A potential design for a rail-launched aircraft and spacecraft that could revolutionize the launch business.
As if launching a shuttle flanked by massive booster rockets that peel away as it ascends isn’t hardcore enough, NASA is looking into building a next gen spacecraft delivery system. Better still, the agency contends that the tech behind it could improve all our lives.
What’s the plan? Well — and NASA admits it sounds like science fiction — a wedge-shaped scramjet would be launched along an electrified rail or a gas-propelled sled and then scream into orbit at Mach 10. This kind of setup wouldn’t take new technology, surprisingly. Instead, it’d require modern day to be developed more thoroughly, which could carry over benefits for us all.
The rails needed to launch a spacecraft at such speeds could lead to super-fast commuter trains, for instance. The batteries involved could enable ultra-long-lasting electric cars. There’s also the promise of better air travel, of course — riding in passenger aircraft inspired by a working scramjet that could take you to the other side of the world in a couple of hours.