Launches of the Future
Predictably, research is underway
to try to determine the future of space launch technology. Some of the
ideas currently in the works are radically new, others are simply new
takes on existing technology. Either way, the idea is to make launching
payloads into orbit easier, cheaper, and more efficient. This is not to
say that any of these will ever actually fly; but they're certainly possible.
The Jules Verne Gun
novel From the Earth to the Moon suggested, the Jules Verne Launcher
Co. is attempting to make a launch system that uses a giant cannon. This
cannon, of course, is more sophisticated than the one in the book. The
premise is similar: set off an explosion that provides intial thrust for
a space capsule. Then, as the capsule shoots up the barrel of the cannon,
electromagnets keep it aligned while smaller explosions act as boosters.
After the capsule has cleared the barrel, a rocket motor pushes the capsule
into orbit. Even with some changes, the Jules Verne Gun would have done
its namesake proud.
Sea Launch system is designed to provide mobile launch support, be able
to move to a more favorable launch position from anywhere in the world,
and reduce risk to populated areas through explosions or leakages. Sea
Launch consists of a transport ship to carry the rocket and payload to
the launch site, and a mobile oil-rig style launchpad. Sea Launch has
already been tested, and is starting to see more and more actual use.
Sea Launch is exclusively commercial, the first of this kind, but similar
systems could doubtless be used by the military.
Needless to say, many other ideas (possible or otherwise)
are floating around out there. These are just a couple of them.