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  • Laurence Russell

SpinLaunch’s tenth successful test in a year demonstrates its sustainable space launch potential

Following reports that US space launch start-up SpinLaunch has successfully conducted its tenth test in less than a year, carrying third-party experiments on a suborbital sortie;

Harry Boneham, Aerospace Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view: “This successful test further validates SpinLaunch’s burgeoning credentials as a true challenger to conventional space launch giants. The space launch industry, whilst being a relatively new market, is nonetheless dominated by aerospace primes such as Boeing or new commercial giants such as SpaceX, making market entry extremely challenging. Adding to this difficulty is the high costs involved in development, with little guarantee that profitable contracts will be secured down the line.

“Drawing from the example set by SpaceX, which pioneered the development of reusable rocket boosters, challenging firms can leverage new technologies to gain a foothold in a crowded space launch market with astronomic potential.

“In addition, these successful tests demonstrate the viability of a more sustainable space launch system, hinting at a possible future green space industry. This is an interesting development in a social and political climate that is increasingly focused on climate issues. The commercial aviation industry has begun to react to these pressures, with investment in all-electric aircraft, hydrogen propulsion, and Sustainable Aviation Fuels gathering pace.

“The space industry has to a certain extent lagged behind however, primarily due to the technological challenges involved in space launch activity. Current sustainability measures utilised within the space industry focus around carbon offsetting, greener operations in research and development (R&D) and ground operations, and the introduction of biofuels.

“Whilst these measures all undoubtedly have a role in a future green space industry, an electric launch capability, which delivers a four-fold reduction in the fuel required to reach orbit, would be an extremely positive development regarding the climate impact of the space industry. This industry is only expected to grow going forward, and so it is essential that technologies that can deliver significant reduction in emissions start being developed now.

“Whilst it must be noted that the lift capacity of the SpinLaunch is relatively modest, around 200kg, this is sufficient to launch multiple satellites per launch. With the advent of mass constellations such as SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper, such a capability could significantly reduce the climate impact of lifting these constellations to orbit.

“Furthermore, SpinLaunch is a pioneer in kinetic launch, and has proven that the technology is a viable solution, as demonstrated by the trust placed in the firm by NASA to carry the agencies equipment during the most recent test. With the technology having been demonstrated, it is possible that it could be scaled in the future, pushing up lift capacity and allowing the firm to lift heavier payloads, therefore increasing its access to additional sections of the space launch market.”

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