Space gun

A space gun, sometimes called a Verne gun because of its appearance in From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne, is a method of launching an object into space using a large gun- or cannonlike structure. Space guns could thus potentially provide a method of non-rocket spacelaunch. It has been conjectured that space guns could place satellites into Earth's orbit (although after-launch propulsion of the satellite would be necessary to achieve a stable orbit), and could also launch spacecraft beyond Earth's gravitational pull and into other parts of the Solar System by exceeding Earth's escape velocity of about 11.2 km/s or 40,320 km/h (25,050 mph). However, these speeds are too far into the hypersonic range for most practical propulsion systems and also would cause most objects to burn up due to aerodynamic heating or be torn apart by aerodynamic drag. Therefore, a more likely future use of space guns would be to launch objects into near Earth orbit, from where attached rockets could be fired or the objects could be "collected" by maneuverable orbiting satellites.

In Project HARP, a 1960s joint United States and Canada defence project, a U.S. Navy 16 in (410 mm) 100 caliber gun was used to fire a 180 kg (400 lb) projectile at 3600 m/s or 12,960 km/h (8,050 mph), reaching an apogee of 180 km (110 mi), hence performing a suborbital spaceflight. However, a space gun has never been successfully used to launch an object into orbit or out of Earth's gravitational pull.

The Quicklauncher spacegun

Technical issues

The large g-force likely to be experienced by a ballistic projectile launched in this manner would mean that a space gun would be incapable of safely launching humans or delicate instruments, rather being restricted to freight, fuel or ruggedized satellites.

Getting to orbit

A space gun by itself is not capable of placing objects into stable orbit around the object (planet or otherwise) from which it launches them. The orbit is a parabolic orbit, a hyperbolic orbit, or part of an elliptic orbit which ends at the planet's surface at the point of launch or another point. This means that an uncorrected ballistic payload will always strike the planet within its first orbit unless the velocity was so high as to reach or exceed escape velocity.. As a result, all payloads intended to reach a closed orbit need at least to perform some sort of course correction to create another orbit that does not intersect the planet's surface.

A rocket can be used for additional boost, as planned in both Project HARP and the Quicklaunch project. The magnitude of such correction may be small; for instance, the StarTram Generation 1 reference design involves a total of 0.6 km/s of rocket burn to raise perigee well above the atmosphere when entering an 8 km/s low Earth orbit.[1]

In a three-body or larger system, a gravity assist trajectory might be available such that a carefully aimed escape velocity projectile would have its trajectory modified by the gravitational fields of other bodies in the system such that the projectile would eventually return to orbit the initial planet using only the launch delta-v.[2][3]

Isaac Newton avoided this objection in his thought experiment by positing an impossibly tall mountain from which his cannon was fired. If in a stable orbit, the projectile would circle the planet and return to the altitude of launch after one orbit (see Newton's cannonball).[4]


A space gun with a "gun barrel" of length (), and the needed velocity (), the acceleration () is provided by the following formula:

For instance, with a space gun with a vertical "gun barrel" through both the Earth's crust and the troposphere, totalling ~60 km of length (), and a velocity () enough to escape the Earth's gravity (escape velocity, which is 11.2 km/s on Earth), the acceleration () would theoretically be more than 1000 m/s2, which is more than 100 g-forces, which is about 3 times the human tolerance to g-forces of maximum 20 to 35 g[5] during the ~10 seconds such a firing would take. Theoretically, a space gun with a circular (ring shaped) track could utilize much lower accelerations because its effective track length is infinite (with the object going around the ring numerous times), though the centripetal acceleration could be enormous as the payload neared escape velocity, depending on the track size.

Practical attempts

Big Babylon sections at Fort Nelson
Two sections of the Project Babylon gun
Project Harp
Project HARP, a prototype of a space gun.

The German V-3 cannon program (less well known than the V-2 rocket or V-1 flying bomb), during the Second World War was an attempt to build something approaching a space gun. Based in the Pas-de-Calais area of France it was planned to be more devastating than the other Nazi 'Vengeance weapons'. The cannon was capable of launching 140 kg, 15 cm diameter shells over a distance of 88 km. It was destroyed by RAF bombing using Tallboy blockbuster bombs in July 1944.[6] The V-3 cannon used staged propulsion, which gave it a far greater range.[7]

Project Babylon

The most prominent recent attempt to make a space gun was artillery engineer Gerald Bull's Project Babylon, which was also known as the 'Iraqi supergun' by the media. During Project Babylon, Bull used his experience from Project HARP to build a massive cannon for Saddam Hussein, leader of Ba'athist Iraq. Bull was assassinated before the project was completed.[8]

Super High Altitude Research Project

Since Bull's death, few have seriously attempted to build a space gun. Perhaps most promisingly, the US Ballistic Missile Defense program sponsored the Super High Altitude Research Project (SHARP) in the 1980s. Developed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, it is a light-gas gun and has been used to test fire objects at Mach 9.

