With a recent $500,000 Phase II contract awarded from the U.S. Department of Defense Small Business Technology Transfer Program, LaunchPoint engineers are now hard at work on an innovative magnetic space launch system.
Jim Fiske, founder of Magtube and Principle Investigator on the Launch Ring project, knows a thing or two about magnetic levitation. His work with Magtube, Inc. (now called Applied Levitation, Inc.) saw him create a full-scale prototype maglev shipping container, and has earned him a reputation as a visionary in breakthrough maglev technology.
The principle of magnetic levitation has been known for over 100 years, when American scientists Robert Goddard and Emile Bachelet first conceived of frictionless trains. But though magnetically-levitated trains have been the focus of much of the worldwide interest in maglev, the technology is not limited to train travel.
So when Mr. Fiske and his team realized that the technology used in the Magtube shipping system could be adapted for orbital satellite launches, he immediately began searching for funding to develop the necessary concepts and technologies. How revolutionary would a maglev space launch system be? Consider that the first magnetic launch systems are expected to propel payloads into orbit at a cost of roughly $750/lb, already a significant improvement over the current rocket-launched cost of around $4,000/lb. Now realize that the total cost to orbit might eventually drop below $100/lb, and it soon becomes clear how vitally important this technology is to the future of space.
Grand visions aside, the Launch Ring is just another example of the innovative maglev technologies that Jim Fiske and his team are working on. Though the concepts behind maglev have been known for more than a century, the technology is still in its infancy. Only time will tell how this innovative frontier will affect our future.