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Courtesy LiftPort Group
The LiftPort Group has a bold and interesting plan -- to build a massive space elevator before 2020

The LiftPort Group has completed a second round of testing on a prototype space elevator platform that stretches a mile into the sky, which allows a robots to climb and descend the ribbon that is between the two platforms.  The LiftPort Space Elevator would allow a revolutionary way to get cargo and supplies into space -- using a cable thousands of miles long tethered to  an object in geosyncronous orbit.  The company hopes to build the space elevator by the year 2018, but the task will obviously not be easy.  The observation and communication platform that robots climbed is properly dubbed HALE, High Altitude Long Endurance.  HALE was secured in place by several high altitude balloons for over six hours.

The ribbon that will hopefully stretch 62,000 miles from Earth into space will be made of carbon nanotubes weighing less than 1.5 pounds per mile.  Although initial testing was done in Arizona, the space elevator will likely be anchored to an offshore sea platform that will be located somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

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By Souka on 2/16/2006 3:02:15 AM , Rating: 2
Why would the ribbon need to "stretch" 62,000 miles into space?

All gyo-syncronous (don't laugh at my spelling) objects are at approximately 32,000 miles from the Earths surface.

Also, "weighing less than 1.5 pounds per mile" Weight won't be an issue since gravity is very slight over 150 miles over the surface.....but if they need to get 62,000 miles of the stuff into space, that's 46.5 tons to lift... the space shuttle cargo lift is only 32.45tons...hmm... guess it'll be a multiple trip....

RE: Hmm.
By KristopherKubicki on 2/16/2006 3:18:15 AM , Rating: 2
I'll bite.

Even though you can obtain geosyncronous orbit at 32k miles, you would need a very heavy counterweight to keep the cable in place. You could just extend the cable further into space without the need for heavy, astroid sized counterweights. I am guessing that is the reason they are doing this.

Next, weight IS an issue. There is weightlessness in space, but you're still falling even when in orbit. This is why ISS needs to constantly boost even though it is orbit.

Anyways, the highest GTO of any rocket I know of is 29k lbs. 46 tons is like 4 trips.

RE: Hmm.
By SNM on 2/16/2006 4:05:43 AM , Rating: 2
Once they get the first portion up they can presumably lift more of it up over the elevator itself. Possibly that's even how they intend to do the whole thing.

RE: Hmm.
By Zirconium on 2/16/2006 4:06:15 PM , Rating: 2
Next, weight IS an issue. There is weightlessness in space, but you're still falling even when in orbit. This is why ISS needs to constantly boost even though it is orbit.

Something in orbit is continuously falling, so weight is not the issue. What is an issue is friction. Space is not a complete vacuum, and satellites do slow down.

However, you are right that the reason they are putting the platform in space farther than geosynchronous orbit (which is actually closer to 36k miles above the surface) is due to the need to for the satellite keep tension on the cable and not fall as something is going up the elevator.

RE: Hmm.
By sandytheguy on 2/16/2006 4:14:09 AM , Rating: 2
At 150 miles up gravity would only be down from 9.8 m/s^2 to 9.1 m/s^2, that's not much of a drop. At 62k miles it would be down to like .04 though.

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