James Powell, the inventor of Maglev trains, is now working on a design of hyperloop that will be able to launch space vehicles, without requiring a rocket engine. James has been working on this project for over a decade now. James calls his patent pending maglev space launch system – SpaceTram. That surely is a great name. A tram that literally takes you into space.
A recent patent application revealed the details of his new optimized design for launching small satellites on the order of 100 kilograms. We believe that even Elon Musk would dig this patent pending technology. This patent pending technology marries hyperloop to Space Tech, the two technologies that Elon Musk is most passionate about.
A typical hyperloop design includes an airtight tube with a magnetically levitated vehicle within the tube. As the friction is minimized, the vehicle can travel at more than airline speeds. The patent application suggests that we lift one end of the airtight tube, such that the tube is at an angle with respect to the Earth. Now, the magnetically levitated vehicle within the tube will travel at high speed and will reach near Earth’s escape velocity as it exits the open end of the tube. Since the vehicle is traveling at escape velocity, it may travel away from the Earth or start revolving around the earth like a satellite.
More Details from the Patent Application:
The patent application discloses an electromagnetic launcher and an electromagnetic launch system for electromagnetically launching a launch craft for carrying payloads such as projectiles, launch vehicles, spacecraft, aircraft, missiles, and rockets. The electromagnetic launcher utilizes magnetic levitation, stabilization and propulsion, and employs a transverse direct current magnetic field generated in superconducting cables extending along a launch tube to eliminate mechanical contact and friction of the payload with a launch tube wall.
Upper and lower conducting metal plates and loops of conducting material are also provided on the launch craft for magnetic levitation, stabilization and propulsion of the launch craft in cooperation with the transverse direct current magnetic field provided by the electromagnetic launcher to be simpler and less costly, allowing power conditioning to be simplified and less costly. The electromagnetic launcher includes a launch tube with electrically conducting rails energized along the length of the rails, allowing elimination of expensive, complex electronic switching.
So, James has basically redesigned hyperloop to launch space vehicles. The Gen-2 variant of the StarTram is supposed to be for reusable manned capsules. The idea may have been inspired from conventional coil guns that are also known to utilize an electromagnetic projectile accelerator including stationary coils aligned along an axis of a launch tube for acceleration of a magnetic projectile down the launch tube, by sequentially energizing each individual coil as the projectile approaches to electromagnetically pull or push the projectile along the launch tube.
Along with his colleague Gordon Danby, James Powell invented the awesome Maglev Trains in 1960s. He was awarded the prestigious Franklin Institute “Medal 2000 for Engineering” award for his work on Maglev trains.