Green Launch

After cancellation of SHARP, lead developer John Hunter founded the Jules Verne Launcher Company in 1996 and the, currently inactive, Quicklaunch company. As of January 2017, Hunter's Green Launch is striving to surpass the ballistic altitude world record set by HARP in 1966.

Ram accelerators have also been proposed as an alternative to light-gas guns. Other proposals use electromagnetic techniques for accelerating the payload, such as coilguns and railguns.

In fiction

The firing of a space gun in Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon

The first publication of the concept may be Newton's cannonball in the 1728 book A Treatise of the System of the World, although it was primarily used as a thought experiment regarding gravity.[9]

Perhaps the most famous representation of a space gun is in Jules Verne's novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon (loosely interpreted into the early film Le Voyage dans la Lune), in which astronauts fly to the moon aboard a ship launched from a cannon. Another famous example is the hydrogen accelerator cannon used by the Martians to launch their invasion in H. G. Wells' book The War of the Worlds. Wells also used the concept in the climax of the 1936 movie Things to Come. The device was featured in films as late as 1967, such as Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon.

In the video game Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams, Percival Lowell builds a space gun to send a spacecraft to Mars.

The video game Steel Empire, a shoot 'em up with steampunk aesthetics, features a space gun in its seventh level that is used by the main villain General Styron to launch himself to the Moon.

In Hannu Rajaniemi's 2012 novel The Fractal Prince, a space gun at the "Jannah-of-the-cannon", powered by a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb, is used to launch a spaceship from Earth.

The 2015 video game SOMA features a space gun used to launch satellites.

Gerald Bull's assassination and the Project Babylon gun were also the starting point for Frederick Forsyth's 1994 novel The Fist of God. In Larry Bond's 2001 novella and 2015 novel Lash-Up, China uses a space gun to destroy American GPS satellites.

In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, a village of Bob-ombs operates a space gun to send Paper Mario and company to the X-Naut's base on the moon.

See also


  1. ^ "StarTram2010: Maglev Launch: Ultra Low Cost Ultra High Volume Access to Space for Cargo and Humans". Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  2. ^ Clarke, Victor C., Jr. (1970-04-10). "An Essay On the Application and Principle of Gravity-Assist Trajectories For Space Flight" (PDF). Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology: 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2013-08-13. By induction then, it is obvious that the process of diverting a spacecraft from one planet to another might be continued indefinitely, if the planets were in favorable positions.
  3. ^ Minovitch, Michael (August 23, 1961). "A Method For Determining Interplanetary Free-Fall Reconnaissance Trajectories" (PDF). Jet Propulsion Laboratory Technical Memos (TM-312–130): 38–44.
  4. ^ Newton, Isaac (1728). A Treatise of the System of the World. F. Fayram. pp. 6–12.
  5. ^ Anton Sukup (1977). "David PURLEY Silverstone crash". Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  6. ^ RAF staff (6 April 2005). "RAF History - Bomber Command 60th Anniversary". Bomber Command: Campaign Diary. RAF. Archived from the original on 6 July 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Researcher reveals how Hitler's SUPERGUN worked". Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  8. ^ William Lowther, Arms and the Man: Dr. Gerald Bull, Iraq, and the Supergun (Presidio, Novato, 1991)
  9. ^ > [4.0 Space Guns] v1.1.4 / chapter 4 of 7 / 01 jun 08 / greg goebel / public domain

External links

Al Ljutic

Al Ljutic was a professional heavy-weight boxer, competitive rifle shooter, and gun maker known for founding Ljutic Industries. and the creation of the Ljutic Space Gun.

From the Earth to the Moon

From the Earth to the Moon (French: De la terre à la lune) is an 1865 novel by Jules Verne. It tells the story of the Baltimore Gun Club, a post-American Civil War society of weapons enthusiasts, and their attempts to build an enormous Columbiad space gun and launch three people—the Gun Club's president, his Philadelphian armor-making rival, and a French poet—in a projectile with the goal of a Moon landing.

The story is also notable in that Verne attempted to do some rough calculations as to the requirements for the cannon and in that, considering the comparative lack of empirical data on the subject at the time, some of his figures are remarkably accurate. However, his scenario turned out to be impractical for safe manned space travel since a much longer barrel would have been required to reach escape velocity while limiting acceleration to survivable limits for the passengers.

The character of Michel Ardan, the French member of the party in the novel, was inspired by the real-life photographer Félix Nadar.

