This Homemade Spacegun Shoots Satellites

Getting materials and people into orbit has always been an expensive proposition, one that's even costlier now that the Shuttle program has been retired. But one enterprising American inventor thinks he's got a solution: Space Cannons.


Designed and built by Richard Graf, the CEO (read: only employee) of Starfire Scientific Inc., the Starfire Space Cannon is a 45-foot long portable artillery system with an 8-inch bore designed to deliver payloads into orbit. However, unlike other spacegun concepts, the Star fire would detonate charges sequentially down the length of the muzzle, thereby reducing the G-loads experienced by its cargo. Obviously we're not going to be shooting people out of an 8-inch tube, but the reduced force of the launch should allow for more delicate equipment to be put into orbit than what other potential systems are capable of.

The launcher is really designed for small cubesat payloads, with a muzzle velocity of 4921 ft/sec. That's nearly double the WWII Gustav's 2700 ft/sec muzzle velocity but still less than the 5167 ft/sec of a modern 120 mm tank round, and just barely enough to get a load of cargo into the very lowest reaches of space. Actually getting them into LEO is going to require a much bigger gun. And that's where you come in.

Like any modern entrepreneur, Graf is touting his invention on Kickstarter in search of crowd funding contributions. At the time of this writing, the project had raised just $4170 out of $65,000 from 80 backers with 19 days to go. You might not have enough Bitcoin to book a Virgin Galactic flight, but you can at least pony up some cash to help a cubesat live out its deep orbit dreams. [Mother Board - Starfire Scientific - DVice]


Getting into orbit from a ground fired gun means your cargo has to survive reentry in reverse. In order to arrive at orbital altitude with 5 miles per second velocity, you have to be going substantially faster than that when you leave the ground, and you have to do it in the densest part of the atmosphere. The friction heating would be astronomical! (or at least meteoric.) Even then, you still need a rocket motor to get a circular orbit once you leave the atmosphere.