SHARP (Super High Altitude Research Project)
SHARP began operation in December 1992 and demonstrated velocities of 3 km/s (8-9 times the speed of sound) with 5 kg projectiles fired horizontally. Impressive as this capability sounds, it falls well short of what is needed to fire projectiles into space (at least 24 times the speed of sound for a low-altitude circular orbit), even if the barrel were pointed upward. Moreover, the $1 billion needed to fund space launch tests never materialized. In 1996, project leader John Hunter founded the Jules Verne Launcher (JVL) Company in an effort to develop the concept commercially. The company planned first to build a prototype Micro Launcher system that would fire 1.3-mm projectiles and demonstrate several new technologies, including the use of three pairs of supplemental gas injectors along the barrel, as used in the Valier-Oberth gun and V-3. The full-scale gun would have been bored into a mountain in Alaska for launches into high-inclination orbits, have a muzzle velocity of 7 km/s and fire 5,000kg projectiles, each 1.7m in diameter and 9m long. Following burn of the rocket motor aboard the projectile, a net payload of 3,300kg would have been placed into low Earth orbit. SHARP experience indicated that the space gun could have been fired up to once a day. Thus, a single gun could orbit over 1,000 tons a year into orbit at a cost per kg one-twentieth of conventional rocket launchers. Payloads would be subjected to accelerations of about 1,000g during launch, so Hunter recruited specialists to design prototype hardened satellite systems. JVL was still operating in 1998, but no investors came forward to finance the multibillion dollar development cost.
Related category BALLISTICS
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