Today, to send a satellite or other cargo into space, companies use boosters. Even if the first stage is reused, the launch costs about $60 million, and if the aircraft is disposable, the price is much higher. In addition, launching cargo with rockets causes great damage to the environment and fills Earth’s orbit with space debris. If there are so many disadvantages, why won’t scientists come up with a way to send cargo into space without using complex aircraft? Such technologies have already been invented, but at the moment they do not have working prototypes or have not fully proven their effectiveness – therefore, these ideas do not have much fame. Within the framework of this article, I propose to get acquainted with the most unusual ways of sending cargo into space. Believe me, there are extremely bold decisions.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about sending cargo into space without rockets is a space elevator. The essence of this technology is to stretch a strong cable from the Earth’s surface to the orbital station and then run an elevator with a payload along it. For the first time, the Russian self-taught scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky spoke about the space elevator back in 1895. The main requirement for the creation of this technology is the presence of a strong, low-density cable. According to many experts, carbon nanotubes are better suited for this purpose.
At the moment, one of the most promising projects to create a space elevator has been launched by the Japanese company Obayashi. She intends to show a working system in 2050. The development process is slow, and at the moment another group of Japanese scientists has only proved the functionality of a space elevator using the example of a 10-meter cable stretched between two near-Earth satellites, along which a box measuring 6×3 centimeters moved. .
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A space elevator is difficult to build for three reasons:
- it requires nanotubes, the production of which is given with great difficulty;
- its construction should begin in Earth orbit – it is easier to lower the cable than to raise it;
- the other end of the cable should be at the Earth’s equator.
As an alternative to the space elevator, it is proposed to build a space fountain. For its construction there are already all the materials, construction can be started from the surface of the earth and not only from the equator. In fact, the Space Fountain is a tall tower that extends all the way to low Earth orbit.
With current materials, the skyscraper will definitely not be able to support its own weight, but scientists have foreseen this. If you make the structure hollow inside and put a granular substance in there, you can transfer kinetic energy to this mixture and make it quickly move up from the bottom and transfer energy to the top. It sounds complicated, but the researchers are convinced that in this way it will be possible to provide the tower with maximum stability. Goods can be transported by lift or together with granulated material.
This sounds amazing, doesn’t it? But further – more. Once the idea came to the minds of scientists to build a ring around the Earth, in the cavity of which there are two compartments:
- the first, to receive payload or even passengers;
- Other, for moving linked metal ingots in a vacuum space.
It is assumed that such a system will work only when necessary. Part of the bridge will be on Earth’s surface, and the other two ends will be in orbit. When needed, people will be able to place cargo in the compartments and spread substances at high speeds. Under the influence of the movement of the substances, the ring will extend and go beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. It sounds cool, but there are many questions about this technology. First, the design is unlikely to be stable. Second, overclocking blanks requires a huge amount of energy – where do you get it? Third, is it so necessary if cargo can only be launched in equatorial orbits? Perhaps of all the options, this is the most unlikely.
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This method of sending cargo into orbit is only possible on satellites of planets or planets with a pre-sold atmosphere like Mars – it is impossible to translate an idea into reality on Earth. The essence of the technology is to build a guide on a space object, along which a capsule with a load can be strongly spread with the help of a magnetic field. With a sufficient length of the guide and the strength of the magnetic field, it is quite possible to launch the cargo into the sky and leave it in orbit. Perhaps in the future it will be possible to launch artificial satellites into the orbits of the Moon or Mars in this way.
Centrifuges to send cargo into space
If you are an attentive reader of our website, you are probably already familiar with this technique. Founded in 2014, SpinLaunch wants to build a centrifuge that can hold small rockets inside, spin them around and literally “throw” them into the sky. It is expected that at an altitude of 60 kilometers, the rocket will be able to turn on the engines and complete the withdrawal of cargo into outer space. This is the most realistic project on this list – prototypes already exist.
If you want to learn more about the SpinLaunch technology, read this article. And, of course, write about the technique that you liked the most. In addition to the options mentioned above, there are others, but these seem to be the most impressive.