear it's ugly head again. Of course, as with almost any market trend, it's all about perception. And while some investors may be panicking, Greg Guenthner explains how you can use the current "taper trend" to your advantage. Read on...
With so much of the national media focused on negative stories, it's easy to feel a bit depressed and to think that the world is hopelessly doomed to failure. But, as Alexander Green points out, there are several things for which humanity, especially in the developed world, should be eternally thankful. Read on...
The president and his supporters are trying to convince Americans that all of the problems with the implementation of Obamacare are simply bumps in the road, normal as part of any new program in its early days. Of course, that's not true. In fact, that's exactly what one should expect when the government is in charge.
There's been a lot of press lately about the 3-D printing revolution - much of it right here on The Daily Reckoning. But there is one technology that's already threatening to make 3-D printing yesterday's news. Josh Grasmick examines a new kind of printing... that takes place in the 4th dimension. Read on...
Say's Law fell out of favor among economists with the rise of Keynes. But if it still holds true, we can at least take comfort that there is economic life after monetary death.