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Developments in Understanding Stability as Applied to Magnetic Levitated Launch AssistMagnetic levitation is a promising technology, with the potential of constituting the first stage of a third generation space transportation system. Today, the Space Shuttle burns on the order of one million pounds of solid rocket propellant to bring the orbiter and external tank to nearly Mach 1 (1,000 kph). Imagine the reductions in launch vehicle weight, complexity and risk if an aerospace vehicle could be accelerated to the same speed utilizing about $1,000 of off-board electrical energy stored in flywheels. After over two decades of development, maglev trains travel on full-scale demonstration tracks in Germany and Japan reaching speeds approaching 500 kph. Encouraging as this may appear, the energy and power required to accelerate a 1 million pound launch vehicle to 1,000 kph would radically redefine the state-of-the-art in electrical energy storage and delivery. Reaching such a goal will require levitation with sufficient stability to withstand an operating environment fundamentally different from that of a high-speed train. Recently NASA let contracts for the construction of three maglev demonstration tracks. This construction and several associated trade studies represent a first-order investigation into the feasibility of maglev launch assist. This report provides a review of these efforts, other government sponsored maglev projects and additional technical literature pertinent to maglev stability. This review brings to light details and dimensions of the maglev stability problem which are not found in previous NASA-sponsored trade studies and which must be addressed in order to realize magnetic levitation as a launch assist technology.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Kennedy Space Center
Document Type
Gering, James A.
(Florida Inst. of Tech. FL, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
December 1, 2002
Publication Information
Publication: 2002 Research Reports: NASA/ASEE Fellowship Program
Subject Category
Technology Utilization And Surface Transportation
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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