magnetic levitation launch-assist
Magnetic levitation launch-assist is a method of getting spacecraft off the ground using magnets to accelerate a vehicle along a track. Just as powerful magnets lift and propel high-speed trains and roller-coasters above a guideway, a magnetic levitation (maglev) launch-assist system would electromagnetically drive a space vehicle along a track. The spacecraft would be boosted to speeds of about 1,000 km/h before switching to rocket engines for the climb into orbit.
A 15-meter track was built at the Marshall Space Flight Center in mid-1999 for testing and design analysis of maglev concepts for space propulsion. Scaled demonstrations of maglev technology will be conducted on a 120-meter track also planned at Marshall.