Scramjet Launch Via Rail Gun



Using a giant electromagnetic rail system to launch scramjets to near-space, after which a second-stage type engine fires to reach orbit, is something we can expect to see after further development get it a practical level. If this type of system reduces overall launch costs, it would be a very good thing, as rocket-based launch systems can concentrate on getting bigger payloads into geo.

 An early proposal has emerged that calls for a wedge-shaped aircraft with scramjets to be launched horizontally on an electrified track or gas-powered sled. The aircraft would fly up to Mach 10, using the scramjets and wings to lift it to the upper reaches of the atmosphere where a small payload canister or capsule similar to a rocket’s second stage would fire off the back of the aircraft and into orbit. The aircraft would come back and land on a runway by the launch site.

Engineers also contend the system, with its advanced technologies, will benefit the nation’s high-tech industry by perfecting technologies that would make more efficient commuter rail systems, better batteries for cars and trucks, and numerous other spinoffs.

It might read as the latest in a series of science fiction articles, but NASA’s Stan Starr, branch chief of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Kennedy, points out that nothing in the design calls for brand-new technology to be developed. However, the system counts on a number of existing technologies to be pushed forward.

"All of these are technology components that have already been developed or studied," Starr said. "We’re just proposing to mature these technologies to a useful level, well past the level they’ve already been taken."

We love the scramjet, wihich will likely beat out other ideas, such as the "space gun."But wait a minute. Didn’t Prof. Potts experiment with rail launchers? Indeed, here it is…