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Startram — Maglev Train To Low Earth Orbit

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the easy-to-build-just-add-unlimited-funding dept.

Space 356

Zothecula writes "Getting into space is one of the harder tasks to be taken on by humanity. The present cost of inserting a kilogram of cargo by rocket into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is about US$10,000. A manned launch to LEO costs about $100,000 per kilogram of passenger. But who says we have to reach orbit by means of rocket propulsion alone? Instead, imagine sitting back in a comfortable magnetic levitation train and taking a train ride into orbit."

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Fucking magnets (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302839)

Now, how is this going to work?

Re:Fucking magnets (5, Funny)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302927)

200 million amperes of current running down a 1000 km long superconducting cable. In other words: it's child;s play.

Re:Fucking magnets (-1)

Ferzerp (83619) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303057)

Don't forget the need for as of yet undiscovered/undesigned materials that can support their own weight at such lengths.

Re:Fucking magnets (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303123)

If you bothered to read the article, you wouldn't look like such an idiot.

Re:Fucking magnets (2, Funny)

eternaldoctorwho (2563923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303695)

I disagree with everything everyone said in this thread, because I am a Slashdot poster! I am a bitter pile of negativity that always contradicts or attempts to out-do the parent post. All of your opinions are false, wrong, and stupid. I know everything about the topic at hand, and you know nothing!

Re:Fucking magnets (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303679)

Not when the launch tube is magnetically levitated, as suggested. TFA actually claims that the design is perfectly possible with existing technology, and they seem to have run the math. You need tethers to stop the tube from levitating too much, actually, but that is again perfectly possible.

Re:Fucking magnets (5, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303169)

Do I want to know what the induced magnetic field capable of levitating 4 tons at a distance of 20km is going to do to my hemoglobin, or to my laptop?

Re:Fucking magnets (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303417)

I'm guessing accelerate it at 3gs for a period of 5 minutes.

If the craft is designed with any level of extraplanetary shielding in mind, it'll be able to reduce the EM bleedthrough to significantly below MRI levels, and 5 minutes in an MRI is generally not considered hazardous for a human. If they can't reasonably reduce the EM effect onboard low enough to be safe for electronics, you will probably have a secure faraday box to stow them in during launch.

Re:Fucking magnets (4, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303439)

I know that a sample of one is insignifigant, but my dad was a lineman working with voltages up to 90k. He could not wear a wristwatch unless it was completely made of non-ferrous material, because when he put it on after work, an hour later it stopped. Apparently his hemoglobin was magnetized. Yet he's now 80 and still in good health.

I wouldn't worry about the magnetic fields. Apparently having your blood megnetized is harmless.

Of course, the fact that his uncle started smoking cigarettes at age 12, quit at age 82 and lived ten more years illustrates that a sample of one is indeed insignifigant and perhaps meaningless. Me, I'd risk magnetic blood for a chance to go to outer space anyway, as I have half of dad's genes.

Re:Fucking magnets (3, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303563)

Wow. That's pretty damn impressive -- that despite the fluid nature of blood the spins retained magnetic order over macroscopic distances *after* bouncing around through his arteries.

Re:Fucking magnets (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303659)

You can't use your laptop at take off because the rocket will fall out of the sky.

2 week train ride up to space. (0)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303043)

Yeah! Looking forward to it. I take it there are baths/showers en-suite?

Re:2 week train ride up to space. (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303469)

A little shorter than that. At the acceleration they're talking about you're in space in 5 minutes. You'd probably need a shower/bath after shitting yourself on the ride up considering you hit some atmosphere head on after exiting a tube going 25,000 mph.

Re:Fucking magnets (1)

atrain728 (1835698) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303343)

Obviously we'll need some miracles.

Train romance (4, Insightful)

Tangy (1270364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302857)

Every step towards "Galaxy Express 999" is a step in the right direction.

Re:Train romance (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303113)

lol I love that movie. Definitely a classic and a must watch.

Space-elevator meets rail-gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39302863)

What could possibly go wrong

Re:Space-elevator meets rail-gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39302897)

What could possibly go *splat*

FTFY

I can imagine quite a bit (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302875)

If I'm going to fantasize about shit that will never be built, I'd rather dream of the sexbot. Oh perfect robotic woman---who is always horny, cooks and cleans, never wants diamonds, has no parents, never drones about about some bitch at work, never cheats, never complains about wanting a bigger house or nicer car---how I dream of thee.

