Slow Spacelaunch

December 12th, 2006 | brainjuice

Whatever happened to Leik Myrabo? I can’t find any sign of increment in his work that’s later than 2002.

(I saw him on a plane to Auckland once. He was wearing a windbreaker with PROF L N MYRABO carefully embroidered on the breast.)

And “slow spacelaunch” generates no Google hits. Which I find odd, because it’s really the Holy Grail of spacelaunch.

We only have “fast” spacelaunch. We burn an incredible volume of chemicals to chuck a payload up at extremely high velocity to attain low earth orbit in some seven minutes — because it’s the only way we know how to do it. It puts strain on the ship’s frame, on the passengers in crewed spaceflight, and on the environment. We can only do it quick and dirty because we can only do it through runaway chemical reaction and, you know, fire.

(Don’t talk to me about Rutan/Virgin “Galactic”. That’s suborbital lobbing, which is not the same thing.)

Slow spacelaunch is the thing. That’s why Myrabo’s laser-struck “lightships” were so interesting — a continuous-pressure spacelaunch technology rather than a missile technology. (“Slow return” is also desirable — there’s got to be a better way to come back from space than ballistically.)

If anyone knows what stage Myrabo’s research is at, send me a note…


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  1. You can find Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis