Full record for mass-driver n.

Definition an electromagnetically driven launching system, proposed as a method of propelling objects into space or over long distances
OED requirements antedating 1975
Earliest cite G. K. O'Neill, Future Space Programs
Comment Stuart Young submitted a 2001 citation from Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen's "Wheelers". Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1978 reprint of Gerard O'Neill's "The High Frontier. Malcolm Farmer checked an earlier article by O'Neill, "The Colonization of Space", Physics Today, September 1974, which discusses the concept, but it does not contain the term. Earliest cite in the OED: 1975.
Last modified 6 July, 2008

Citations for mass-driver n.

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1976 G. K. O'Neill High Frontier (1978) 140 For convenience I call this device a ‘mass-driver’. As presently conceived it is a kind of recirculating conveyor belt. By the action of magnetic impulses driven by electric energy, it can accelerate a small ‘bucket’ containing a payload of compacted lunar material, to the lunar escape speed of 2.4 kilometers per second.
1979 J. Oberg Farming Planets in O. Davis Omni Bk. of Space 24 Mass driver is only the current name for this concept.
1979 J. P. Hogan Two Faces of Tomorrow (1987) 3 The mass-driver was a five-mile-long, ruler-straight track flanked by two “hedges” of continuous electromagnetic windings—an immense linear accelerator stretching westward across Tranquillatis.
1990 A. Steele Clarke County, Space 119 He lumbered down the giant torus—passing other armored beamjacks at work on the skeleton, glimpsing construction pods transporting material from one side of the torus to another, spotting through the gridwork the floating hulk of a mass-driver barge which had hauled aluminium cassettes up from Descartes Station on the Moon.
1991 L. Niven et al. Fallen Angels 101 Gordon looked puzzled. “Driver license? For what, mass driver? Disk drive?”
1993 K. S. Robinson Green Mars (new ed.) 71 Robots on another facet of the asteroid were constructing a mass driver, an engine that would use the deuterium from the indigenous water to fire crushed rock away from the asteroid at speeds of two hundred kilometres a second.
1993 A. C. Clarke Hammer of God 111 As I'm sure you know, plans for a mass-driver that could deflect an asteroid of reasonable size were drawn up years ago.
1994 I. McDonald Necroville (1995) 154 Checking the command ‘ware, monitoring the construction of the mass driver, adjusting the attitude jets to stop Tessier 813's rotation—my first EVA.
1997 Interzone July 39/1 Lady Mac 's radar showed Marcus a serpentine line of one-tonne ice cubes flung out from Lazaro's equatorial mass-driver, gliding inertly up to the Lagrange point for collection.
2001 I. Stewart & J. Cohen Wheelers 339 A keen eye could also pick out the glinting surfaces of a mass-driver. This particular device—the Pitching Machine, as it was colloquially known—was one of the most powerful of all the mass-drivers deployed throughout the Belt, the pride of New Tibet Habitat's workshops. In essence it was little more than a giant rail-gun with a seventeen-mile barrel and a stubby stock that housed its electrical capacitor banks. Around the long, hollow tube formed by the rails, however, the engineers had woven an intricate framework of active struts, designed to keep the rails from flexing as the slings accelerated along them. Ugly electromagnetic coils were spaced along the rails in a complex progression, designed to transfer as much momentum as possible while using the least amount of electrical power.