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (1)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302973)

...never complains about wanting a bigger... "dork"

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (1)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303025)

Does this happen to you often?
Never happens to me. *shrug*

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303067)

Does this happen to you often?

Never happens to me. *shrug*

Of course not, if you're on Slashdot you don't have a wife!

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39302977)

That will be built, and if it's made well enough then it will eliminate our species (except perhaps the Amish).

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (2)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302983)

If I'm going to fantasize about shit that will never be built, I'd rather dream of the sexbot. Oh perfect robotic woman---who is always horny, cooks and cleans, never wants diamonds, has no parents, never drones about about some bitch at work, never cheats, never complains about wanting a bigger house or nicer car...

...doesn't care if you're a neckbeard. seems turned on by the fact that you're a fat slob who hasn't bathed in three days, etc. etc.

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (1)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303047)

Does this happen to you often? Never happens to me. *shrug*

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (1, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302989)

She sounds dreadfully boring. You'd probably hate her within a few months.

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303551)

Then I just flash her with a new personality.

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (5, Insightful)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302993)

A robot like that would never settle for a slash dotter.

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303525)

She will when we find a way to jailbreak her.

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303013)

Buy yourself a Furby

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303153)

My God! He never took middle school hygiene. He never saw the propaganda film.

DON'T DATE ROBOTS!!!

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303583)

Robosexuals are people too! And also robots!

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303475)

"Oh elrous0... I love you more than the moon and the stars and the *POETIC IMAGE NUMBER 37 NOT FOUND*"

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (1)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303625)

No, it's more like:

Neckbeard: "Come on, let's go into the bedroom and get comfortable..."
Robot: "This function is available for only $29.99. Please enter Apple ID password."

Re:I can imagine quite a bit (1)

ViperOrel (1286864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303559)

always horny, cooks and cleans, never wants diamonds, has no parents, never drones about about some bitch at work, never cheats, never complains about wanting a bigger house or nicer car

Um... your hand does not qualify as a robot... :/

now it's just a minor matter of engineering (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302933)

I'm assuming the weather control satellites will steer hurricanes away from this monstrous sitting duck?

Re:now it's just a minor matter of engineering (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302995)

All they need is a trillion $ and a bunch of technology that hasn't been invented yet. Easy Peasy.

Re:now it's just a minor matter of engineering (3, Informative)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303089)

There are two proposed configurations of Startram, Generation-1 and Generation-2. Gen-1 Startram is a cargo-only version which does not require levitated tubes (but instead is built up the flank of a tall mountain) and could be built within ten years at a cost of $20 Billion. Gen-2 Startram is a people-capable version which does require levitated tubes and could be built within twenty years at a cost of $60 Billion.

[citation] [startram.com]

ohmygod. I want some of whatever they're smoking. At those low, low prices, everybody can have one.

Re:now it's just a minor matter of engineering (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303615)

$20 billion is 1% of the cost of the Iraq war. We piss away mountains of money on things far less useful (and far more harmful) than shooting bunnies into space.

Re:now it's just a minor matter of engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303051)

Build it in the middle of Africa. No hurricanes there. This would need to be pretty close to the equator to work anyway.

Sodor (2, Funny)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302955)

So will the spaceport will be built at Sodor?

Re:Sodor (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303179)

Tidmouth. Obviously.

Alternatives (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302959)

Looks that the investment, time, resources, etc should be orders above of the ones needed for a space elevator, and even that one is pretty hard to ever happen.

Re:Alternatives (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303511)

35756 Km of cable is going to weigh quite a bit no matter what you make it out of, multiply that by $10,000 per Kg and you've got one heck of a problem to solve right there when it comes to building a space elevator. Several non-rocket launch technologies, the star tram included, can be build from the ground, you could build the whole thing without a single rocket launch. The same can be said about space fountains and (my personal non-rocket launch technology) launch loops.

No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39302967)

No thanks. I'll ride my unicorn. They will have invented it at about the same time they invent this.

Need to mag-lev a megastructure to 20km (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39302975)

I can't see anything impractical or horrifically energy-intensive about this system.

Re:Need to mag-lev a megastructure to 20km (4, Funny)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303023)

I can't see anything impractical or horrifically energy-intensive about this system.

That's because the article doesn't fill you in on all the important facts:

- it would be built by British Rail.

In 20 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303001)

It is doubful that the cost per pound to orbit with rockets will be as high as it is now.

Re:In 20 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303073)

Why?

