For the last few years, SpaceX has dominated the commercial space industry by pioneering reusable rocket technology and drastically reducing the cost of launching satellites to orbit.
But Jonathan Laney, a serial startup founder, wants space travel to be even cheaper, reducing the costs of a launch from tens of millions of dollars to under $500,000. His plan? Use a giant centrifuge to sling cargo and rockets into orbit.
This is the idea behind SpinLaunch, a company Laney founded in secret in 2014. The company wants to build a giant centrifuge that would harness angular momentum to fling payloads into orbit without any propellant. Alternatively, the centrifuge could be used to launch small rockets to high altitudes where they could then use their thrusters to push them into orbit, eliminating the need for a fuel intensive first stage booster.
“Since the dawn of space exploration, rockets have been the only way to access space” Laney told TechCrunch. “Yet in 70 years, the technology has only made small incremental advances. To truly commercialize and industrialize space, we need 10x tech improvement.”
Until the TechCrunch story was published on Thursday, little was known about SpinLaunch. The company’s website is password protected and job listings describe it in vague terms as a “rapidly growing space launch startup.”