What is Startram All About?

StarTram is a proposed space launch system propelled by maglev. The initial Generation 1 facility would launch cargo only, launching from a mountain peak at an altitude of 3 to 7 kilometres (1.9 to 4.3 mi) with an evacuated tube staying at local surface level; it has been claimed that about 150,000 tons could be lifted to orbit annually. More advanced technology would be required for the Generation 2 system for passengers, with a longer track instead gradually curving up at its end to the thinner air at 22 kilometres (14 mi) altitude, supported by magnetic levitation, reducing g-forces when each capsule transitions from the vacuum tube to the atmosphere. A SPESIF 2010 presentation stated that Generation 1 could be completed by the year 2020 or later if funding began in 2010, and Generation 2 by 2030 or later.

What is Maglev?

Derived from magnetic levitation, Maglev, is a system of train transportation that uses two sets of magnets: one set to repel and push the train up off the track, and another set to move the elevated train ahead, taking advantage of the lack of friction. Along certain “medium-range” routes (usually 320 to 640 km [200 to 400 mi]), maglev can compete favourably with high-speed rail and airplanes.

How Does Maglev Technology Work?

With maglev technology, there is just one moving part: the train itself. The train travels along a guideway of magnets which control the train’s stability and speed. Propulsion and levitation require no moving parts. This is in stark contrast to electric multiple units that may have several dozen parts per bogie. Maglev trains are therefore quieter and smoother than conventional trains and have the potential for much higher speeds.

Maglev vehicles have set several speed records and maglev trains can accelerate and decelerate much faster than conventional trains; the only practical limitation is the safety and comfort of the passengers.

Who Invented Startram?

Dr. James Powell and his colleague, Dr. Gordon Danby are the recipients of the 2000 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Engineering for their invention of superconducting Maglev. The Franklin Institute awards medals annually in recognition of the recipients genius and civic spirit and in memory of the institutes namesake, Benjamin Franklin, who exhibited those same qualities. Some noted past recipients of the Franklin Institute medals include Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Neils Bohr, Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

He was a senior scientist at Brookhaven National Lab (BNL) from 1956 to 1996. His experiences have led to significant advances in the design and analysis of advanced reactor systems, cryogenic and superconducting power transmission, plasma physics, mine safety, fusion reactor technology, electronuclear (accelerator) breeder systems, transmutation of nuclear wastes, space nuclear thermal propulsion, electromagnetic hyper velocity guns, hydrogen and synthetic fuels, and transportation infrastructure.

He holds patents for the Particle Bed Reactor (PBR) for nuclear rocket propulsion; the use of aluminum structures in fusion reactors; blankets employing solid lithium ceramics and alloys for tritium breeding; and, demountable superconducting magnet systems and the advanced vitrification system for high-level nuclear and toxic wastes. He and Dr. Danby are the holders of the first patent in superconducting Maglev in 1968, as well, as many recent patents on the 2nd generation advanced maglev system.

Dr. Powell holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the Carnegie Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. George Maise

Dr. George Maise is a mechanical/aeronautical engineer with many years of experience in industry and in research laboratories. He holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace and Mechanical Sciences from Princeton University and B.S. (Honors) from University of California, Berkley. His major areas of expertise are fluid mechanics and heat transfer, particularly as related to air-breathing and rocket propulsion, rarefied gas dynamics, re-entry heating, nuclear reactor thermal/hydraulics, and electrostatic probes for plasma diagnostics.

During his early career, Dr. Maise worked for several aerospace companies in the areas of thermal sciences, magnetohydrodynamics, and aircraft and rocket propulsion. From 1974 to 1997 he worked as a member of Scientific Staff at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). This work involved a variety of projects. Initially, Dr. Maise served in the Thermal Reactor Safety Division. In that capacity, he supervised a group of BNL scientists and outside consultants providing advice to NRC on licensing of commercial nuclear power reactors. When the administration launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), Dr. Maise transferred to work on a program to develop a nuclear-powered rocket to intercept enemy ICBMs. He supervised an experimental program to characterize the thermal- hydraulic performance of the nuclear-powered rocket. Subsequent to the SDIO program, Dr. Maise worked for the International Safeguards Projects Office. In this capacity he provided advice to the U.S. State Department on IAEA requests for technical assistance. He prepared

briefing papers for Bilateral Safeguards Meetings with various countries and with EURATOM and represented DOE at these meetings, as requested. In 1997 he resigned from BNL and has worked as a private consultant to several high-technology firms. Also, along with Dr. Powell he was a co-founder of StarTram, Inc.

To read more about the Startram project, see Synopsis here

Further studies on StarTram2010