A better idea that a space elevator (5, Informative)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303019)

1. Requires no materials we don't already have
2. Would allow for continuous launches. This tube could be used every 15 minutes or so for another payload
3. Fairly massively spaceships could be launched this way
4. Once you get into LEO, getting around in space is relatively easy and cheap.

Downsides : the forces involved here are extreme. There's enormous magnetic fields, the whole structure is suspended in the air, it's over 1000 miles long, and depends on various complex pieces of tech to not rip itself apart. If the vacuum leaks or the plasma window fails or a magnet gets too much current, a chunk or even the whole damn launcher could spectacularly fail.

In addition, the estimated costs have got to be a factor of 10 too optimistic. 60 billion dollars? For something constructed of tens of thousands of miles of superconducting cable and a structure made to aerospace engineering tolerances that is 1000 miles long? Even 600 billion sounds optimistic for something that large.

Re:A better idea that a space elevator (1)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303385)

umm where do i go and buy a plasma window? or the materials that can handle the strain of this? nothing this thing is made of can be made by modern materials...

Re:A better idea that a space elevator (4, Informative)

RogueLeaderX (845092) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303407)

1. Requires no materials we don't already have 2. Would allow for continuous launches. This tube could be used every 15 minutes or so for another payload 3. Fairly massively spaceships could be launched this way 4. Once you get into LEO, getting around in space is relatively easy and cheap.

Downsides : the forces involved here are extreme. There's enormous magnetic fields, the whole structure is suspended in the air, it's over 1000 miles long, and depends on various complex pieces of tech to not rip itself apart. If the vacuum leaks or the plasma window fails or a magnet gets too much current, a chunk or even the whole damn launcher could spectacularly fail.

In addition, the estimated costs have got to be a factor of 10 too optimistic. 60 billion dollars? For something constructed of tens of thousands of miles of superconducting cable and a structure made to aerospace engineering tolerances that is 1000 miles long? Even 600 billion sounds optimistic for something that large.

The Gizmag author forgot to read these guys web-page apparently.

Whitepaper
FAQ

The version the 'requires no materials we don't have today' is built into the side of a mountain and would kill any person you tried to launch using it. Basically a massive rail-gun for getting payloads to orbit. They're especially interested in space based solar power generation. (Because launching solar panels into space and beaming the power down to a receiving station near population centers is better than putting solar panels in the desert and running power to city centers via cables?)

Re:A better idea that a space elevator (1)

RogueLeaderX (845092) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303429)

Re:A better idea that a space elevator (2)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303523)

They're especially interested in space based solar power generation. (Because launching solar panels into space and beaming the power down to a receiving station near population centers is better than putting solar panels in the desert and running power to city centers via cables?)

Putting solar panels in the desert isn't feasible because you'd need a 1000km long superconducting cable to carry the power to the cities...

Re:A better idea that a space elevator (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303587)

In addition, the estimated costs have got to be a factor of 10 too optimistic. 60 billion dollars? For something constructed of tens of thousands of miles of superconducting cable and a structure made to aerospace engineering tolerances that is 1000 miles long? Even 600 billion sounds optimistic for something that large.

Not to mention that the idea is that the entire tube holds a vacuum, which buoys it up, and it's held DOWN with tethers. How do you even construct that? There are no cranes to LEO. Even if you put them in place, and empty out the gas slowly so that it rises (without coming to a sudden stop at the end that breaks a tether), each segment is probably hundreds of pounds of metal. Imagine being miles in the air, wrestling with an enormous hunk of metal that's tied to the earth in what you can only hope is the right position, in order to get the end to line up with the last piece...

Well, okay, it sounds like a heck of an exciting job. But it also sounds like it could go wrong so terribly easily...

Re:A better idea that a space elevator (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303705)

I wouldn't say it's a factor of 10 too expensive. Instead I'd say that a lot of development work needs to be done on simpler projects...like mag-lev trains for cross-continental travel, and a few other sub-components. Each one of the needed technologies can be developed in the process of constructing something useful, so you don't need to charge the developmental work against the launch device.

As for magnetic problems, Faraday cages are old technology that still works, and anything built out of steel can become one without much effort. If you build it out of aluminum, then you need to line it with iron foil, and take a few other steps. But it's still easy.

I'm less convinced that it will be able to launch things of arbitrary size. I suspect that the sizes that any particular launcher will launch will be rather restricted. So there is likely to be a lot of assembly required in orbit for anything sizable, and small things will probably need to be grouped together into modules of about the correct size. I also believe that the packaging will need to be, itself, a space vehicle.

