The race to space continues to heat up. This time it is a company from the Silicon Valley that is making its presence known. Only recently, stealth tech startup SpinLaunch raised an impressive $40 million to launch a rocket without the need for fossil fuel. SpinLaunch gained investments from Airbus Ventures, GV (previously Google Ventures), and Kleiner Perkins. What is the Bold Idea beyond SpinLaunch that is peaking the investor community?

Space Catapults Done By Fossil Fuel Today

SpinLaunch announced their plans of launching rockets with no need for spending on fossil fuel. They will use ground-based electricity. Founded by their Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jonathan Yaney, the company has been working on their kinetic energy launch system. 

SpinLaunch goal is to find another way to launch spacecraft, without using millions of gallons of fossil fuel commonly used today. It can potentially cut hundreds of thousands of dollars traditional launch cost based on the reliance on fossil fuels.

spacecraft and man in white shirt in foreground reading from notes looking at fossil fuel numbers
Spacecraft can launch without using fossil fuel, but only if SpinLaunch succeeds

SpinLaunch essentially proposed that they can spin a rocket at ridiculously high speeds made possible by electricity. It then catapults the rocket out into space. At present, they have not fully explained or released details on how this tech works. Nor, have they have publicly demonstrated it.

With plans of making their first launch by 2022, the company is both ambitious and confident. Yaney explained how their unique technology can reduce costs and even allow for multiple launches to happen in a day. Currently, space exploration companies have to wait for days or even weeks between each rocket or spacecraft launch.

Unique Spacecraft Approach

“SpinLaunch’s unique and proprietary approach to place satellites into low earth orbit is not only highly cost-efficient, but also safe and green,” declared Wen Hsieh, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins. “Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind [eliminate] the use of toxic and dangerous rocket fuels.”

Spacecraft and rockets require huge amounts of fossil fuel. That has been a cause of concern for scientists and environmentalists. Fossil fuel is known to be the biggest contributor to climate change and the greenhouse effect.

SpinLaunch Not Without Challenges

As with any brilliant idea, there will always be challenges. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos once even called it an idea that had “all sorts of practical problems.” While he once entertained the idea in the early days of Blue Origin, he has dismissed the innovation since.

“It’s the kind of thing you could dispose of as a credible idea in a few hours of analysis,” Bezos said, according to Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport. “So far as we know, nobody had ever considered that.” With names like Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk racing to privatize space flight, where will Yaney’s SpinLaunch fit in?

“SpinLaunch is reimagining space launch by revisiting fundamental physics and leveraging proven industrial technologies to create a system that accelerates the launch vehicle to hypersonic speeds using ground-based electricity,” Yaney explained. “Applying the initial performance boost from a terrestrial-based launch platform enables us to lower the cost by orders of magnitude and launch many times per day.”

GV partner Shaun Maguire clearly supports the idea, stating the company has the “potential to be highly disruptive for launching small and medium-sized payloads.”

Ideas like space catapults have previously been only in science fiction books such as Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon”. Today’s bold innovators are transforming fiction to reality one bold day at a time.

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