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European Space Agency engineer Age-Raymond Riice as developed a remarkably simple way to propel a space elevator upward with a series of rhythmic jerks.  (Source: BBC)
A new method could help realize dreams of a space elevator

A space elevator has been a long standing dream of many in the science and tech community.  Conceived by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895 and popularized by author Arthur C. Clarke, many believe the idea holds a great deal of real world promise, and may eventually provide the cheapest way to transport people and goods into space.  With many countries such as Japan, the ESA, and the U.S. finally getting serious in a race to become the first nation to develop a space elevator, enthusiasm is at a high.

Unfortunately, though, much of the materials and methods needed to build such an elevator are infeasible.  While carbon nanotubes could allow for a cable strong enough to hold a space elevator in theory, one key problem is how to propel the elevator along the cables into space.

Among the previously suggested methods of powering the climber into space were beaming microwave or laser power, or even concentrated solar power to the climber; but all these efforts have a long ways to go before being close to being feasible.

However, a remarkably simple idea proposed at the Second International Conference on Space Elevator and Tether Design in Luxembourg could hold the key to powering the space elevator.  European Space Agency ground station engineer Age-Raymond Riise showcased a remarkably simple propulsion method which uses a series of rhythmic jerks to propel a device upwards along a taut cable.

For his demo he tied brushes with their bristles pointing down, representing the elevator cabs around the broom stick, representing the elevator cable.  As the brushes pointed downward, they required less force to slide up than to slide down.  The assembly slid up and down along the broomstick, but experienced a net upwards motion, slowly climbing to the top of the broomstick.

The novel new method holds great promise as similar jerking motion could be applied to raise the elevator on a full-sized design, in theory.  The key technical challenge would be designing a cable strong enough to withstand the heat and forces exerted on it by the atmosphere. 

However, advocates argue that with payload costs still remarkably high, the financial and social incentives for building a space elevator are enormous.

Building a space elevator could enable novel new industries.  Describes Benoit Michel of the Catholic University of Leuven, a conference attendee, "From my point of view, the space elevator project is important because it enables a far more directly useful project - installation of large space solar power satellites around the Earth to provide continuous, cheap, CO2-neutral, environmentally friendly energy.  I firmly believe that the next century will have a large space-based industry and that industry will be the main energy provider for the whole mankind."

Mr. Riise has been approached by commercial aerospace terms about his idea and is in talks with them over terms.

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A bit misleading
By masher2 (blog) on 1/6/2009 8:43:01 AM , Rating: 6
What Jason doesn't mention in this article is the true appeal of the approach. Rather than other methods suggested which require the climber to either carry its own power or have motive power beamed to it, this method uses the cable itself to transmit power mechanically. The power is applied vibrationally at the cable base; the result at the climber is the series of "rhythmic jerks".

An interesting idea, for sure. As I see it, though, its going to suffer a very low efficiency due to damping losses in the cable itself.

RE: A bit misleading
By nosfe on 1/6/2009 8:46:19 AM , Rating: 2
yep, that's the first time i see jerks put to good use

RE: A bit misleading
By Samus on 1/7/2009 2:57:26 AM , Rating: 2
yep, that's the first time i see jerks put to good use

Silly...all jerks are put to good use. Their very existence is innocent, unless, of course, there is something better to do.

RE: A bit misleading
By Dreifort on 1/6/2009 11:47:33 AM , Rating: 2
I read the article thinking something completely different (and not related to Austin Powers).

I thought they were talking about elevators in space stations, lol. But I quickly understood they were talking about elevators from earth's surface.

My question is, what practical use would this serve? Other than building one at Disney Land and charging $500 per ride?

You couldn't connect this to anything on the other end...wouldn't earth's rotation or gravity pull it apart from the connection?

RE: A bit misleading
By masher2 (blog) on 1/6/2009 3:04:14 PM , Rating: 3
I'm not sure why you were rated down for asking a simple question, but the entire idea of the space elevator is for it to be strong enough to resist both the centripedal pull of rotation and its own weight. Stretch it out past geosynchronous orbit and attack a massive counterweight to then becomes a permanent, free-standing structure.

RE: A bit misleading
By Dreifort on 1/6/2009 4:08:04 PM , Rating: 2
ppl hate me for obvious reasons ;) (politics)

but will this be used to: launch satellites? repair satellites? dock with space stations/shuttles?

I can see it taking longer to maneuver a dock connection to an earth fixed asset than it would be to launch a shuttle and do a mid-flight dock.

RE: A bit misleading
By masher2 (blog) on 1/6/2009 5:18:47 PM , Rating: 2
It would be used to launch anything, at a (potential) cost of pennies of electrical power per pound, rather than the $10,000 or so it currently costs. That would open up the entire solar system to manned exploration (and exploitation) as once you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere, as far as total energy (dV, to be precise) is concerned.

