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Transportation

Gigantic Air Gun To Blast Cargo Into Orbit 384

Hugh Pickens writes: "The New Scientist reports that with a hat tip to Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon , physicist John Hunter has outlined the design of a gigantic gun that could slash the cost of putting cargo into orbit. At the Space Investment Summit in Boston last week, Hunter described the design for a 1.1-kilometer-long gun that he says could launch 450-kilogram payloads at 6 kilometers per second. A small rocket engine would then boost the projectile into low-Earth orbit. The gun would cost $500 million to build, says Hunter, but individual launch costs would be lower than current methods. 'We think it's at least a factor of 10 cheaper than anything else,' Hunter says. The gun is based on the SHARP (Super High Altitude Research Project) light gas gun Hunter helped to build in the 1990s while at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. With a barrel 47 meters long, it used compressed hydrogen gas to fire projectiles weighing a few kilograms at speeds of up to 3 kilometers per second."

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