| Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Pneumatic Accelerator for Launching a Spacecraft

A report proposes the development of a ground-based launch-assist apparatus that would accelerate a spacecraft to a speed of about 270 m/s. The apparatus would include a track along which the spacecraft would ride on a sled coupled to a large piston driven by compressed air along a tube (more precisely, a concrete tunnel lined with stainless-steel sheet) below the track. The connection between the sled and the piston would be made via a coupling plate that would slide along a slot on top of the tube. The slot would seal after passage of the coupling plate. As described thus far, the apparatus could be characterized as a modern, high-acceleration, high-speed version of pneumatic drives with slot connections to rail cars that were used in Europe during the 1840s.

This work was done by Dale E. Lueck and Clyde F. Parrish of Kennedy Space Center. KSC-12237.