Wednesday, November 16, 2011

John Hunter of Quicklaunch is interviewed by Sander Olson (June interview )

Next Big Future

This was an interview done back in June this year, about the same time that Hunter was on the Space Show.  Looks like I missed this interview at that time, since it isn't referenced in the post indicated in bold.

I'm writing this post in connection to the nuclear Jules Verne post, which I spent some time this morning thinking about.  That particular concept doesn't appear to be a project that anybody is actually working on at this moment, unless it is the Chinese, but Quicklaunch appears to be a going concern.  I got curious about his progress, so I listened to the space show broadcast once again.  There was a Facebook page mentioned, in which I found a link to Quicklaunch's webpage.  There's not a whole lot of information there, which is a bit of a let down.

Quicklaunch has figured in the speculative couple of posts here titled "The Elements of a Space Exploration Infrastructure".  It looks like one of these can be emplaced on the moon so as to facilitate moving goods around the lunar surface.  It would be advantageous to do so, at least at first, since this method of transport would require the least amount of infrastructure.  As the lunar colony gets built out, a lunar transportation system could be substituted in its place.

By the way, the nuclear Jules Verne most likely would not work because of the atmospheric drag would be too great.  You need as little surface area as possible, plus you'd need something that could withstand the enormous amount of heat, which isn't likely.  A small scale nuke, like a suitcase nuke, may be workable in the technical sense.  However, everyone knows what the no nukes will do to that idea.  Suitcase nukes can get as small as a half a kiloton, if memory serves.  That's about a million pounds of tnt.  Aside from the anti nuke types, you'd have other problems as well, such as destruction of your launch site after every launch.  Better get it right the first time.

Hunter's business angle is to launch a lot of fuel for space exploration.  He says it will take a lot of fuel in order to get each astronaut to Mars.  He means to get that business. 

What if he used it to make a moonstalk instead?  It would take an enormous number of shots to do that though.  You need about 6000 tons at EML-1 for a moonstalk ( don't quote me on that).  Either you get it there from the lunar surface by a lot of launches from there, or from the Earth.  It would seem to be an easier task on the moon because of its lack of atmosphere and shallower gravity well.

A VASIMR could be used to take a lot of mass to EML-1.  It would be like a tug.  The Earth based Cannon could get mass to LEO and the VASIMR could take it the rest of the distance.  Let's say you were to take a smaller version of the cannon to the moon, then use it to build up the moonstalk.  That would simplify getting the matter in place at EML-1, or so I am speculating.

There are smaller versions of the Cannon, which can be set up on solid ground.  The Quicklaunch system, by the way, is emplaced in the ocean, or deep body of water.  These smaller versions could do the job on the moon, or so I speculate.  Hunter said on the space show that these things need to be muzzle loaded.  That may be tricky on the moon, therefore complicating the matter.


I'm listening to this show for the second time today.  There are some fine points that I'd like to make note of:

  1. He says that you only have to heat the hydrogen to 1500 deg K in order to get the 6 km/sec velocities.  This temperature is reachable by using concentrated solar power.
  2. Length of the gun is proportional to the mass desired to be shot cubed.  For example, if you double the length, then cube the payload deliverable.
  3. Small payloads are possible, as small as 200 lbs.  Start up costs for that is only $50 million.  Sweet spot is between 100-1000 lbs.
  4. Million pounds per person propellant to get to Mars : comment- if you launch from EML3, you could do a lot better than that (I think).
  5. First shots goals will be 3 clicks per sec ( 3 km/sec I gather).  comment: Faster than escape velocity of the moon.
  6. Recommends John Hopkins and SHARP to "Charles".  Charles likes to be challenging.  Hunter also recommended one of Andersons books on hypersonics.
Update: 11/17/11

Hunter mentioned his challenges with social media, which reminded me that I'm on Facebook too.  It sometimes doesn't occur to me to use that, but this reminds me to use it more in the future.  Let's see what that does.

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