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NASA engineers are developing a radical new form of launch that begins aboard an electrified track similar to that of a rollercoaster.  (Source: NASA)

The sled would then fling a scramjet into the air, which would activate and rocket to the upper atmosphere. Once in the upper atmosphere, the scramjet would fire a capsule launch vehicle into space as the final step.  (Source: NASA/Artist concept)
New launch system could be used for manned launches and satellite launches

NASA's budget may be cut, but that hasn't stopped the first international organization to put a man on the Moon from dreaming big.  One key question the agency is looking at is what the next big thing in space propulsion will be.  NASA and foreign space agencies have examined plasma enginesion enginesnuclear-powered designs, and solar sails, but these technologies lack the impulse and thrust to accelerate a launch vehicle into orbit. 

However, NASA's latest proposal may be the most creative idea of them all and has the potential to be relatively affordable.  The new proposal starts by placing a sled on electric tracks -- NASA's sled needs to reach a whopping 600 mph (appr. 1,000 km/h).

At the end of the track, the passenger vehicle, which rests atop the sled, will be flung off, launching at extreme speed.  The passenger vehicle would be a wedge-shaped aircraft, with scramjets aboard, which would activate upon launch.  Those scramjets would accelerate the aircraft to Mach 10.

Wings would gradually angle the craft into the Earth's upper atmosphere.  At the boundaries of the Earth's atmosphere, the scramjet would fire the actual spacecraft -- a capsule.  The maneuver would be akin to firing a round out of a barrel

By using mechanical motion to launch the craft, instead of expensive chemical boosters, the cost of launches could dramatically decrease.

NASA's Stan Starr, branch chief of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, says the technology to achieve this type of launch isn't that far away.  In a released statement, he explains, "All of these are technology components that have already been developed or studied.  We're just proposing to mature these technologies to a useful level, well past the level they've already been taken.  Essentially you bring together parts of NASA that aren't usually brought together."

Engineers at NASA and the U.S. Air Force have worked on a variety of scramjet projects thus far, including the X-43A and X-51 (a missile design).  So far these programs have had a couple of successful launches and tests under their belt, raising hopes that the technology can soon be applied to projects like the launcher.

Mr. Starr and other NASA engineers have assembled a proposal to build the system, which they're dubbing the Advanced Space Launch System.  They're seeking grants from a variety of sources.

Under the plan Langley Research Center in Virginia, Glenn Research Center in Ohio, and Ames Research Center in California would build and test the parts of the hypersonic aircraft.  Dryden Research Center in California, Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and Marshall, along with the Kennedy Space Center would engineer the rail track.  The plan calls for an actual two-mile long test track to be laid down parallel to the crawlway that the Shuttle used to be transported along to Launch Pad 39A.  Mr. Starr comments, "I still see Kennedy's core role as a launch and landing facility."

The 10-year plan for the launch platform calls for the program to begin with launching small drones -- like those used by the Air Force -- into orbit.  This would be followed by satellite launches.  If all goes according to plan, the system could eventually be used for low-cost manned mission launches, as well.

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By quiksilvr on 9/15/2010 11:19:40 AM , Rating: 2
We can never control gravity, we will simply find ways around it. Every atom, subatomic particle and quark has a gravitational pull. We have NO idea what it is or why it exists, but it's there.

By AssBall on 9/15/2010 12:03:29 PM , Rating: 2
Thermodynamics notwithstanding? Just turn those off too. Damn things.

By Mitch101 on 9/15/2010 12:47:02 PM , Rating: 5
Couldnt one run around Rosie O'donell and Oprah using the slingshot effect from thier gravity to launch ones self into space?

By Manch on 9/15/2010 4:59:44 PM , Rating: 3
Only by using a klingon Bird of Prey but that would also take you back to the 80's to save the whales.......ughhhh the 80's....

Of course this would be beneficial because you could stop Michael from turning white and then a ghost.....

.....too soon?

By MozeeToby on 9/15/2010 5:08:43 PM , Rating: 2
Of course this would be beneficial because you could stop Michael from turning white
Little known fact, his autopsy confirmed what he had always claimed; he never bleached his skin, he actually suffered from an extreme form of Vitiligo.

