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Iterative space railgun

Russian Doll Railgun in Space
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(+4, -2)
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Because railguns are cool, and a railgun shooting out another railgun is cool squared.
bungston, Mar 24 2010

Current speed of Voyager spacecraft http://hypertextboo...7/PatricePean.shtml
[bungston, Mar 24 2010]

Pioneer anomaly http://en.wikipedia...iki/Pioneer_anomaly
something besides gravity? [bungston, Mar 24 2010]

13 things that don't make sense http://www.amazon.c...d=1269450795&sr=1-2
my recent lay audience reading about Pioneer anomaly [bungston, Mar 24 2010]

Deep Space 1 could have reached twice that speed. http://www.grc.nasa...on/past/90s/ds1.htm
[MisterQED, Mar 24 2010]

Your memory recantered, M'lud Superconducting_20railgun_20projectile
[Ling, Mar 26 2010]

Plasma Rail Railgun Plasma_20Rail_20Railgun
Everything is possible in space. [bungston, Mar 26 2010]


       the pain, the pain.   

       On to the idea. On reading about the Pioneer anomaly I wondered how one might quickly send off a few other deep space probes to retest the phenomenon.   

       The iterative railgun is a large orbiting railgun which fires as its payload a smaller railgun. This in turn fires a smaller railgun. Each successive railgun has a mass 2 orders of magnitude less than its predecessor, because m1v1 = m2v2 and so the launching gun will be propelled backwards in addition to the projectile gun propelled forwards. The final projectile will be the probe, which need only send a signal back so that its trajectory can be tracked.   

       The reason for this staged railgun is to very quickly get the payload up to a speed as fast or faster than the Voyager spacecraft, because we are in a hurry, and maybe a thing has to be far from the solar system for this mysterious additional force to manifest.
bungston, Mar 24 2010

       and apart from the opportunity to say "Russian Doll Railgun" which I admit may have its points, you're using a staged approach with short railguns (that have to fire their next iteration as well as the payload) instead of one long railgun because...   

       edit: oh [ ]
FlyingToaster, Mar 24 2010

       I don't think you can make a rail gun self-contained, the power supply is bulky. If you could, I don't think it could survive the acceleration or certainly the EM effects. To have any hope what you are looking for is an Iterative Combustion Light Gas Gun, which I guess could work in theory, especially if you make it out of unobtainium, adimantium or something else really light and strong, but you don't need either, what you need is Deep Space 1 with a bigger Zenon tank, see link. (-)
MisterQED, Mar 24 2010

       MisterQED: Each gun fires only once. The power supply is a charged capacitor. Are capacitors so bulky? The orbiting first stage is big because it has the solar array to trickle charge its capacitor and those of subsequent stages but the first stage does not have to undergo rapid acceleration.   

       One could even mount the first stage on the space station, for added mass. You would need to use the rockets to correct the station orbit after the thing fired, or you could jettison the first stage to correct the orbit.
bungston, Mar 24 2010

       MisterQED brings up a valid point. I also would question the economics and effectiveness of this compared to equipping the probe with solar cells or nuclear power to power an ion drive, or perhaps a solar sail, gently but continuously pushing the craft, causing unlimited acceleration over time rather than a one-shot.
AutoMcDonough, Mar 24 2010

       Pretty sure the final speed of the probe is no different than putting the same amount of energy into your initial rail gun, may in fact be slightly slower, since recoil is not your friend.
MechE, Mar 24 2010

       /gently but continuously pushing/   

       the problem is the gently. We don't want to pay 30 million dollars for gently.   

       /same amount of energy into your initial rail gun/ I think there are limitations to how much energy a railgun can impart that have to do with how much current the rails can withstand. Ling posted something about that in a different idea. If he works like Vernon maybe posting his name will summon him. Ling, Ling, Ling.
bungston, Mar 24 2010

       But rail burnout is a function of rail length. And increasing the rail length slightly on your first gun is cheaper than building it heavy enough to launch the second, let alone the cost of building the second.
MechE, Mar 25 2010

       //increasing the rail length slightly on your first gun is cheaper// but a lot less cool.
pocmloc, Mar 25 2010

       You rang?
Ling, Mar 26 2010

       You could get up to that speed using a solar sail, couldn't you?
nineteenthly, Mar 26 2010

       Assuming the multi-railgun concept - each railgun will presumably have a recoil. So either you could use that to help reload the smaller ones into the bigger ones for a second shot, or you could fire them all at once (if that were possible). In the latter case what you'd have would be a sort of extending rail.
Loris, Mar 26 2010

