"You've got to get a system that is designed to be as dumb as hell."
We know what you've all been thinking: why build sophisticated rockets to get payloads into orbit, when you could simply build dumb and loud concrete tubes instead?
That's apparently the question that Longshot Space CEO Mike Grace has been asking himself, at least. In a recent interview with TechCrunch, Grace, whose company is working to build a hypersonic launch system designed to shoot stuff into orbit on the cheap, explained why he thinks that rockets are an "overly exquisite solution" to getting objects off Earth and into space.
"You need something that is dumber and much cheaper, both to build and operate," Grace told TechCrunch of his concept for the accelerator, adding that relying on more expensive and involved rockets to deliver payloads to future interplanetary human colonies wouldn't be terribly practical given both cost and demand.
"I don't think it may ever be practical with rockets," he added. "So the question is, how do you drive the price of putting material in space through the floor?"
Dumb as Hell
As far as how the system actually works, the name "Longshot" kind of says it all. Per TechCrunch, the contraption is both "very, very horizontal" and also, very, very long. In order for an object to reach Mach 5 speeds, the accelerator — which utilizes compressed gas to propel projectiles through the concrete tubing — needs to be about 80 feet long. Getting to Mach 10 would require two-to-three football fields of fixed infrastructure, while reaching space-level speeds of Mach 25 to 30 — as is the ultimate goal of the project — would require several kilometers.
Generating hypersonic speeds will also mean generating sonic booms with every launch — meaning that facilities will have to be somewhere extremely remote.
"You would want to be somewhere where an atomic bomb could go off," Grace told TechCrunch, "and nobody would notice."
Longshot does have some competitors in the burgeoning Launch Stuff Into Space But Not in a Rocket field, the catapult-like venture SpinLaunch being a notable rival.
But as TechCrunch notes, Longshot does have some serious backers, including OpenAI's Sam Altman and Draper VC. And no matter what, Grace certainly seems to believe that if the cost is right — as in the absolute basement — he won't have any issue winning contracts.
"The key to being able to support that is having a system that can do it at extremely low cost," Grace told TechCrunch. "You've got to get a system that is designed to be as dumb as hell."
"Make it bigger," he added. "Don't make it smarter. That's expensive."
More on catapulting stuff into space: The Payload NASA Shot into Sky with Giant Gun Came down so Hard They Needed to Dig It out with an Excavator
Share This Article