Space Tethers and Space Elevators

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Since the whole system is moving at the speed of geostationary orbit, the counter-balance weight exerts centrifugal force on the station a higher orbit has a lower orbital velocity. The energy to lift the climber will be equivalent to that needed to push the same mass to orbit, yes.

Not to mention the fuel to take the fuel…. The rocket equation sucks, space elevators fix it.

A colossal elevator to space could be going up sooner than you ever imagined

Tether snapping is of course the major concern, but that was mentioned in the article. Materials science has a long way to come yet, so this engineering test is just that, a test. A is bullshit. For the space elevator case, though, the weight of the payload is borne by cable tension, not thrust.

This benefit compounds — not only do we save the delta-v otherwise wasted on fighting gravity, but it allows us to use high-impulse, low-thrust engines, such as the various types of ion thruster, needing less propellant for the same delta-v. Of course, a terrestrial elevator remains a pipe dream or a tool to fleece investors, as you say , if for no other reason than because materials science is nowhere close to making it work.

I agree. This is a crackpot scheme that has been kicking around for a while now, but basic physics will keep it from ever being a reality.


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At least his idea could be used for both power generation and global travel and shipping. A true orbital ring, though a huge project, seems to me not only more feasible, but more useful than a space elevator or two. As you say, a network of orbital rings a couple hundred miles up could essentially replace air travel and carry solar power down efficiently. Also, host wireless transceivers, carry intercontinental fiber optic lines…. What do you mean materials limitations though?

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IIRC, something like a thin aluminum cable could work for a minimal initial ring. Definitely way more feasible than a geosynchronous elevator, but definitely has hundreds of extremely non-trivial engineering challenges that are almost always ignored. We have lots of issues designing large bridges over water, and spend billions on relatively mundane terrestrial infrastructure projects. Imagine an unwanted resonance building up in something this big. Guaranteed it would still be at least a couple orders of magnitude more difficult and expensive to build than any expert today expects.

Total myth. People knew of the existence of birds back then, so clearly nobody competent was saying powered heavier-than-air flight was against the laws of physics. No credible scientist ever claimed that back then, and those things are fundamentally different. Plenty of credible people are correct to point out the lack of any form of solid matter with the required tensile strength. People knew perfectly well that rockets and bullets etc. An airplane could temporarily break the sound barrier in a dive, but that was it.

The first planes that broke the sound barrier were rockets…, albeit dropped from aircraft for the most part. Instead of a rocket assisted takeoff are you meaning more of a jet plane assisted takeoff? In fact propellers can easily see transonic flow while the aircraft is very subsonic. Note that the XFH, surely the best known example of a propeller designed for and operated in the supersonic regime, did in fact fly.

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When the entire prop meets an airflow faster than sound, its efficiency essentially drops to zero. Propellers are made of airfoils. Clearly there have been airfoils created that produce lift at supersonic speeds, so if you want a prop that generates thrust in the supersonic regime, you just need to design it for that. The XFH is a turboprop craft, which derives part of its thrust from the jet.

As long as the counterbalance is heavy enough and far enough out, perturbations are self-correcting. The difficulties in space elevators are materials science and assembly. So far, long tether lines have had bad habits in space. However, shorter lines had been used to stabilize a few satellites. You may be thinking of the Italian satellite, more than 20 years ago. And 22 km long tether. Compared to, say, rowing across the atlantic, yes, km to geostationary is fast. Dunno about you, but the hour trip from Dallas to Sydney in an airbus is trying enough.

And how much prep time is expended before the few minutes of flight in a rocket launch? I suspect the elevator will still a significant net win in time on top of money. As for humans…think about what accommodations are like on the ISS. Maybe with a stop partway up for the ones with parachutes. In order to get to geo stationary, you have to pass thru the Van Allen radiation. AFAIK, very few, if any, materials would be able to retain any useful properties in that kind of bombardment environment for long. IIRC, boron-nitride nanotubes are somewhat more radiation resistan than the carbon versions that are usually bandied about as a hypothetical material, but even those may not be good enough.

Some kind of lightweight replaceable? I suppose some kind of electrostatic or magnetic shielding might be a solution. The field would have to be safe for climbers to pass through. Lots of engineering still to be done there. A theoretically strong enough cable might be the least of it. Lol thats just mostly bullshit. We do not learn anything from it about building space elevators.


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  • Actually IMHO this weird experiment does not zeach us anything. As you pointed out the challenge is in big parts the material science of building the cable and thats what money should be invested in. And just some general thing: Only if there is some company which claims to be able to realize some utopic goal in 50 years does not suggest its possible. Hell, there have been companies claiming perpetuum mobiles or reactionless drives.

    Those guys are probably just idiots. Also your comparison to faster than light travel is highly inappropriate.

    Space Tethers and Elevators by Les Johnson - Baen Books

    Building a space elevator can be seriously discussed, but sorry, faster than light travel is just unphysical nonsense. Ive read better articles here. Alcubierre lays out a decent pathway, admittedly being able to create perhaps more importantly end the warp bubble is far from understood but we have a decent idea of the energies involved. Roughly the energy held in a mass on the order of Jupiter the last time I checked. Ending one of those warp bubbles is predicted to send a stream of extremely high energy particles in the direction of travel as well, so you need to be extremely careful not to actually point your vessel at where you want to go for fear of sterilising it with radiation.

    Space elevators merely require nano-unobtanium materials, the absence of orbital debris, and utterly impractical mega-construction projects.

    Cold fusion and superluminal travel require substituting fantasy for physics. The Alcubierre drive is theoretical, but the math has held up to scrutiny so far. Enough that NASA recognizes it enough to work on a warp-field interferometer. The same as space elevators, but even farther out. You forgot the part of the Alcubierre drive that requires negative mass. Negative mass! Mass is independent of gravity so the two are quite different.

    The math kinda works if you assume the existence of negative energy density. So how do you steer, or even stop for that matter? And it still allows communication between two parts of the universe faster than a photon would travel through a flat vacuum, which breaks causality no matter how it happens.

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    You can have causality, relativity, or FTL. Pick two. We are already extremely certain about relativity, and breaking causality is logically absurd and has never ever been observed, even when astronomical amounts of energy and violently twisted space-time is involved. Quantum scale maybe, people scale—that would be truly incredible. It would represent about the only hope left for FTL.

    One Small Step For A Space Elevator

    BTW, the 36Mm distance is valid only if you want to put the station at geosynchronous orbit. The heavier this object, the farther the L1 point to the object, and the closer to Earth the end station. Another idea is also found in SF, is to have a cable not connected to ground hanging in the sky but attached to a much closer satellite. The station would then rotate and let the other end of the cable fall down to earth while the hooked end is being lifted.

    This is called Skyhook and is probably more realizable.