Guided by Voices

Guided by Voices (GBV) is an American indie rock band formed in 1983 in Dayton, Ohio. It has made frequent personnel changes but always maintained the presence of principal songwriter Robert Pollard, who founded the group with guitarists Mitch Mitchell, Tobin Sprout, Jim Pollard, and drummer Kevin Fennell. The "classic" lineup included these musicians and bassist Greg Demos.

Noted at first for their lo-fi aesthetic and typically Portastudio four-tracks-to-cassette production methods, Guided by Voices' music was influenced by post–British Invasion garage rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, punk rock and post-punk. The band has had a prolific output, releasing 25 full-length albums along with many other releases. Most songs are in the two-minute range, but many are even shorter; often they end abruptly or are intertwined with odd and homemade sound effects.

Guided by Voices initially disbanded in 2004. In 2010 the "classic" lineup reunited to perform at Matador Records 21st anniversary party, subsequently touring and releasing six new albums. GBV broke up a second time in 2014, but Pollard again rebooted the band with a new album and a new lineup in 2016.

Hand-Held Maneuvering Unit

The Hand-Held Maneuvering Unit (HHMU), also known as the maneuvering gun, or informally as "the zip gun", was used by astronaut Ed White in the first American "spacewalk" (extra-vehicular activity, EVA), on Gemini 4, June 3, 1965. Different models of HHMU were present on Gemini 4, 8, 10, and 11, but were only used on Gemini 4 and 10. It was also used aboard Skylab.

Astronauts described the gun as easier to use than other methods of maneuvering during space-walking. It provided an impulse to send the space-walker away from and back to the spacecraft, and was the easiest way for him to control his motions in the microgravity environment.

The Gemini 4 device received its propellant from tanks on the device and used pressurized oxygen to control and propel the astronaut via conservation of momentum. White enjoyed using the gun and found it useful, but quickly ran out of propellant, forcing him to pull on his tether to continue maneuvers. However, fellow crewman James McDivitt recalled the gun as being "hopeless" and "utterly useless" as it required precise aim through the user's center of mass in order to translate in a straight line without inducing unwanted rotation.The device carried on Gemini 8 (March 16–17, 1966) received its Freon 14 propellant from a tank to be carried on the astronaut's back. Astronaut David Scott never got a chance to use it, because the mission had to be terminated before his EVA due to a critical thruster problem.

The Gemini 10 device used by Michael Collins received its nitrogen gas propellant from inside the spacecraft, through a hose bundled with the astronaut's umbilical connector. Collins successfully used it to move back and forth between the Gemini and the Agena Target Vehicle.

Richard Gordon did not get to use his HHMU on Gemini 11, because his EVA had to be cut short when he became fatigued.

How Do You Spell Heaven

How Do You Spell Heaven is the 24th album to be released by lo-fi band Guided By Voices. It was released on August 11, 2017.It was recorded and mixed by Travis Harrison at Serious Business Music, NY, and Stillwater Lodge.

Light gun

A light gun is a pointing device for computers and a control device for arcade and video games, typically shaped to resemble a pistol. In aviation and shipping, it can also be a directional signal lamp.

Modern screen-based light guns work by building an optical sensor into the gun, which receives its input from the light emitted by on-screen target(s). The first device of this type, the light pen, was used on the MIT Whirlwind computer.

The light gun and its ancestor the light pen are now rarely used as pointing devices due largely to the popularity of the mouse and changes in monitor display technology—conventional light guns work only with CRT monitors.

Liquid Kids

Liquid Kids (ミズバク大冒険, Mizubaku Daibouken) is an arcade video game released by Taito in 1990.

Ljutic Space Gun

The Ljutic Space Gun is a 12 gauge single-shot shotgun intended for trap shooting. Originally designed in 1955, the firearm has since been discontinued

Mad as a Mars Hare

Mad as a Mars Hare is a 1963 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny and Marvin the Martian. The cartoon's title is a play-on-words of the famous phrase to be "mad as a March hare", the origins of which are disputed. This is Marvin's final appearance in the Looney Tunes shorts during the Golden Age of Animation.

Newton's cannonball

Newton's cannonball was a thought experiment Isaac Newton used to hypothesize that the force of gravity was universal, and it was the key force for planetary motion. It appeared in his book A Treatise of the System of the World.

Non-rocket spacelaunch

Non-rocket spacelaunch refers to concepts for launch into space where some or all of the needed speed and altitude are provided by something other than rockets, or by other than expendable rockets. A number of alternatives to expendable rockets have been proposed. In some systems such as a combination launch system, skyhook, rocket sled launch, rockoon, or air launch, a rocket would be part, but only part of the system used to reach orbit.

Present-day launch costs are very high – $2,500 to $25,000 per kilogram from Earth to low Earth orbit (LEO). As a result, launch costs are a large percentage of the cost of all space endeavors. If launch can be made cheaper, the total cost of space missions will be reduced.

