dondigitalia

The Space Elevator

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I read in this morning's paper that NASA is offering a $400,000 cash prize for private companies to develop the technology required to make an elevator tall enough to put sattelites in orbit. I can't wait to see this happen!

I think it's a good sign that the development of this technology is being put in the hands of private companies, rather than NASA's. What are all of your thoughts on this?

P.S. The idea for the space elevator was apparently taken straight from a sci-fi novel published in 1978, although I threw the paper out already and can't remember the author or the book. If any of you know what book it is, please share.

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I think it's a good sign that the development of this technology is being put in the hands of private companies, rather than NASA's. What are all of your thoughts on this?

There has been a private company working on this all along. Check out their technology and business plan right here.

P.S. The idea for the space elevator was apparently taken straight from a sci-fi novel published in 1978, although I threw the paper out already and can't remember the author or the book. If any of you know what book it is, please share.

You're thinking of Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke. That's the most famous reference, but there were much earlier ones.

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I read in this morning's paper that NASA is offering a $400,000 cash prize for private companies to develop the technology required to make an elevator tall enough to put sattelites in orbit. I can't wait to see this happen!

I think it's a good sign that the development of this technology is being put in the hands of private companies, rather than NASA's. What are all of your thoughts on this?

P.S. The idea for the space elevator was apparently taken straight from a sci-fi novel published in 1978, although I threw the paper out already and can't remember the author or the book. If any of you know what book it is, please share.

I'm not sure who was the originator of the space elevator idea but Robert Forward was a big advocate of tethers in general. He wrote Flight of the Dragonfly and Martian Rainbow among others. The last presentation I saw him do on a space elevator the problem was in materials science (1992 or so). There was not anything strong enough to make one. Since then, I've read that new materials like Buckytubes make a space elevator a real possibility.

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There has been a private company working on this all along. Check out their technology and business plan right here.

Wow, I had no idea! This is so exciting!

You're thinking of Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke. That's the most famous reference, but there were much earlier ones.

That's exactly it.

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The more I read about this thing, the more fascinating it is!

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The space elevator is only the most famous application of tethers. You could use them to slingshot payloads from one orbit to another. The target orbit could have another tether that would catch the payload and boost it again allowing large orbital changes without having to use rocket fuel. In an airless environment like the moon you could replace a space elevator with a rotating tether that follows its own orbit. The tips of the tether would touch the surface at known spots around the globe and "catch" payloads on the surface. The rotation of the tether would then lift the payload to orbit where it can be released on its way. Or two spacecraft modules could be connected by a tether and spun on an axis to create a form of artificial gravity for the crew.

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I think that the original idea was published by a Russian, well before 1978, but I can't find the exact reference.

BTW, The Fountains of Paradise tells a story of industrial / scientific achievement driven by a dedicated entrepreneur. This is a story that would resonate with any Objectivist, IMHO.

$400k is truly peanut money. That would cover the cost of one engineer for 1 year, their office, a few tools, and that's it.

The appropriate motivation would be something like $1 billion cash & tax-free, plus 100 years of un-taxability. Or something of the sort.

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$400k is truly peanut money.  That would cover the cost of one engineer for 1 year, their office, a few tools, and that's it.

I was thinking that as well. There are a great many other values to be obtained by being the first one to the finish line in this race, though.

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I'm going to have to check out Fountains of Paradise. It sounds like a great story.

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I was thinking that as well. There are a great many other values to be obtained by being the first one to the finish line in this race, though.

Like the materials a space elevator would be made of. Anyone who can create a material that will make a space elevator practical is going to interest a lot of people. There would probably be more to be made from other industry applications than in an actual space elevator contract.

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I think that the original idea was published by a Russian, well before 1978, but I can't find the exact reference.

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. He discussed a similar idea sometime before 1900. Tsiolkovsky is quite revered by many Russian scientists, with his name attached to a basic rocket equation, developed well before the advent of the space age. The Russians deify him by reference to the "father of rocketry." I have a paper on him around here somewhere.

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I have a paper on him around here somewhere.

If this statement isn't my exact image of Stephen, I don't know what is. :)

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How is the system supposed to work? How much tension is in the tether?To what extent is the mass at the end in held by the tension vs. held by gravity?

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For the mathematically inclined, here is a good overview of the physical principles involved.

Anyone who is able to discover a method to manufacture the material required for space elevator (carbon nanotubes) or a stronger material will surely make a big fortune.

P.S. I was wondering if we could decrease the stress on the cable by filling the cable with vacuum. On the other hand, that might increase the atmospheric stress too much and even if the cable does hold, it will probably float about in winds rather than staying in one place.

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How is the system supposed to work? How much tension is in the tether?To what extent is the mass at the end in held by the tension vs. held by gravity?

The link Stephen posted earlier (www.liftport.com), puts a lot of it into layman's terms, or you can check out tommyedison's link.

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