Up until now the word Antares has had only one meaning in our language, the given name of a star, but not anymore. Sure, it is still the name of a giant red binary star, the brightest in the constellation Scorpio, about 424 light-years from Earth. The word Antares has its roots in ancient Greek meaning simulating Mars. It looked red to them, just like Mars.
However, things change. On Sunday, April 21, from a beach on Wallops Island Virginia, our own Orbital Sciences launched its newest horse in its extensive stable of rockets, the Antares. And for the first time in my memory, a first launch of a new rocket didn’t end prematurely in a puff of smoke or debris cloud. It went so smoothly that almost no one heard about it. That’s success in the rocket industry but a marketing failure.
The turnout for the May meeting was very good. I counted over twenty. They all enjoyed the video and had a good time before and after socializing. They clapped and laughed and was very engaged in what the seven people in the video was saying and doing. All in all, it was a fine meeting.
In 2007, building upon knowledge gained under an Office of Naval Research (ONR) Innovative Naval Prototype contract, GA initiated development of the Blitzer™ system using internal funds to accomplish two major objectives:
- Demonstrate the technical maturity of tactically relevant railgun technologies in a proving-ground environment.
- Generate interest in the viability of smaller Electromagnetic (EM) gun systems for use in a broader set of missions, including integrated air and missile defense (IAMD)
GA accomplished both of these objectives by demonstrating the launcher and power system technologies to full design levels in 2009 during testing with non-aerodynamic rounds, followed by testing of aerodynamic rounds during the fall of 2010.
The tests demonstrated the integration and capabilities of a tactically relevant EM Railgun launcher, pulsed power system, and projectile. The projectiles were launched by Blitzer at Mach 5 with acceleration levels exceeding 60,000 gee, and exhibited repeatable sabot separation and stable flight.
By Chuck Lesher
Lunar base with a long electromagnetic track for a mass driver.
Colonizing space will require a lot of stuff, iron to build space stations, titanium to build spaceships, oxygen for us to breathe, and many other resources. Lifting all this up from the surface of the earth on rockets is simply not feasible. Thus, we will need to find these resources somewhere else. You need look no further than the moon. It has all the natural resources we need to colonize space but the question remains, how do we get them into orbit? Even on the moon, rockets are not feasible, but something else might be.
An idea emerged over a century ago called a mass driver. The first mass driver described in print was in the 1897 science fiction novel A Trip to Venus by John Munro. He called it an electric gun. It was his imaginative method of launching vehicles into outer space from the Earth’s surface. Munro describes the electric gun as a series of coils energized in a timed sequence to provide the force necessary to get the spaceship into orbit.