I'd rate this as much easier than a space elevator (on earth), but not quite as useful (cost / kilo to orbit will be higher). And I still prefer a Pinwheel, but this, if it is built, will have definite advantages over a pinwheel. E.g., a pinwheel requires attaching to a moving cable high in the air. (How high varies depend on various system configuration choices, but several miles up, anyway.) OTOH, a pinwheel must both raise and lower freight & passenger modules. But it also requires about as much freight coming down as going up. The mag-lev doesn't have that problem. And my guess is that the cost of a pound to orbit would be about the same.

Still, a track 1000 km long? At hypersonic velocities? Not going to be easy. The pinwheel would probably be easier to build
AND maintain. Neither has an obvious failure mode that is very destructive (outside of a local area). But the mag-lev would be easier to sabotage.

OTOH, the smaller, freight only version of the mag-lev has definitely attractive features. And that's the only one we should even consider building right now. And it could be used to launch equipment to allow the building in orbit of a preferred alternative.

cost, $60 billion? (1)

Ardeaem (625311) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303041)

From the article:

"Estimates suggest that building a passenger-capable Startram would require 20 years and a construction budget (ignoring inflation and overoptimism) of about $60 billion."

So, triple it for a realistic estimate: $180 billion. Now, that sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider that the total amount of money flushed down the toilet for the Iraq war will probably be an order of magnitude above that, it's play money. We just have to convince people that there's oil in LEO.

Re:cost, $60 billion? (1)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303147)

Well Apple has been "thinking hard" about what to do with 100 billion dollars recently.

Re:cost, $60 billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303181)

Well, I'll let you take the first ride on the iTrain.

Re:cost, $60 billion? (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303505)

To put $180 billion in perspective, that's about the same cost 400 shuttle launches.

Re:cost, $60 billion? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303725)

Another form of accounting put the cost of 135 shuttle launches at $170B - you do need to include program startup and shutdown costs.

Re:cost, $60 billion? (5, Informative)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303661)

I'm skeptical of the cost. $60B 2010 dollars is the estimated cost for high speed rail from SF and Sacramento to LA and San Diego. You're telling me I can get a maglev to fucking space for that much? Please do it if it's true, but I don't believe it.

Quantum levitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303055)

Why don't they use those quantum levitation things they recently invented, that could go straight up!

so... (2)

tscheez (71929) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303141)

a rail gun you can ride?

Energy requirements are the same (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303157)

The energy requirements to get into orbit are practically the same no matter what method you use. Yes there is some savings from air resistance if you do it at a slower speed but it's not that much.

The only savings will be from a safety standpoint or similar. The energy costs will still be enormous.

Re:Energy requirements are the same (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303479)

Posting Anon to save my mods. Don't the savings come in not accelerating your fuel?

Re:Energy requirements are the same (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303501)

Yeah, that's true, except in as much that it's not. This system would save you all the fuel it takes to launch all your fuel. The air resistance is anything but negligible at 7 times the speed of sound. That's disregarding the propulsion inefficiency of rocket fuel compared to magnetic force. Not to mention the risk/preparation costs for a launch. All estimates I've seen of the differences are measured in orders of magnitude. While a space elevator is generally considered impossible at this time, it really would be worth the cost.

Robert Heinlein was here first! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303171)

And I'm not at all sure it was original with him. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Re:Robert Heinlein was here first! (1)

steveg (55825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303285)

Even before that. The Man Who Sold the Moon.

Re:Robert Heinlein was here first! (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303515)

Great book. One of my favorites.

For high g cargo it makes total sense, nothing too crazy required.

They assume 3g as a max. I bet you could do 6 pretty easy. Reading up, looks like if you are reclined it could be 10+ even for untrained folks.

Nothing to see...This is nothing new.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303173)

This is nothing new...

Linear magnetic launchers have long since been considered...I read papers about then in the 80's...and there were a number of tests and prototypes that were looked at for this, and a number of sci-fi books have written about the device.

The engineering did not appear to be impossible just a large expensive project that no one wanted to fund, and there were concerns about it being used as a weapon as you just don't quite put the projectile/"train" in orbit and make sure it drops on the desired target with a high suborbital velocity.

I have never seen it called a mag-lev train...but it is more or less a standard magnetic linear accelerator and has been considered many times before.

Love love LOVE the artwork (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303191)

Image 4 looks way too much like an 1850's Toile pattern for this to possibly be a serious attempt to devise a way to get to space.

Really interesting idea (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303209)

Better than the space tether crap which requires manufacturing capabilities we don't have.