Due to the exponential nature of the rocket equation, providing even a small amount of the velocity to LEO by other means has the potential of greatly reducing the cost of getting to orbit.

Launch costs in the hundreds of dollars per kilogram would make possible many proposed large-scale space projects such as space colonization, space-based solar power and terraforming Mars.


Quicklaunch is a currently inactive company attempting to use a type of space gun to launch payloads into low Earth orbit. It is a university spin-off of the SHARP project which ended 2005.

Space Gun (album)

Space Gun, is the 25th album to be released by Guided By Voices. It was released on the March 23, 2018.

This album was recorded and mixed by Travis Harrison at Serious Business Music, NY, and Stillwater River Lodge

Space Gun (video game)

Space Gun (スペースガン, Supēsu Gan) is a first-person, shoot 'em up arcade game released by Taito in 1990. It was later distributed for various home games consoles in 1992, and in 2005, it was included as part of the compilation Taito Legends on the PlayStation 2, PC and Xbox. It is set aboard a crippled space station that has been overrun by hostile alien creatures; there are human crew members that the player must attempt to rescue while destroying the alien creatures. Space Gun features simulated gore, giving the player the ability to shoot limbs off the creatures while blood splatters appear on screen. Various weapon upgrades can be found during gameplay. The music from the game is featured on several commercially released compact discs. It was fairly well received by critics both in arcades and when released for home systems. It was one of only a few games that supported a light gun peripheral for some of the home systems releases.

Space fountain

A space fountain is a proposed form of an extremely tall tower extending into space. As known materials cannot support a static tower with this height a space fountain has to be an active structure: A stream of pellets is accelerated upwards at a ground station. At the top it is deflected downwards. The necessary force for this deflection supports the station at the top and payloads going up the structure. Spacecraft could launch from the top without having to deal with the atmosphere. This could reduce the cost of placing payloads into orbit. As downside the tower will collapse if the containment systems fail and the stream is broken. This risk could be reduced by several redundant streams.The lower part of the pellet stream has to be in a vacuum tube to avoid excessive drag in the atmosphere. Similar to the top station this tube can be supported by transferring energy from the upwards going stream (slowing it) to the downwards going stream (accelerating it).Unlike a space elevator this concept does not need extremely strong materials anywhere and unlike space elevators and orbital rings it does not need a 40,000 km long structure. As downside it does not provide orbital speed on its own: Payloads released from the top have zero ground velocity.

Space gun (disambiguation)

Space gun may refer to

Space gun, space launching technology

Space Gun (album), a 2018 album by Guided by Voices

Space gun (maneuvering unit), tool used by NASA astronauts

Space Gun (video game), 1990 arcade game by Taito

TP-82 Cosmonaut survival pistol, a three-barreled combination gun carried by Soviet cosmonauts

Sub-orbital spaceflight

A sub-orbital spaceflight is a spaceflight in which the spacecraft reaches outer space, but its trajectory intersects the atmosphere or surface of the gravitating body from which it was launched, so that it will not complete one orbital revolution.

For example, the path of an object launched from Earth that reaches the Kármán line (at 100 km (62 mi) above sea level), and then falls back to Earth, is considered a sub-orbital spaceflight. Some sub-orbital flights have been undertaken to test spacecraft and launch vehicles later intended for orbital spaceflight. Other vehicles are specifically designed only for sub-orbital flight; examples include manned vehicles, such as the X-15 and SpaceShipOne, and unmanned ones, such as ICBMs and sounding rockets.

Flights which attain sufficient velocity to go into low Earth orbit, and then de-orbit before completing their first full orbit, are not considered sub-orbital. Examples of this include Yuri Gagarin's Vostok 1, and flights of the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System.

Usually a rocket is used, but experimental sub-orbital spaceflight has also been achieved with a space gun.

Super High Altitude Research Project

The Super High Altitude Research Project (Super HARP, SHARP) was a U.S. government project conducting research into the firing of high-velocity projectiles high into the atmosphere using a two-stage light-gas gun, with the ultimate goal of propelling satellites into Earth orbit. Design work on the prototype space gun began as early as 1985 at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and became operational in December 1992. It is the largest gas gun in the world.

Taito Legends

Taito Legends is a compilation of 29 arcade games released for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Microsoft Windows. The games were originally developed by Taito Corporation. The European release was published by Empire Interactive, who had licensed the games from Taito and developed the compilation. Although they did not get official credit for it in the American versions, Sega published the North American and South American releases.

Extra features include interviews with some of the game designers, original sales flyers, and arcade cabinet art.

Two follow-up compilations were issued; Taito Legends 2 for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC and the PlayStation Portable exclusive Taito Legends Power-Up.

Static structures
Dynamic structures
Projectile launchers
Reaction drives
Buoyant lifting

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