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For Release: Oct. 4, 1999
Media Advisory 99-257
Marshall Center to Demonstrate New Maglev Track Oct. 6
A new magnetic levitation or maglev track that accelerates a model spacecraft from zero to 60 mph in less than one-half second has been installed at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Demonstration of the 50-foot track is scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 6. News media interested in attending the demo should arrive at building 4200 at 2:00 p.m. to receive a badge. Transportation to the maglev test site will be provided by bus. The bus the only mode of transportation to the test area will leave building 4200 promptly at 2:10 p.m.
Maglev technologies could dramatically reduce the cost of getting to space. A maglev system to help launch spacecraft into orbit would use magnetic fields to levitate and accelerate a vehicle along a track at very high rates of speed. Similar to high-speed trains and roller coasters that use high-strength magnets to lift and propel a vehicle above a guideway, a maglev launch-assist system would electromagnetically drive a space vehicle along a track. The magnetically levitated spacecraft would be accelerated at speeds up to 600 mph, and then shift to rocket engines for launch to orbit.
The new, experimental track at Marshall uses an advanced linear induction motor. Induction motors are common in fans, power drills and sewing machines, but instead of spinning in a circular motion to turn a shaft or gears, a linear induction motor produces thrust in a straight line. Its basically a rotary motor split in half and rolled out flat.
When the coils of the linear induction motor are energized by alternating current, a magnetic field is created, providing thrust that pushes an aluminum carrier along the maglev track. A horseshoe-shaped carrier containing a 5-foot, 30-pound spacecraft model is levitated about one-half inch above the track as it accelerates at six times the force of gravity.
Mounted on concrete pedestals and shrouded with nonmagnetic stainless steel, the Marshall track is 50 feet long, about 2 feet wide and about 1.5 feet high. It consists of 10 identical, 5-foot-long segments that weigh about 500 pounds each. Most of the weight is iron used in the motor.
The Marshall track will help NASA learn more about aerodynamics, magnetic fields and energy storage devices associated with maglev.