On Dec 21, 2021 a launch tube with a special light gas mixture fired a steel and tungsten projectile towards space at very high speed. It was a quantum leap for space access and exploration. Shot 28 with the Green Launcher was the first vertical shot towards space using a proprietary light gas mix and a 54 foot long, launch tube. Total weight was 28 lbs and the speed exceeded Mach 3. Radar did not capture the projectile but the estimated altitude is 30 km. Its success paves the way for higher velocity shots in 2022 to surpass the 100 km Karman Line. The Karman Line signifies the edge of space. The first Green Launcher is located in the KOFA test range at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Green Launch was founded in 2016 by a team of engineers, technicians and one physicist. Spring-boarding off of hydrogen launcher work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory the team is betting on the high performance of light gas mixtures as a propellant to deliver goods at velocities above Mach 5.
Space access and satellite delivery has been a bewitching topic ever since Newton’s orbital artillery drawings and Jules Verne’s book “From the Earth to the Moon”. With SpaceX now able to supply large cargos of satellites and propellant to orbit, there remains one niche that is impractical for rocket technology. That niche is “just in time delivery”. Just as Fed Ex was born of the necessity for quick delivery of priority packages, Green Launch will be the orbital analog. The region of space between the earth and the moon is becoming populated with satellites and eventually space stations and fuel depots. What happens when an astronaut needs a special tool or needs emergency medical supplies? Typical rocket launch manifests are dedicated to large payloads reserved months in advance. Due to nuances of physics, small rockets cannot reach orbit easily. The smallest rockets that can attain orbit have tiny to non-existent payloads. This is simply because the atmospheric drag on a small rocket is much larger proportionally, than for a large rocket. The Green Launch advantage minimizes the atmospheric drag effect by supplying the initial velocity from the ground. The Green Launcher first shoots the vehicle through the atmosphere at high speed. The vehicle then turns on a rocket engine which supplies the remaining velocity to attain orbit. Voila! The beauty of light gas launchers is that their speeds are far greater than either rail guns or conventional guns. The faster the ballistic launcher, the smaller the rocket and the bigger the payload. Green launch is the fastest.
December 21 was the shortest day of the year. Coyotes were howling auspiciously near the icehouse where the team assembled to get drinking water and notify range safety. Then the 30 minute drive on Pole Line Road. The Green Launch team arrived at Tower 31 Bravo in the KOFA test range at 7:15 am, just prior to sunrise. Simultaneously a meteorological balloon with telemetry was released to measure winds aloft and insure the projectile fired towards space would not drift off the test range during the three minute flight. The next order of business was to elevate the launch tube to 79 degrees and also check the launch Azimuth. Head mechanic Ray Tinker started the generator and hydraulic pump and elevated the launch system, checking the elevation every minute with a small digital gauge. An elevation of 79 degrees was attained after 8 minutes. Two YPG team members verified elevation using an inclinometer which read out in minutes. Both numbers matched, so next the surveyor on a hill directly behind the gun measured the Azimuth. It read out 71 degrees and change. This was well within the Surface Danger Zone as specified by ballistic experts at YPG and ARL. Check. Next Dr. John Hunter and Eric Robinson climbed to the roof of the vertical mount and attached the cable tensioners and tightened the turnbuckles to 500 lbs, which reduced the muzzle droop to near zero.
YPG and Green Launch teams next assembled behind the 4 bomb proof shelters and blast shield 150 ft from the launcher, where a muster was called and a safety talk given by the YPG Test Officer. At that point Hunter began the checklist starting with a firing unit continuity check confirmed by YPG’s Robert Pontizo. The cameras and data recorders were activated by Rob Fryer while Tinker set the gas regulators and opened the manual valves. Both teams then retired to the bombproofs. Four Green Launch personnel attended the gas control panel and diagnostics inside the Conex structure, behind the blast shield. All personnel were accounted for and surveillance cameras showed all clear, so the gas fill began. Robinson operated the controller and started the first gas fill to the target pressure. Within minutes Hunter confirmed the target pressure had been reached so a 4 minute leak test was held. No leak. The second gas fill commenced and the final target pressure was shortly reached. A brief leak test was held and then the Green launch Team left the Conex and entered the bombproofs. Hearing protectors were donned and the YPG test officer instructed Pontizo to perform a 10 second countdown and then fire.
A concussive blast occurred and seconds later the high speed camera crew showed the first video of the projectile leaving the muzzle. All stayed inside the bombproofs for five minutes so that sabot parts would have time to rain down safely. Hunter and Tinker then walked to the launcher and checked the surroundings before an all clear was called.
Afterward, the team headed west for home on Pole Line Road. Near the 20 km marker there is a watering hole for men and equipment. Three wild horses warily stood at attention as the vehicles passed, then resumed their drinking.
A series of shots are planned for early 2022. The ultimate goal is to reach the Karman line as a Proof of Concept. Our combustion light gas technology is tailored to avoid overpressures and a patent is pending. The launch vehicle and sabot will evolve and be improved on. Our technology has left the drawing board and is now being field tested. One near term customer in 2022 is the NSF for atmospheric sampling of the mesosphere. Other potential customers include hypersonic vehicle tests and ultimately satellite and supply delivery to orbit.
Investors are welcome and we are also talking with aerospace companies having complementary technologies.
Feel free to contact us if you or your company would like to hear more about the revolutionary Green Launch project.
Dr. John Hunter, CTO/ Director of Development and Operations
Eric Robinson, Business Development Director