Space Exploration Technologies

Spinlaunch Hurled a Test Rocket Into the air. See What it Looked Like From the Payload’s Point of View

Can watching a video give you motion sickness?  If so, a commercial launch company called SpinLaunch just released a video that is sure to. The video is from the first camera ever attached to one of the company’s test payloads, and boy is it spectacular, though it might indeed be nausea-inducing in some people.

SpinLaunch, which came out of stealth mode in 2018 with the plan to utilize an electric rail gun to catapult payloads into space, has been making slow and steady progress.  The underlying technology, also known as a mass driver, has been around since at least the 1960s and is used in various other fields like launching aircraft off nuclear-powered carriers.

Video of the optical view of SpinLaunch’s test.
Credit – SpinLaunch YouTube Channel

But so far, no one has been able to hurl a payload into orbit using just a mass driver.  That may change soon, however.  SpinLaunch has been making steading progress since its first launch in October last year. While that launch reached a few kilometers in height, it wasn’t enough to reach its highest point.  But, the company’s facility is known as the Suborbital Accelerator, so there’s room for improvement.

That improvement could see a payload of up to 200 kg launched 61 km into the air before an attached rocket attached to it blasts it into Low Earth Orbit. While this method of launch, which requires the projectile to be spun up in a reaction wheel to a speed of 8,000 km/h, would be impractical for human explorers, there are plenty of high value, low weight applications, such as satellites, circuit boards, or even optical equipment, that it might be useful for.

Video showing the first launch of SpinLaunch’s technology.
Credit – SpinLaunch

Engineers at the company know that and, in the past, have tested even such things as a regular smartphone in its high-g prototype launcher. It survived without damage, which led the team to consider putting a camera onboard a test payload itself. 

The resulting video is astonishing as it opens up a few seconds before the test payload is launched into the air.  The aforementioned nausea-inducing spinning happens almost immediately but does slow down as the project continues to gain height.  After reaching enough of an altitude to capture a pretty spectacular overview of the Spaceport America campus in New Mexico, where the test launcher is based, the payload begins to turn on its side and captures a brief shot of the curvature of the Earth before the video cuts out.  

Image showing the design of the SpinLaunch System
Credit – SpinLaunch

This is undoubtedly an awe-inspiring video, as the whole process only takes under a minute, and the company seems to be going strong down its development path.  One YouTube commenter named Scott captured the excitement behind the company’s fans stating, “Can’t wait to see countless ‘Will it SpinLaunch?’ videos on YouTube.”  The company might even get some additional revenue with that idea.

For now, revenue is a long way off, though the company will continue pouring capital into developing their launch technology, with the expectation that eventually, customers will start paying them to launch valuable things other than iPads.  With luck, the company will continue its development pathway and offer plenty more nausea-inducing videos in the future.

Learn More:
Interesting Engineering – Watch SpinLaunch’s test vehicle catapult toward space at 1,000 mph
New Atlas – New video gives first-person view of what it’s like to be SpinLaunched

Lead Image:
Image of the projectile being launched, and watched by a group, at SpinLaunch.
Credit – SpinLaunch

Andy Tomaswick

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