Normally the pigment loss is only in patches (I have a few inches around one eye and a few spots on my shins), but in some people it spreads to their whole body. Supposedly it started on his hand, which is why he started wearing the single glove way back in the 80's.

By MozeeToby on 9/15/2010 5:09:52 PM , Rating: 2
Well, that obviously wasn't the link I was going for:

By Manch on 9/15/2010 5:19:26 PM , Rating: 2 travel, Klingons, rosie, oprah, whales, time travel, 80s.....,Michael, ghosts.

By Fritzr on 9/16/2010 1:12:31 AM , Rating: 2
Space Ghost to the rescue!!!

By AstroGuardian on 9/15/2010 12:19:54 PM , Rating: 2
which is impossible to build :)

By Belard on 9/15/2010 12:26:16 PM , Rating: 2
Just need to have your handy dandy anti-gravity module up and running.

Its very simple, you know.

By tng on 9/15/2010 10:24:10 PM , Rating: 2
Actually no, you can't control gravity, but you can lessen the mass.

There is a well know effect of 2 charged plates set up as a capacitor where it can be measured that the positively charged plate will loose mass as the charge goes higher.

Yes this is possible, but it would take megavolts to get an effect that is helpful in any way. This effect was discovered by two physicists one of whom was an assistant to Einstein researching unified field theories.

By Shadowmaster625 on 9/16/2010 8:52:17 AM , Rating: 1
You mean YOU have no idea what gravity is or why it exists. (You wouldnt happen to be public school educated?) I happen to have a pretty good understanding of at least what it is.

All matter in the universe is actually a conglomeration of standing waves. Every "atom" in the universe outputs a wave. And every atom also receives waves from ALL other atoms. These waves exert a pressure, something like a background radiation. When you place a large mass, like the sun, next to a smaller mass, like the earth, you get a blockage of that background radiation on one side. The sun blocks a small portion of the background radiation, creating a loss of pressure in the direction of the sun. So the earth falls toward the sun. It is very simple once you understand it, no?

It isnt the sun that pulls the earth, it is the sun blocking a small portion of an otherwise constant radiation pressure being exerted on the earth on all sides by the entire universe.

By tng on 9/16/2010 12:01:08 PM , Rating: 3
First time I heard that one.

Really despite what you might think, gravity is really not well understood at all. Ever wonder why we have this stuff called "Dark Matter" out there now when 30 years ago it did not exist? It is because when astronomers finally got the tools to look at the galaxy as a whole they found out that it was rotating to fast for the amount of matter that it has, almost 10 times to fast. Dark Matter is a fudge factor to explain that difference. Maybe we don't know as much as we think we do.

By Shadowmaster625 on 9/16/2010 2:18:51 PM , Rating: 1
That's because they are basing their assumptions on flawed, outdated science. So the complexity increases exponentially as the contradictions keep piling up. That is what always happens. Look how complicated the math became right before the sun was Accepted to be the center of the galaxy. Look how much twisting and form fitting and exception making they had to do to make their theories work... until it all blew up.

Now, mainstream science must accept so many things they are not prepared to accept. The Wave Structure of Matter is one. Radiation Pressure is another. There is also Expansion Tectonics. And SEC Electrolysis. The list goes on and on. Gravity is simple to understand once you realize it is a revoltingly corrupted System that is in fact the source of the confusion. That is the Sole Purpose of mainstream academia - to spread confusion and stand in the way of progress so that those in power cannot so easily be displaced by technological breakthroughs they do not control.

By JediJeb on 9/16/2010 3:20:38 PM , Rating: 2
Do you have references for these theories? I would like to read up on them.

By tng on 9/16/2010 3:35:17 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking that he was into QM, but I guess not.

By freeagle on 9/18/2010 8:21:28 AM , Rating: 2
It's interesting to think about it this way, though I have one question atm:

How does the mass cause a blockage of the radiation push? Does size of the object also effect it? If yes, how come black holes are such a good blockers, when they are in fact very small.

Is this your own view of the thing or are there any articles to read about it? As someone already posted, it's the first time I hear this as well

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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