I like the idea of building it on the ground then mag lev'ing it up. Makes building it a lot easier....

20 years is in my lifetime and 60 billion is less than 4 years of NASA's current budget. So 20 years of NASA's budget should easily be able to pay for this AND still have money for other stuff.

Re:Really interesting idea (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303673)

Better than the space tether crap which requires manufacturing capabilities we don't have.

I like the idea of building it on the ground then mag lev'ing it up. Makes building it a lot easier....

20 years is in my lifetime and 60 billion is less than 4 years of NASA's current budget. So 20 years of NASA's budget should easily be able to pay for this AND still have money for other stuff.

That might be the case if the estimate had any basis in reality whatsoever.
Hell, a high-speed rail system of similar length to the launch track using conventional, proven technology is expected to cost around $100 billion [ca.gov] ; evolutionary development of a new airliner is running about $30 billion [nwsource.com] ; somehow I think it is extremely unlikely they could come anywhere near their cost estimate given the scale and number of unknowns here. It would probably take 50% of the budget just to design and build the launch vehicle, never mind designing and building the enormous launch structure.

Hmmm, 1600 km of superconductors... (5, Interesting)

hbar squared (1324203) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303215)

" there is a superconducting cable on the ground carrying 200 million amperes, and a superconducting cable in the launch tube carrying 20 million amperes, at an altitude of 20 km there will be a levitating force of about 4 tons per meter of cable length"

That works out to an energy density of (mgh)=1.5e9 J/m. Multiply that by 1600 km, and you get 2.5e15 J, or half a megaton, equivalent to the yield of a small hydrogen bomb. Anyone ever see a superconducting magnet quench?

Space junk, meteorites, and terrorist. (1)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303233)

Falling space junk, meteorites, and terrorist. Which one takes out the $60B elevator first?

Re:Space junk, meteorites, and terrorist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303351)

I'm going to say either reality or politics are going to get there first.

Uses already available technology (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303251)

Uses already available technology?

What like teleportation? If we're using already existing technology- why not teleport stuff up into space.

OK- OK- so we have no Star Trek like teleportation yet... we also don't have space-trains yet either.

Don't get me wrong sounds neat- if you ignore that it's an easy terrorist target/war target; vulnerable to natural disasters (cannot be moved); we have no concept of what it would realistically cost to build something like this- and you have the whole concept of NIMBY- where my back yard is a 500 mile radius- because if one of these things comes and shoots out at high velocity and isn't shooting straight (yeah, I know she said that) - no prediction on where this will go.

I don't want to be a downer- think it sounds fine- I just hope the negatives have been explored. Interesting idea really.

Re:Uses already available technology (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303271)

Ooops- forgot to link my Wikipedia link to teleportation [wikipedia.org]

cargo version much more practical (3, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303255)

The thing that makes this such a ridiculous engineering project is the requirement to carry humans, who can't be subjected to more than about 3 g's. The length of the track is inversely proportional to the acceleration, so if you're sending up steel I-beams that can withstand 3000 g's, you can shorten the track to 1 mile rather than 1000 miles. Tanks of water and rocket fuel can also be subjected to a lot more than 3 g's.

Re:cargo version much more practical (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303609)

Agreed, but there is still the problem of the exit door needing to be at a sufficiently high altitude to avoid tearing the thing apart when it leaves the vacuum. But a circular acceleration track with an exit ramp that goes on for 10 miles at a 45 degree angle certainly seems more doable than a 1000 mile long train kept at vacuum. We can't even build a 500 mile long train in CA without spending $40bln, and that's just tracks, no enclosing vacuum tunnel to speak of.

How is this possible? (3, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303263)

I was reading through it and initially thought it was just flinging the train from the ground up... but apparently it needs a TWELVE MILE HIGH RAMP!... that is not practical. If you used Mount Everest to get a head start it would help but it wouldn't get it near enough to that mark to matter. How the hell does anyone think building this would be possible?

the space elevator ideas are less crazy and they're kookoo for cocopuffs...

Re:How is this possible? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303643)

You're imagining a 12 mile high roller coaster. They're proposing a pair of superconducting cables, one on the 'ramp' and one on the ground, that would repel each other, lifting the ramp into the air (stabilized by cables). Obviously there's some difficulties there, but they aren't talking about building a compressive structure 12 miles high. Personally I prefer the launch loop idea, which uses kinetic energy to hold the ramp and transfer power to the launch vehicle, since I feel there's less unknowns there. But there's no reason a magnetic system couldn't, in theory, work.

