“An enormous ring of superconducting magnets similar to a particle accelerator could fling satellites into space, or perhaps weapons around the world,” New Scientist reports. “The advantage of a circular track [over a linear one] is that the satellite can be gradually accelerated over a period of several hours.” It will just whirl and whirl in the desert for hours, vertiginous yet grounded, till it falls upward, hurled into space…
For some reason, though, I find New Scientist‘s description totally fascinating:
The satellite, encased in an aerodynamic, cone-shaped shell that would protect it from the intense heat of launch, would be attached to a sled designed to respond to the forces from the superconducting magnets. When the sled had been accelerated to its top speed of 10 kilometres per second, laser and pyrotechnic devices would be used to separate the cone from the sled. Then, the cone would skid into a side tunnel, losing some speed due to friction with the tunnel’s walls. The tunnel would direct the cone to a ramp angled at 30° to the horizon, where the cone would launch towards space at about 8 kilometres per second, or more than 23 times the speed of sound. A rocket at the back end of the cone would be used to adjust its trajectory and place it in a proper orbit.
Rather than satellites encased in sleds, however, how about sheds? Ice-fishing sheds. Or whole suburbs, thrown into space.