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Home » Tech Talk

Space Elevator

Submitted by on 5 July, 2018 – 4:32 am

Researchers gathered at the Space Lift Meeting on Thu. announced that an elevator could make transport to space so much more cheap than it is now, that firms could build huge solar-power farms in space to provide energy for folks on Earth.

That might eliminate the necessity to burn ordinary fuels and so reduce global temperature rises.  Gathered on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington, presenters at the meeting recounted they’ve worked out some issues but continue to face challenges to building a space lift. A space lift would basically be a long rope made from nanomaterials, stretching from Earth to a counterweight at geosynchronous altitude, about 22,000 miles ( 35,406 kilometers ) above Earth’s surface.

Special craft, like lift vehicles, would travel along the ribbon, carrying folk and products into space in a matter of days. The concept was first popularized in science-fiction stories, but with the discovery of carbon nanotubes in 1991, the ludicrous idea changed into a real chance, the researchers say.

That’s because now scientists can imagine building a powerful enough and long enough tether to build a space lift.  They assert the lift would make space travel far less expensive than it is now.  “The value of chemical rockets will keep us from exploring more of the solar system,” he claimed. Chemical rockets, like those used on the shuttle, employ a chemical fuel for power.

He conjectured it might cost more like $3,000 per kilogram to send items into the higher geosynchronous orbit on a space lift. Many of the gurus concluded that one reason to build an inexpensive transport technique is to build satellites for generating solar power. “Solar-power satellites is actually the largest need to haul heavy stuff to geosynchronous altitude,” asserted Keith Henson, founding father of L5 Society.

Laubscher concluded, asserting that space solar energy will be the second massive money-maker in space, after the current communications market. But it’s clear the researchers continue to wrangle with tricky challenges to building a lift. One issue debated at last year’s get-together was that of space junk. Each satellite or piece of waste at the same altitude as the lift would ultimately crash into it and destroy it, Ivan Bekey, a previous NASA scientist currently with Bekey Designs, claimed last year. One spokesperson this year claimed parts of that problem can be overcome.

The tether would connect on Earth to a ship that might be moved to pull the tether out of the way of major objects like satellites, declared Ben Shelef, founding father of the Spaceward Foundation.  Also, the tether should be flat and extraordinarily thin, like a chunk of Saran wrap, instead of round like a rope.

Smaller objects would simply puncture the tether instead of break it, he related. Still, his solution doesn’t answer the question Bekey raised last year about the results of oscillations that might result along the length of the tether when the ship on Earth moved. “We hadn’t thought of that,” Laubscher expounded Thu. . At this year’s meeting, he put out a call for folk who might have an interest in joining a bunch of folk to study and solve the issue. Other folks are proposing fluctuations on the architecture. Henson said using large pulleys to move the wires would make for an effective and more cost effective design. However, Shelef claimed the difficulty with moving wires is the moment they stop, they are going to get tangled together.

“If you build a system that depends on continuing motion to keep it alive, if it ever stops, the ribbons will touch, and then you’re done,” he revealed. He doesn’t think it’s practical to picture there would be no issues that will require operators to stop the wires. Researchers are also learning that some of their expectancies haven’t proved true. For instance, carbon nanotubes aren’t as powerful as originally thought Shelef claimed. Power systems for sending automobiles along a lift are also trickier to design then at first thought he announced. But none of these issues is a “showstopper,” he announced. They just mean that once the system is built, a trip up the lift might take some days rather than one, he announced.

The researchers will be discussing the elevator through the end of this week. On Friday, they’ll hear an update on a competition spearheaded by NASA for people interested in building strong tethers that could be used in a space elevator.

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