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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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So what happens when the cable snaps?
By EODetroit on 2/16/2006 9:34:47 AM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't want to be on the counterweight if the cable snapped... you'd be thrown out into space. I wonder what their contigency plan is. Or maybe all the "equipment" that runs the thing will be placed at the center of gravity, and the counterweight is just dumb weight. But it makes sense to have your equipment as part of the counterwieght if it wasn't for the cable-snapping factor.

RE: So what happens when the cable snaps?
By lamestlamer on 2/16/2006 10:25:36 AM , Rating: 2
The counterweight will eliminate the orbital drag due to corriolis force. The point of the counterweight is that at all times, the weight of the counterweight-tether system is less than the centrifigal force. This will keep tension and will prevent it from being dragged down from a heavy rising load. It will also keep it normal to the surface of the planet, if it is anchored precisely at the equator. The problem is that you need a very heavy counterweight to cause oscillations to be small and slow: however, a very heavy counterweight will be extremely expensive.

I would also like to know how they are going to strand together nanotubes: nanotubes are cheap to make, but excedingly hard to manipulate.

By Micky2Shoes on 2/16/2006 7:40:15 PM , Rating: 2
I don't agree, let me put it another way. The coriolis force is the force needed to add all that extra angular momentum that a payload would have at GEO compared to at the ground. The force will act perpendicularly to the cable. There is no getting around it, you will need to periodically re-boost the counter weight. The only way you wouldn’t would be if there were no net mass transferred up the cable. I do admit that I could be wrong but I am 99% certain of this. I would appreciate enlightenment if you have any to offer but I would like some maths to prove it.

Also I believe coriolis is spelt with a single r (but I may be wrong again).

RE: So what happens when the cable snaps?
By LiamC on 2/16/2006 7:25:56 PM , Rating: 2
Read Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson.

What about the falling cable? Not pretty.

By Micky2Shoes on 2/16/2006 7:46:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yes that was a great book. I have seen a study somewhere on precisely this problem. If I remember correctly they concluded that there would be virtually no danger if the cable snapped.

RE: So what happens when the cable snaps?
By Micky2Shoes on 2/16/2006 7:53:56 PM , Rating: 2
Yes you are right but that’s a bit like saying I wouldn't want to be on an aeroplane when the wings fall off. If the thing is properly engineered it won't break.

By EODetroit on 2/17/2006 9:30:38 AM , Rating: 2
Except that in the early days of flight wings were probably torn off all the time. The consequences of which fall back to earth. In this scenario, a failure means you're flung out into space, probably a higher orbit, maybe one that isn't circular any more and will soon result in a re-entry. I doubt you could be flung completely free of the earth, but geo-sync is a long way up, and the counterweight would be thrown out even higher if the cable snapped.

I'm just curious what they plan on doing, or if they plan on it not happening ever.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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