I am envisioning a magnetic cannon to launch materials directly from Earth's surface to geosynchronous equatorial orbit. The parameters I have in mind are a near vacuum launch tube, about 10 km in length, running up and through the side of a mountain near the equator (there is a nice, 5700+ M volcano in Ecuador that is only 0.03 degrees north latitude, which seems promising if the earthquakes aren't too bad), launching at ~500 G's of acceleration for 2 seconds, before entering the atmosphere at relatively high altitude. A tube design that allows the projectile to essentially pack the air into the end of the tube as it fires could smooth the transition from tube to atmosphere, and at the trajectory you need (roughly 70 degrees from horizontal at tube exit), interaction with meaningful atmosphere will only occur for about 7 seconds. If the gun is stationary, then the projectile will consistently "land" in roughly the same place in orbit, with slight variation based on air conditions; so only slight course correction would be needed on-board to use the system to put mass on orbit to build and feed a space station complex.

The first question is: Can a projectile be designed with meaningful cargo space, self contained launch electronics, an engine system and a tiny bit of fuel for course correction once in orbit, which can withstand 2 seconds of 500 G acceleration, and then 7 seconds of atmospheric flight at orbital speed (starting with air pressure at 5700 M altitude, and getting less stressful from there)? What would you make such a projectile out of? How would you design it?

The second question is: Assuming a fairly large mass of cargo per launch (10-50 tons), can a magnetic launch system be built to achieve that 500 G acceleration along a 10 km track, without melting itself from its own power requirements? If so, how would you do it, and what would the power requirement actually be?

Third, how would you deal with the necessity of making the track curved? Is it better to use a shorter track with greater acceleration force, and fire straight? How important is the trade off between lower G-force at launch and longer, curved track?

Please note: This launch system is intended to be freight only. Humans would die from the G-forces of launch, and will still need to ride rockets, if this thing ever gets built.

  • $\begingroup$ If not a duplicate, then most definitely related... $\endgroup$
    – user
    Aug 23, 2016 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ Or a duplicate of Can magnets be used to launch spacecraft? $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Aug 23, 2016 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ Based on some googling, I suppose it's possible to build a kick stage (which you will need to circularize your orbit, or at least raise your perigee) that can withstand 500 Gs over 2 seconds. But...the logistics of building not just the launch track, but also the power plant and all the other infrastructure on the side of a volcanic mountain in Ecuador, for what amounts to a fixed launch azimuth just doesn't seem practical. $\endgroup$
    – John Bode
    Aug 23, 2016 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ Also related or maybe a duplicate: What technological hurdles prevent the development of a space gun? $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Aug 23, 2016 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ Aside from there being similar questions, this question is very broad despite being specific. The calculations needed to answer every aspect of it would take quite a while to cover. It reads like the framing of a thesis for a doctorate. Once you have gone over the questions mentioned above, if you have remaining questions please narrow this down to something that could be answered in about a page or less. Welcome to Space Exploration. $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Aug 23, 2016 at 17:24