Giant Space Gun. Not kidding.

This is something that has intrigued me for a while. The gradual acceleration of rockets is necessary so that soft bodied humans can make it into space - but why is it needed for hunks of metal and tanks of gas? Space elevators make some sense, but in terms of actually getting things up there on the cheap, I am a firm believer in the following or related projects: shoot them up there with a gun.

Its basic technology scaled up to size James Cameron. And I think it has very strong potential to eventually offer cheap and reliable payload access to space.

Think about it this way: in combat you use cruise missiles to take out the most critical, sensitive, and difficult targets. But for general fire suppression, weakening enemy positions and protracted engagements, you used dumb old artillery. Our approach to space right now is all cruise missiles, no arty. And its damned expensive and that is holding us back from taking over space. Bring on the big guns.

A Cannon for Shooting Supplies into Space

A giant cannon designed to blast supplies into space on the cheap

How the Space Cannon Works John MacNeill

John Hunter wants to shoot stuff into space with a 3,600-foot gun. And he’s dead serious—he’s done the math. Making deliveries to an orbital outpost on a rocket costs $5,000 per pound, but using a space gun would cost just $250 per pound.

Building colossal guns has been Hunter’s pet project since 1992, when, while a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, he first fired a 425-foot gun he built to test-launch hypersonic engines. Its methane-driven piston compressed hydrogen gas, which then expanded up the barrel to shoot a projectile. Mechanical firing can fail, however, so when Hunter’s company, Quicklaunch, released its plans last fall, it swapped the piston for a combustor that burns natural gas. Heat the hydrogen in a confined space and it should build up enough pressure to send a half-ton payload into the sky at 13,000 mph.

Hunter wants to operate the gun, the “Quicklauncher,” in the ocean near the equator, where the Earth’s fast rotation will help slingshot objects into space. A floating cannon—dipping 1,600 feet below sea level and steadied by a ballast system—would let operators swivel it for different orbits. Next month, Hunter will test a functional, 10-foot prototype in a water tank. He says a full-size launcher could be ready in seven years, provided the company can round up the $500 million. Despite the upfront cost, Hunter says he has drawn interest from investors because his reusable gun saves so much cash in the long haul. Just don’t ever expect a ride in the thing: The gun produces 5,000 Gs, so it’s only for fuel tanks and ruggedized satellites. “A person shot out of it would probably get compressed to half their size,” Hunter says. “It’d be over real quick.”

How to Shoot Stuff into Space

STEP 1: HEAT IT
The gun combusts natural gas in a heat exchanger within a
chamber of hydrogen gas, heating the hydrogen to 2,600˚F and causing a 500 percent increase in pressure.

STEP 2: LET THE HYDROGEN LOOSE
Operators open the valve, and the hot, pressurized hydrogen quickly expands down the tube, pushing the payload forward.

STEP 3: TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
After speeding down the 3,300-foot-long barrel, the projectile shoots out of the gun at 13,000 mph. An iris at the end of the gun closes, capturing the hydrogen gas to use again.

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