Canadian Man Kickstarts "Starfire" Space Cannon

Canadian Man Kickstarts "Starfire" Space Cannon

The Starfire space cannon is a homemade howitzer intended to launch small payloads into orbit on the serious cheap.

Have you ever wanted to launch something into space, but it's always been too expensive or just too complicated? We've all had that problem at some point in our lives, but we've never been able to do anything about it - until now.

Richard Graf of Cochrane, Ontario has built what he calls the Starfire space cannon, an eight-inch bore, 45-foot long, multi-chambered artillery piece that he hopes will ultimately be used to fire small objects into orbit. The gun itself is impressive, but the trick is in the shell: In order to compensate for the loss of pressure that drives a projectile as it travels down the barrel of a conventional gun, the Starfire employs incremental propellant charges, triggered sequentially after firing, that provide lower but more constant pressure and also lower G-loadings on the projectile and its payload.

Cochrane is one of those places where you can actually fire a howitzer in your yard and nobody much cares, and based on the Kickstarter video this thing seems to work, at least insofar as it's noisy, has a hell of a kick and makes a mess of whatever's standing in front of it when it goes off. That's a long way from space, though, and that's where Kickstarter comes in.

The Kickstarter will fund live-fire testing of the Starfire, which will be conducted in two stages. The first phase will be a vertical firing test, currently slated to take place in May and June, to ensure the gun is mechanically sound. After that comes the sub-orbital flight tests with "glide probe vehicles," which are intended to achieve a minimum altitude of 100 kilometers. What goes up must come down, of course, and I'm not sure how much control anyone can realistically expect to have over a giant lawn dart that's been thrown 328,000 feet in the air, but Graf doesn't seem too concerned about the possibility of accidentally killing someone or starting a war.

"We are not anticipating many problems with this design although there may be a bit of a learning curve as we gain experience with this vehicle," he wrote on Kickstarter. He also noted in the "Risks and Challenges" section that the gun could blow up, the trailer could fall apart, the glide probes could be blasted into pieces or they might just end up getting lost somewhere in, you know... Canada. It's a big place. But hey, it'll probably work out, right?

The Starfire Space Cannon Kickstarter is seeking C$65,000 and runs until March 2. And I'm not even going to attach the usual "buyer beware" warning to this one, because hey, what could go possibly go wrong - right?

Source: Kickstarter

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That's really cool. When you think about it, it works in a similar manner to a rail gun, just with a chemical propellant instead of an electromagnetic one. In both cases you get constant acceleration through the length of the barrel, ending in an absurdly high velocity with minimal recoil. Looking at it like that, I'm surprised nobody has ever tried this before, whether as a battlefield artillery piece, a Metal Gear style nuke delivery system, or a method of launching small satellites into orbit, like the guy in the article is trying. Kind of makes me wonder what kind of engineering problems you'd have to overcome, and whether they really have been.

And here I was expecting another kickstarter video-game. Pleasant surprise.

If he's planning for objects fired from this to actually go into orbit, then I see this only adding to the growing problem of space debris.

It's an interesting idea, I'll give him that, but challenges he'll have to face include things like how to stop whatever you're trying to launch from being completely destroyed when you fire it. I just don't see sensitive electrical equipment surviving that...

I recall something similar was attempted back in the 70s or something - by some of the middle eastern powers...

IRRC the CIA supposedly killed the genius heading the project.

So... any bets on when he'll be told that he can't build a cannon that 'might' shoot down satelites?

I mean, the concept is quite sound and I like the idea. But I don't think he'll be allowed to carry it through

I wouldn't get involved in backing this, it's not going to end well.

I say this because most countries go so far as to have laws about personal flight (whether you realize it or not) which is why you don't see everyone flying around on personal gyrocopters despite magazines like "Popular Mechanics" having made it fairly clear how easy it is to manufacture them. The obvious reasons being of course that it's difficult to regulate, some drunk guy hitting a tree in his car is one thing, flying a Gyrocopter through the roof of someone's house is another, not to mention the simple issues of how the police stop someone on a Gyrocopter from doing whatever without killing them.

This kind of technology is similar, simply put if someone makes something like this it raises the question of the potential damage inflicted by misfires, and the even bigger question of security concerns over the private person being able to put things into space without any kind of oversight. When you look at current technologies and the rate at which they are advancing, it's going to wind up being childs play for someone to basically make a transmitter relaying whatever kind of signal and shoot into space, not to mention the danger to existing satellites as the technology progresses and becomes more powerful.

I mean it's cool and all, but I'd imagine if the guy succeeds, or should I say when he succeeds (I mean the idea is perfectly plausible) it's a matter of time before someone from the Canadian government shows up and shuts him down for one reason or another. As a result your money is likely to disappear without actually pioneering anything.

I'll also be honest in saying that given the old concepts by Jules Verne about firing people to the moon in giant cannons, I wouldn't be surprised to find it was already done and shut down (probably more than once, without the knowledge of it being proliferated by The Internet), looking at what a lot of current guns can do, the state of aerospace science, etc... it's been plausible for a while to at least put small objects into space. It sounds like the kind of thing engineering students would get up to. That say I'm guessing projects like this have happened before, I can't say for certain that it has.

webkilla:
I recall something similar was attempted back in the 70s or something - by some of the middle eastern powers...

IRRC the CIA supposedly killed the genius heading the project.

So... any bets on when he'll be told that he can't build a cannon that 'might' shoot down satelites?

I mean, the concept is quite sound and I like the idea. But I don't think he'll be allowed to carry it through

The guy was Canadian,too.

But,I digress. The concept is sound. It's exactly what space programs need,since cheap access to space would put us on the fast track to the endgame goals of humanity and space: Colonization of other worlds. If I had the dosh,I'd throw in behind this project.

webkilla:
I recall something similar was attempted back in the 70s or something - by some of the middle eastern powers...

IRRC the CIA supposedly killed the genius heading the project.

So... any bets on when he'll be told that he can't build a cannon that 'might' shoot down satelites?

I mean, the concept is quite sound and I like the idea. But I don't think he'll be allowed to carry it through

According to Wikipedia, the guy never got the chance to fully develop his idea. He was assassinated in 1991.

In order to gain funding for his space gun project, he had to agree to increase the range of SCUD missiles for Saddam Hussein and so was killed by Iran and Israel.

edit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_HARP

For some dumb reason, the gun nut in me would like to state that the gun is about 68 calibers long, or an 8 inch L/68 cannon. Because I'm a nerd.

This is cool and all but don't we already have enough debris floating around the planet?

Then again, if this is a cheap way to shoot down any launch platforms holding the so called 'rods of god' I'd be all for it.

 

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