How Disney Designed The Military's Electromagnetic Launch System

This week we learned about an amazing new Navy (and NASA) electromagnetic launch system that moves a jet 240mph across a 300 foot runway. What we didn't know is this ulta-advanced technology was developed by Disney. As in Mickey Mouse.

The Navy's Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is designed to use electromagnetic energy to propel a 100,000 lb. jet 240mph across a 300 ft. runway. According to the Navy, not only is EMALS a smaller and more efficient method of launching planes than steam turbines, it can deliver 30% more power. The Navy says they will to use this system to launch all aircraft from carriers going forward, including heavy strike fighters and lightweight drones.

Even NASA's looking at using the technology for a system that calls for a two-mile- long rail gun that will launch a scramjet, which will then fly to 200,000 feet.

The rail gun uses the same basic technology as what the Navy's using — except on a much larger scale. The proposal uses a 240,000-horsepower linear motor to convert 180 megawatts into an electromagnetic force that propels a scramjet carrying a spacecraft down a two-mile-long track. The craft accelerates from 0 to 1,100 mph (Mach 1.5) in under 60 seconds- fast, but at less than 3 Gs, safe for manned flight. The scramjet will then fire a payload into orbit and return to Earth.

The process is more complex than a rocket launch, but engineers say it's also more flexible. With it, NASA could orbit a 10,000-pound satellite one day and send a manned ship toward the moon the next, on a fraction of the propellant used by today's rockets.

But how did the U.S. Navy and NASA develop such bold, innovative and futuristic — almost magical — technology? They turned to the people who make an entire world of magic — Disney.

The technology was first developed not in a secret lab in Area 51, but in Florida for the Rock n' Roller Coaster (photograph above) found at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida — and designed jointly by Disney's Imagineers (what Disney Co. calls their engineers) and Vekoma, a company that builds high-end amusement rides.

The Navy began working with Disney and Vekoma in 1999, right after the ride was opened. 11 years later, the Navy's now finally running tests on their own electromagnetic launch technology.

Although the Disney ride doesn't take riders to the same speeds that the Navy and NASA are looking to use it for — it only launches a limo-looking coaster from zero to 60 MPH in 2.8 seconds — it still uses fundamentally the same technology.

I think Walt Disney — a man who embraced futurism to such a high level that he created the "World of Tomorrow" ride — would be quite pleased to see his company helping, yet again, to expand the width and breadth of human imagination.

(Hat tip to Michael!)