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SpinLaunch's rocket-flinging launch system will loft NASA payload on test flight this year

Alternative launch company SpinLaunch's spin chamber is seen at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The system flings rockets into the sky with a spinning arm.
Alternative launch company SpinLaunch's spin chamber is seen at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The system flings rockets into the sky with a spinning arm. (Image credit: SpinLaunch)

NASA will soon take a unique launch system out for a spin.

The agency has signed on to send a payload up using a suborbital, kinetic-energy based system developed by California-based company SpinLaunch. The test flight, which is expected later this year, will "provide valuable information to NASA for potential future commercial launch opportunities," SpinLaunch representatives said in an emailed statement.

The newly revealed Space Act Agreement is part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, which helps demonstrate technologies that could aid the agency's science and exploration portfolios down the road and spur the growth of the private spaceflight industry.

Incredible technology: Space travel and exploration

SpinLaunch uses a spinning arm to accelerate a rocket and fling it into the sky to lower the cost of launch.

SpinLaunch uses a spinning arm to accelerate a rocket and fling it into the sky to lower the cost of launch. (Image credit: SpinLaunch)

SpinLaunch aims to help power that growth with its novel launch strategy. That strategy involves accelerating rockets to tremendous speeds here on terra firma using a rotating arm and then flinging them skyward. The launch vehicles will light up their engines when they're already high in the sky, greatly reducing the amount of fuel and hardware — and, by extension, money — needed to reach orbit.

SpinLaunch has already conducted a series of test flights from New Mexico's Spaceport America using its suborbital accelerator. The company aims to launch its first orbital test flights in 2025.

The new agreement with NASA is an important milestone in SpinLaunch's journey, said company founder and CEO Jonathan Yaney.

"SpinLaunch is offering a unique suborbital flight and high-speed testing service, and the recent launch agreement with NASA marks a key inflection point as SpinLaunch shifts focus from technology development to commercial offerings," Yaney said in the same emailed statement. 

"What started as an innovative idea to make space more accessible has materialized into a technically mature and game-changing approach to launch," he added. "We look forward to announcing more partners and customers soon and greatly appreciate NASA's continued interest and support in SpinLaunch."

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.