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Ambarish Ganesh
Ambarish Ganesh • Mar 13, 2012

Startram Is A Train To Space: Ride A Maglev To The Low-Earth-Orbit!

OK, now this is an ambitious project that would make the dead turn in their graves, but with the present technology, a feat this large could be achieved, though not easily - A $60 billion maglev train, 1,000 mile long, 12 mile high, running at 20,000 miles per hour, that will start on the ground and then make it to the low earth orbit. The brains involved in the Startram project feel that this could reduce the cargo-cost-per-kilo from nearly $10,000 to just $50. Yes!

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Source: Gizmag

Financially speaking, this project makes a lot of sense. Now over to the technological part - The Startram (co-invented by Dr. James Powell, who was on-board during the development of the superconducting maglev), revolves around this idea-
Start a maglev train in a vacuum sealed tunnel on the ground, accelerate it for five straight minutes to speeds up to 5.6 miles per second, and launch it from the end of said tunnel--which, as it happens, needs to be raised about 12 miles into the sky where the air is thin enough that it won't destroy the spacecraft-train, which is now moving about 20,000 miles per hour.

Presently, every part of the super-fast maglev train could be easily manufactured, but the safety issues still stand. To permanently suspend the maglev cannon in the air, Dr. Powell and his partner Dr. George Maise postulated that if they could run a superconducting cable via the ground beneath the rising maglev tunnel containing 200 million amperes and the cable in the launch tube itself assumes 20 million amperes, the tunnel could be kept suspended using magnetic levitation(maglev), with huge cables to help it stay put.

Obviously, Sandia National Labs, after reviewing this proposal, could not find any reason to dismiss the possibility, but getting $60 billion in any budget for a far-out space train seems quite a tedious thing. But Startram has its reasons- the space shuttle program cost about thrice the amount than that over the last 30 years.

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