Maglaunch is a mass driver, which means it requires neither rockets nor propellant to launch payload into space. Mass drivers are not a new concept. Early mass drivers were envisioned in fiction in the late nineteenth century, and have been a staple of speculative fiction ever since. Various engineering concepts of the mass driver have been described over the years, but no significant progress towards building a mass driver has been made due to large technical hurdles.
We believe that Maglaunch is the first mass driver infrastructure that combines available technology with intelligent implementation of basic physical principles to yield a design that is actually commercially feasible.
There are two proposed configurations by Maglaunch, Generation-1 and Generation-2. Gen-1 Maglaunch is a cargo-only version which is either built up the flank of a tall mountain or raised on pylons and could be built within ten years at a cost of $20 Billion. Gen-2 Maglaunch a people-capable version which could be built within twenty years at a cost of $60 Billion.
The key technologies enabling Maglaunch are as follows.
Maglev is an existing technology in use in several countries around the world today. The Japanese maglev program shown here is a superconducting maglev system which has evolved from the original designs of Drs. James Powell and Gordon Danby. The MLX01 vehicle test track has carried tens of thousands of passengers for many years without accident or incident. Currently, maglev transport vehicles routinely run faster than 500 km/h. The main impediment to running maglev much faster is friction caused by air drag. If maglev is placed in evacuated tubes with very low air pressures, it is possible to run maglev at thousands of km/h. In fact, Chinese companies have already announced that they are planning this.
MHD applications such as pumps, generators and thrusters have been used for decades. The Maglev system uses a "MHD Window" which allows one end of the launch tube to be open the atmosphere, thus permitting launch of the vehicle. Normally, atmospheric gases would immediately fill up the tube and the launch vehicle would be subject to extreme heating and stresses associated with traveling 8km/sec in air. However, the MHD window allows ionized gasses to be continually expelled from the tube, thus maintaining a near-vacuum in the tube at all times.
For a more in-depth technical analysis of the Maglaunch concept, please see here.