Getting materials and people into orbit has always been an expensive proposition, one that's even costlier now that the Shuttle program has been retired. But one enterprising American inventor thinks he's got a solution: Space Cannons.
Designed and built by Richard Graf, the CEO (read: only employee) of Starfire Scientific, the Starfire Space Cannon is a 14m long portable artillery system with an 20cm bore designed to deliver payloads into orbit. However, unlike other spacegun concepts, the Star fire would detonate xcharges sequentially down the length of the muzzle, thereby reducing the G-loads experienced by its cargo. Obviously we're not going to be shooting people out of a 20cm tube, but the reduced force of the launch should allow for more delicate equipment to be put into orbit than what other potential systems are capable of.
The launcher is really designed for small cubesat payloads, with a muzzle velocity of 1500m/s. That's nearly double the WWII Gustav's 823m/s muzzle velocity but still less than the 1575m/s of a modern 120mm tank round, and just barely enough to get a load of cargo into the very lowest reaches of space. Actually getting them into LEO is going to require a much bigger gun. And that's where you come in.
Like any modern entrepreneur, Graf is touting his invention on Kickstarter in search of crowd funding contributions. At the time of this writing, the project had raised just $US4170 out of $US65,000 from 80 backers with 19 days to go. You might not have enough Bitcoin to book a Virgin Galactic flight, but you can at least pony up some cash to help a cubesat live out its deep orbit dreams. [Mother Board - Starfire Scientific - DVice]