       //limitations to how much energy a railgun can impart//   

       Only superconducting types. There is a limit for current density, I'm afraid.
Ling, Mar 26 2010

       Morrison, in the linked Superconducting projectile idea Ling lays out a rationale for graphite rails similar to what you propose.
bungston, Mar 26 2010

       Actually not. Graphite is not flexible, and the linked idea was a fixed rail. I think the problem with a flexible conductor, fixed to the projectile, is that the conductor must also be accelerated. Plus the forces pushing the conductors apart would be considerable (similar to the force imparted to the projectile, I think).   

       Plus, of course, that it wouldn't work if the current only existed in the projectile (the reaction is from the current in the rail vs. the current in the projectile...).
Ling, Mar 27 2010

       I am not sure one could use recoil force to reload something in space. I suspect that there must be a third fixed substrate which must be pushed against in some way to harness recoil to do work.   

       Even shotguns are not an ideal place to test this assertion, since in a way the shot and expanding gases play the roles of the second and first stages of the railguns in this idea, with the shotgun itself being a relatively fixed substrate.
bungston, Mar 27 2010

       link, please.
bungston, Mar 28 2010

FlyingToaster, Mar 28 2010

       well the first section wasn't bad.... bit difficult reading the rest since it's not there.
FlyingToaster, Mar 30 2010

       {story spoiler, look away now}   

       [morrison_rm], I have a problem with the projectiles you're using on the Palace of Westminster (alias "Houses of Parliament"). I believe you can destroy tanks with kinetic-only projectiles, but that has to do with the fact that tanks don't have a lot of redundant void inside them, so any hard object that passes through the middle of a tank is likely to hit something important.   

       With a large building, on the other hand, you're likely to make an entry wound and an exit wound (and probably puncture a few interior walls in the same way), but adding more initial velocity won't collapse or blow up the building; it'll just make the same holes in the first building, and then similar holes in other buildings behind it. This is especially true of a target which is more of a "groundscraper" than a skyscraper. (You might have better luck with the clocktower shot).   

       So, unless the bench of judges is lined up exactly like the proverbial row of ducks, you're going to miss most of them.   

       Better start the motorbike and try again.
pertinax, Mar 30 2010

       We find the defendant guilty.   

       The search for an open-ended continuity of life is a simple, remarkably selfish drain on resources that denies our descendants the privileges of existence that we have enjoyed. And ironically, matter in my DNA might be recycled atoms from some other person who lived long ago. I have no more right to an eternal choke-hold on it than they. That some remembrance of my ideas, vision, and impact upon the world outlast me, and that my progeny go on to dominate the world and establish an entire nation of descendants dedicated to my honor in stories and songs of me as their great patriarch, that is enough for me.
RayfordSteele, Mar 30 2010

       Aah, [RayfordSteele], it's not -everyone- that would get to live for ever, only the right sort of people (i.e. me, and people who agree with me).
pocmloc, Mar 30 2010

       Only bald people would be allowed to live forever. Hair consumes resources and demands the existence of eternal hairstylists, who would simply become too big of bores to deal with for that long.
RayfordSteele, Mar 30 2010

       Bummer that. It was rather entertaining writing.
RayfordSteele, Mar 30 2010

       I find the idea sound, though I question it's efficiency compared with other cheaper mediums of propolsion.
xxobot, Mar 31 2010

       //Are capacitors so bulky?//   

BunsenHoneydew, Sep 05 2011

       //You would need to use the rockets to correct the station orbit after the thing fired, or you could jettison the first stage to correct the orbit.//   

       Just send out two thingies, in opposite directions. Gadulka! Problemo solvato.   

       Even better, if you did fire two of these things in opposite directions then, given the recoils of the successive firings, all but the final stages would return to their point of origin so you could have another go.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 05 2011

       I am pondering the vector forces acting on a railgun projectile. It is not like throwing a shot-put where the shot goes forward and you go the opposite direction. Would a railgun on castor wheels be propelled backwards by the shot, or is the opposite action somehow forcing the rails apart? I know that the rails are pushed apart by the (?Lorenz) forces but I do not see how the vectors add up.
bungston, Jun 11 2014

       To get it spinning, would you use rockets? Is there an advantage to this over just putting the rocket on the thing you are going to launch? I think to get something to spin it has to push against something else.
bungston, Jun 12 2014


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