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by Mike Zazaian October 3, 2006 - 5:50pm, 37 Comments

An artist rendering of a circular launch track

The U.S. Air Force is researching a new technology that would use magnets to accelerate satellites and other projectiles into space with a gigantic, circular track.

In theory a satellite, or possibly an intercontinental weapon, would be placed on large-scale circular track and gradually accelerated by magnets until its launch at the end of a full revolution. According to researchers the technique would make launching satellites much more cost effective than previous solutions that used enormous amounts of rocket fuel.

Previous attempts at the magnet-launching method haven’t been successful though, as the use of a straight track was conducive to excessive g forces during launch. Because the straight-track method required such an excessive, instantaneous boost of speed, the high g forces would damage whatever was being launched. The use of a circular track remedies these g force issues by allowing the device to come up to speed slowly over a period of several hours.

But even with a circular track, there are a number of kinks to work out of the process before it become a viable launch solution. Scientists will have plenty of time to remedy these problems, however, as Air Force officials have given the okay to a two-year development project for the technology.

[via New Scientist Space]