Deep Dives

Startup crafts a high-speed tube propelling items to orbit

August 6, 2023
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A startup named Longshot Space aims to replace rockets with hypersonic launch systems, which are essentially long concrete tubes that propel objects into space using compressed gas. The CEO of the company, Mike Grace, believes this method is cheaper and more efficient than using traditional rockets.

Questioning Rocket Use:
  • Longshot Space CEO Mike Grace questions the necessity of sophisticated rockets for launching payloads into space.
  • He describes rockets as an "overly exquisite solution" and advocates for cheaper alternatives.
  • According to Grace, the high costs associated with rockets might not be practical for future interplanetary missions.

  • How the Longshot System Works:
  • The "Longshot" system is a very long and horizontal contraption.
  • Objects need to reach Mach 5 speeds in an 80-foot long accelerator using compressed gas in concrete tubes.
  • To achieve speeds required to reach space (Mach 25 to 30), the system would have to span several kilometers.
  • Each launch would generate a sonic boom, necessitating remote launch locations.
  • Grace humorously suggests these launch locations should be so isolated that even an atomic bomb could go unnoticed.

  • Competition and Support:
  • Longshot isn't alone; other ventures, like SpinLaunch, are exploring non-rocket space launches.
  • Despite competition, Longshot has garnered support from significant entities like OpenAI's Sam Altman and Draper VC.
  • Grace emphasizes that the success of his venture hinges on keeping costs extremely low.
  • His advice for improving the system is to "make it bigger" rather than smarter, as smart solutions tend to be expensive.

  • Conclusion:
  • Longshot Space offers an innovative and potentially more cost-effective approach to space launches, challenging the traditional reliance on rockets.
  • The ultimate goal is to make space access more affordable and efficient.

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