Space Elevators Inch Closer to Reality

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mockup of a space elevator. (Bruce Irving/flickr)

The chances of us sending a person back to the moon are - well slight. Been there, done that. But imagine if we could take an elevator up there? This is the idea of a space elevator, and it dates back to the 1950s.

What's getting the people behind this latest push is the enthusiasm — and cash — that would allow some real time experiments in the months ahead. 

Of course, the challenge of building such a lift is huge, but it's now thought we have both the know how and the right building material that would allow us to take the first steps toward a space lift.

The group behind the plan is called LiftPort. The president of the group is Michael Lain.


Michael Lain

Comments [5]

Steve from West Coast

Space Elevator (SE) 2012


a. Seed Cable strategy max satellite payload approximate fifty eight ton’s.
b. Satellite infrastructure (propulsion, controls) thirty eight ton’s.
c. Seed Cable payload approximately twenty ton’s.
d. Satellite delivery for Seed Cable restricted to a small diameter cable and limited length due to:
1. Mass (primary restriction).
2. Weight (secondary restriction).

Append the Seed Cable strategy to incorporate a Derrick (tower, platform), a high altitude support structure to elevate SE structural components.

a. Safety constraints restrict the use of the Tether to anchoring the Counterweight.
b. A peripheral cage can surround the Tether to provides safety, and a track for assent and decent of the Carriage Assembly’s one hundred ton payload.
c. Counterweight component consist of interlocking steel plate.
d. A Derrick also provides a low orbit vehicle refueling capability.
e. The Derrick can be temporary or converted to a permanent structure.

SE Structural Components

1. Base
2. Counterweight
3. Tether
4. Tether Safety Cage/Track/Conduit Assembly
5. Carriage/Cargo Assembly

SE Installation Summary

The challenge is the installation of the tether and counterweight. A satellite Seed Cable delivery alone is improbable due to cable mass/weight, and satellite payload restrictions.

To compliment the Seed Cable concept requires building from the ground up. This facilitates the conveyance machinery for installation of the structural components, and also offers a conduit for a refueling space vehicles working in orbit. Onsite fabrication and assembly will also aide in reducing costs and streamline the conveyance feed process. The feed process will rely on pure force, using large electric motors to feed materials and assemblies upward. Essentially a conveyer belt. This process will ultimately engage the Seed Cable and a choreographed effort begins to position the structure in higher orbit.

This is not a skyscraper with offices, apartments, etc, so engineer's can ultilize, adapt new materials.

SE Purpose

SE will perpetuate a new economy, the formation of numerous industries, support contracts, produce high paying jobs, deliver natural resources to the planet, reduce orbital debris, and encourage tourism.

SE equates to Europe discovering the New World, building the United States Trans-continental railroad, the technological advances of the Space Race, and the generation of future economic wealth.

SE is a monumental engineering task that will allow people to continue to prosper and flourish on the surface of our changing planet.

confidentual email address not to be distributed or used for solicitation.

Sep. 20 2012 10:51 PM
Michael Laine from Near Seattle

That was a fun interview - thanks! (Please correct the spelling of my name; add an "e" at the end.)

@Ken - Thanks. It was a short interview, and it is sometime difficult to convey a complex project like this. Also, the Earth's Elevator usually gets all the attention, and so to tell folks that we're building the Lunar System first sometimes gets lost. I'm glad you picked up some of the details.

@John - Ya gotta know that you're not the first person to accuse us of getting 'high' all the time. ;-) In fact we briefly considered using "get higher!" as a marketing tagline. But to answer your point, you are correct, you can't point a 10 mile cable straight up. you MIGHT be able to build a super-Eiffel tower to perhaps 15-20km; but that would be the limit. And it would be a huge structure. Instead, with our system would hang the Ribbon back down from orbit. It's the difference between being a compression structure and a tension structure. One is doable, the other is not. (Of course, for the Earth system, we still don't have the materials viable - so for the time being, both are impossible.
@Larry - We also like "fly me to the moon" and U2's "elevation" and aerosmiths' "love in an elevator'!

Sep. 18 2012 11:28 AM
Ken Jackson from Maryland

@john: "... an unsupported cable of about ten (10 miles) is impossible with current technology."

Only ten miles? I've read several places that some scientists believe a carbon nanotube ribbon might be strong enough for a space elevator from earth. They just can't manufacture it yet.

But this article was short on facts. This news has been all over tech news sites, and they're planning to put a space elevator on the moon first. They'll string a cable from the moon through the L1 point so the earth's gravity keeps it taught instead of centrifugal force. It'll require a lot less tensile strength than the other.

It should be very doable. But you still have to use a rocket to get off the earth.

Sep. 12 2012 07:02 PM
John A from Earth.

There was a line early on in the report to the tune "how high can we go?"
LOL, I imagine a small cigarette being inhaled just after. The reason being that an unsupported cable of about ten (10) miles is impossible with current technology. So that means we can have one 100 Thousand miles long using NanoTechnology, right? Yes, Please inhale now.

Sep. 12 2012 04:00 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I wonder if Religious groups might start a kickstarter for a Tower Of Babel...
There are so many jokes here but I hate being snarky...still Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" could be the mood music on the elevator going up and there could be a button to listen to "Dark Side Of The Moon" during breakdowns and emergency repairs.

Sep. 12 2012 10:11 AM

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