Launch costs are too expensive! The large scale exploration and colonization of space will never be achieved without inexpensive and reliable access to space. The Startram project builds upon the original designs of James Powell and George Maise for a mass-driver launch system, which uses existing maglev technology to accelerate cargo and crew vehicles to orbital velocities. The goals of this project are to generate detailed engineering models of a Startram system, to identify and mitigate any potential design pitfalls, and to provide a detailed cost analysis of building a Startram system. For a project of Startram's size, this project also necessarily includes an examination of societal impacts. The Startram project seeks to examine the legal, security and policy implications of building a system capable of launching 100s of thousands of tons of material into orbit annually, and also to develop political strategies whereby a group of motivated individuals can leverage society's innate urge to explore new horizons to encourage governments and international organizations to invest in open and inexpensive access to space.
Note: The above text originally appeared on the Projects page, but has been removed since this project proposal doesn't seem to have gained any traction. The rest of this page may also be retired in the future.
The Startram project will study the feasibility of building a mega-scale mass-driver launch system capable of launching 100s of thousands of tons of material into orbit annually at an amortized cost of ~$40/kg.
The project aims to develop a radically different approach to launching payloads and personnel into space. Startram is a realization of the mass driver concept for space launch. The primary advantage of mass drivers is that they are propellant-less. Unlike rockets, in which the payload constitutes a tiny fraction of the overall launch system's mass (because a rocket must also lift the weight of its own propellant into orbit), a mass driver such as Startram is inherently more efficient. Startram uses existing maglev technology to accelerate vehicles to orbital velocities within an evacuated tube. The energy costs for accelerating a kilogram of payload to 8000 km/hr in this manner is equivalent to about 2 liters of gasoline! There are two configurations: a cargo-only version (generation-1) and a passenger-capable version (generation-2).
Many of our collective hopes and dreams for space as a species are permanently out of reach without an inexpensive and reliable launch system. The large scale deployment of clean and green Space Solar Power, or self-sustaining space colonies, or significant commercial enterprise such as asteroid mining is simply not economical with our current launch technologies. Low cost launch will open up entire new realms of endeavor,opportunity, and achievement for all of humanity.
1. Table of Contents for future sections and subsections on this page.
2. List of Startram subprojects
3. Reference and Documents Section
4. Project Team