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Research: Lunar Accelerator

The next prompt from Charles Joynson’s A Brief History of the Future for my research into the future was the lunar accelerator. Here is the passage:

Long trip times getting from Earth to Mars caused many researchers to investigate ways to increase shuttle speeds… However in 2267 the concept of the lunar accelerator was proposed. This used the same concept as the Skylifts but would be built on the Moon.

The lunar accelerator was created by using 3D printing technology to make a magnetic levitation track across the surface of the Moon. Firstly a cementation surface was printed followed by a film of conductive metal, and finally solar panels were printed to one side of the track.

Building a perfectly flat track meant levelling the lunar surface by removing boulders and hills, and filling craters and holes. The track followed the solar plane and only one direction of launch was allowed in case of collisions.

The 50-kilometre track was finished in 2289 and the first shuttle launched after arrival from Earth in 2290. However shuttles could only be launched towards Mars when the Moon was in the right position and then only when Mars was close enough to Earth to make the journey as short as possible, which up until the accelerator was operational had been just once in every twenty-six months.

In practice the accelerator’s launch window was once a month during each six months of closest approach when the accelerator was mono-directional and later twice a month after 2314 when it was converted to allow bi-directional launches.

When I Googled lunar accelerator I got a Wikipedia article about Mass Driver.

Mass Driver lunar base concept

A mass driver or electromagnetic catapult is a proposed method of non-rocket space launch which would use a linear motor to accelerate and catapult payloads up to high speeds. All existing and contemplated mass drivers use coils of wire energized by electricity to make electromagnets. Sequential firing of a row of electromagnets accelerates the payload along a path. After leaving the path, the payload continues to move due to momentum.

The development so far concentrates on payload and projectiles rather than people, but it’s on the way. It turns out that the first engineering description of an Electric Gun appears in the technical supplement of the 1937 science fiction novel Zero to Eighty by “Akkad Pseudoman”, a pen name for the Princeton physicist and electrical entrepreneur Edwin Fitch Northrup.

Prototype Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System

More realistically, maglev trains already exist, as does an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) which uses electromagnets to launch planes from aircraft. Originally developed by General Atomics for the United States Navy, it is also under development by China, India, Russia and the UK.

It seems to me that a lunar accelerator depends not so much on the technology but firstly a base on the moon, which I have discussed before.

Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, and book two Alien Secrets, are out now. Follow her at