Launch Rockets from an Accelerator ramped up an Andes mountain in Ecuador.

Sid Mikelbank, May 1999

Proposal: Launch space objects from an accelerator ramped up the Andes mountains in Ecuador. Well Iím sure itís been proposed before, but Iím not aware of where it is in print, so here it is. (Well what do you know, here's a proposal from a 1995 Popular Mechanics.)

It seems to me this would be an efficient method to launch space objects. Whether it would be safe for launching people, I donít know. But for non-human payloads consider:

The whole problem with rockets requiring most of their fuel to lift the weight of their fuel, but all you really wanted to lift was the payload, the space object. The less fuel you need, well then you donít need fuel to lift that fuel.

The velocity advantage of launching near the equator. An object trying to reach orbit velocity or escape velocity starts with the initial velocity of its point on earth. This is zero at the poles, maybe 800 miles per hour at Cape Canavaral, about 1050 miles per hour at the equator, due to the earthís spin. Think of the fuel burned, and weight of the fuel, to accelerate a Cape Canavaral launch to its first 250 miles per hour. Now eliminate it! Well this is what the European group that launches in KOUROU, French Guiana is taking advantage of.

The elevation advantage of launching from high mountains. Think of the fuel burned lifting a rocket itís first two miles up. Now eliminate it. Of course it takes energy to get the rocket to the high mountains, but this is ground based energy. The rocket doesnít have the weight of this fuel.

The "thin mountain air" and "ramp" advantages. We seen many proposals for mag lev and other accelerators for imparting initial velocity to a space object, and then letting it fly into space. One problem for this is just how fast can you accelerate an object with an accelerator attached to the earth?

Down at earth level we have air resistance. Try accelerating an object to or above escape velocity (25,000 miles per hour) at earth level and letting it go. Itís got an air resistance heat problem, and it has a lot of decelerating force on it. Unless it was launched from a vacuum tunnel, it also had a lot of air resistance problems accelerating to its release velocity. But in the thinner mountain air of two miles up, such as in the high Andes, the air resistance problem is less.

The ramp advantage is that a mag lev or other accelerator can be built in a straight line or (more likely) smooth curve that gives some upward component of velocity to the accelerated object. Iím imagining a mile long accelerator, I donít know how long this would be. This would require a huge structure in a flat terrain, but find the right mountain, and it would take much less of a structure. Ideally the end of the ramp would be aimed about due east and at the steepest upward angle possible. The longer the ramp the better, for doing the most accelerating. But the costs of a building a long smooth curved ramp in the mountains may be the limiting factor.

Imagine the advantages of not having to light off a rocket until the moment we release it at the initial velocity of the equator, plus the velocity of an accelerator, with an upward component, already two miles higher than sea level, in the thinner air of two miles up. That would be a significantly smaller rocket than what we would need at Cape Canavaral for the same payload.

 

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6/29/99