Watch SpinLaunch's test vehicle catapult toward space at 1,000 mph

The space company aims to remove 70% of fuel and launch infrastructure requirements.
Chris Young

SpinLaunch, the company testing a catapult-like system that sends payloads to space with almost no rocket propellant, has shared footage from one of its test launches.

The video clip (below) shows SpinLaunch's Suborbital Accelerator as it launches a payload towards suborbital space.

The perspective then changes to a dizzying first-person view looking down to Earth from the test vehicle as the launch site quickly becomes a speck in the distance.

Making spaceflight sustainable

SpinLaunch and another firm called GreenLaunch are two of the biggest firms aiming to provide a more sustainable alternative to today's environmentally hazardous satellite rocket launches. 

California-based SpinLaunch uses a catapult-like system that spins a vacuum-sealed centrifuge at several times the speed of sound before releasing the payload towards orbit at thousands of miles per hour — faster than Mach 6. GreenLaunch, meanwhile, replaces the traditional rocket booster with a hydrogen impulse launch cannon that also reaches hypersonic speeds.

Both companies' systems get payloads up as high as a traditional first-stage rocket for a fraction of the price and with a greatly reduced environmental impact. Both use only a small amount of rocket propellant to propel their launch vehicle to its final orbital destination.

SpinLaunch announced it received a NASA Space Act Agreement contract only last month, and the company says its system will remove 70 percent of fuel and launch infrastructure requirements. The company will launch a NASA payload as part of a developmental flight test later this year, after which it will recover the payload for analysis.

A new era for spaceflight

In its new video, SpinLaunch shows off the launch of one of a series of recent test launches, its first optical payload. The test vehicle, which measures 3 meters long (9.8 ft), was launched on April 22 at a speed of over 1,000 mph. SpinLaunch didn't release any altitude data for this launch, though its previous test launch reached an altitude of roughly 30,000 feet, meaning it still has some way to go to reach space. 

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Still, be sure to look at SpinLaunch's test footage (above) as it will make you feel you're hurtling towards space at over 1,000 mph. If companies like SpinLaunch and GreenLaunch are able to prove their technologies can work as viable alternatives to traditional smallsat rocket launches, we may be on the verge of a new era of more sustainable spaceflight, in which experimental payloads and satellites can be launched at a fraction of the environmental cost.

Editor's note 09/05/22: The title for an earlier version of this article mistakenly claimed SpinLaunch's test vehicle flew into space. This has been corrected.

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