Simple! (1)

metrometro (1092237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303297)

It only has to be 1000 miles long and 12 miles tall!

Can we go back to making more cost effective wind turbines, please?

Re:Simple! (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303703)

All the equations that say what is and isn't 'possible' in space are really describing what is and isn't economical. If you cut the cost of LEO by 2 or 3 orders of magnitude, lots of things that sound ridiculously impractical now become feasible. If you can cut the cost of LEO from $10,000 / kg to $100 / kg, space based solar becomes practical. If you drop it to $10 / kg it becomes the cheapest energy source available. And that's ignoring all the other benefits that cheap LEO travel would bring.

What is it with nerds and their facination with (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303305)

with gigantic and impractical structures to tackle a problem that's already been solved with other techs? Space elevators? Maglev trains to space? I know! Let's make a space escalator! We'll call it the Stairway to Heaven. Oh! I know! Let's make a fucking 5000 mile long linear motor track to accelerate a pod into LEO!

Let's build a vacuum tube across the Atlantic underwater to accelerate a smaller tube from one continent to the other! I thought of it while at the bank drive-through today. Yea, that's a real and impractical idea some nerd came up with...

Or how about a 70 mile long suspension bridge across the Bearing Straight!

Fucking nerds.

wtf? (3, Funny)

jafac (1449) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303337)

Did I accidentally browse to "Popular Science Online"?

One problem with developing these (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303363)

Aside from the massive materials cost that it looks like this would involve, there's another problem.

Rockets have a thriving amateur community, and commercial projects at all levels of thrust. It's generally recognized and accepted that rockets are dual-purpose military tech. It's cool that an amateur can launch some pretty fantastic rockets with the proper permits, and little ones with no permit at all.

OTOH anything that hurls a projectile out of a tube looks like a "gun". All the experimental models built at smaller scale are essentially Howitzers. Just *try* getting a permit for HowitzerCon in Nevada. Ain't gonna happen.

Something like this is corporate only, which is a shame. Amateurs might even have something cool to contribute. Also, I'm sick and tired of seeing balloon launches that get to 100,000 ft. at zero velocity and amateur rockets that spin. Amateur tech has hit a brick wall of sorts. This kind of tech could get us some real cheap amateur suborbital launches which is... well...

Cheap ballistic missiles for every joe sixpack who might have a grudge. I don't think you have to be a fascist to be concerned about that. Not sure what the best answer is...

Nice pictures. Never happen. (2)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303413)

In the US at least, we can't even get funding for maglev trains ON THE GROUND. Until the economy is better (in, oh in another 500 years or so) nobody is going to fund something like this.

Space cannon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303453)

Anyone else reminded of the space cannon in Jules Verne's From Earth to the Moon?

Foolish Mortals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303471)

[fundamentalist] Foolish Mortals! Have ye learned nothing from the tower of Babel? [/fundamentalist]

Though now that I think about it, having workers confounded with buzzwords, jargon, and bureaucracy seems like a rather legitimate explanation for the incident.

Captcha: uncouth

Railgun anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303601)

For this principle you need way too much space.
You need way to much components to be safe.

Why not build a railgun-like construction in some high mountain and still use rockets?

The first part of acceleration could be provided by the "railgun", while the rest of the journey could be done by rockets. This stands to spare a lot of fuel and is a lot less costly to build.

Only engineering feat could be to drill straight up (instead of down), because chances are the top of the mountain might be difficult to reach.

So basically... (1)

RPGillespie (2478442) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303611)

This 1000-mile long passenger-safe rail gun which has to be vacuum-sealed with one-way vents will be cheaper than conventional rockets in the long run? I wonder what the initial cost for this structure would be... probably more than the combined net worth of all the countries on earth.

The train? (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303613)

I'll beat you there in my flying car.

A "free" ramp of 5 miles is available... (1)

DontScotty (978874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303619)

Mt. Everest !!

29,002 ft = 5 miles

Circle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39303647)

Rather than a 1,000 mile linear accelerator why not a large circle that just builds up the speed over 5 minutes then exits into the levitated exit pipe?

Interesting concept... (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 2 years ago | (#39303687)

...but better suited for a sci-fi novel rather than any serious contemplation. Look at all the trouble we have with building tall buildings AND magnetic installations. We are no where NEAR ready to take on something like this.

Kind of like the space elevator. Another concept that's several hundred years away from practicality, if ever.

I'd rather see us spend some real effort in improving the tech we currently have and are stuck with for the foreseeable future.

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