As for docking with a space station, the cable's endpoint would itself become a station, one that would eventually become an entire city in space.

RE: A bit misleading
By Dreifort on 1/7/2009 9:51:45 AM , Rating: 3
(and because I saw the documentary about this last night) what about discharges in the air - lightning? wonder how they would pull the charges away from the cable?

I know this is the theorized culprit to the shuttle disaster in 2003. NASA wasn't sure how to handle the charges then - will they ever?

RE: A bit misleading
By mcnabney on 1/6/2009 8:54:19 PM , Rating: 3
There are two great challenges to the space elevator.

1. The cable. Even if the silly thing could be made, could you imagine how it could be conceivably put in place?

2. The counterweight. There is a great lack of million ton chunks of something in geosynchronous orbit. That means we have to launch it in pieces by rocket (at $10k a pound we are going way over the planets annual GDP) or find some way to wrangle an asteroid. Do you trust NASA to bring what could be a planet-killer close to Earth?

I don't see either of those tasks being accomplished until we enter a new age of technology.

RE: A bit misleading
By masher2 (blog) on 1/6/2009 10:21:09 PM , Rating: 3
> "Even if the silly thing could be made, could you imagine how it could be conceivably put in place?"

Put a cable factor in geostationary orbit; drop down an ultrathin fiber. Use that fiber to pull down sucessfully thicker strands.

> "There is a great lack of million ton chunks of something in geosynchronous orbit. "

If the cable is extended an equal distance past geosych, it obviates the need for a counterweight entirely. Furthermore, the counterweight could easily start small and all but the intial seed be driven up the cable itself, meaning it wouldn't need to be launched by rocket.

Finally, even a million-ton asteroid is far from a "planet killer". Those are more in the trillion (a million million) ton range.

RE: A bit misleading
By wordsworm on 1/7/2009 4:16:03 AM , Rating: 2
If the cable is extended an equal distance past geosych

I don't think you'd need an equal length past geo-synch. The distance past geo-synch. I believe that we're looking at exponential rather than linear. We're talking a centrifugal force. I don't really understand wiki's article on it, and my likely erroneous guess is that the equation would be F=d/dt(mv), which is complicated by the decay of F as the object gets further away from the gravitational effect of the earth.

Are there any physics experts here that can give a rough calculation on a kg?

In any case, I took a look around for some information, and didn't really find anything that helped me. However, another website asked the question, "What would happen if the orbital tower snapped? Bloody good question. I can't even begin to guess what kind of damage it would do. I think it's a good enough question that might make people stop laughing at the idea of an orbital tower.

RE: A bit misleading
By EODetroit on 1/7/2009 10:11:51 AM , Rating: 2
Anyone do the math on what happens if the cable snaps, maybe even altering the altitude of the break for the worst case scenario? Would the "top floor" be tossed out of earth orbit (a death sentence for the people on board), for example, or would it naturally settle into a higher orbit that is presumably recoverable?

RE: A bit misleading
By EODetroit on 1/7/2009 10:13:03 AM , Rating: 2
LOL jeez its in the post directly above this... I just didn't read quite far enough.

RE: A bit misleading
By masher2 (blog) on 1/7/2009 10:25:35 AM , Rating: 3
I don't really understand wiki's article on it, and my likely erroneous guess is that the equation would be F=d/dt(mv), which is complicated by the decay of F as the object gets further away from the gravitational effect of the earth.
You need a bit of basic calculus to do the equation. You combine an expression for the mass of the cable at any point (which would be a constant for a linear cable, but in reality would taper at both ends) with the expression for gravitity at a given point (GM/r^2), and the term for centripedal acceleration

Then, you integrate over the range from altitude 6,000 (earth's surface) to 42,000 (geosynch), and equate that to whatever range of integral gives you the same value from 42,000 to x, x being the length of your cable past geosynch.

You can do it in a single step by just requiring the total force on the cable to be zero, and finding the appropriate rnage of integration, but it may be a little easier to understand in the two-step process I outlined above.

To be truly accurate, you need to take in additional terms such as atmospheric drag, the fact the earth is actually an oblate spheroid, etc, etc.

RE: A bit misleading
By Cerberus90 on 1/12/2009 4:59:01 PM , Rating: 2
Thats not how they'd do it, you get a really long reel of the carbon nanotube cable, and attach one end to a rocket, and have that tow it into space.

:D :D :D

RE: A bit misleading
By Tyndel on 1/6/2009 12:05:09 PM , Rating: 2
However, what is the feasibility of moving that much mass up and down to gain a few feet/yards of upward movement per convulsion? How high up does the climber have to be before the vibration is changed to convulsion?

It seems, to me, to put some major strain on the anchor and would mean the other end of the cable couldn't be attached to a semi fixed location like a space station held in place a large part by centrifugal force canceling some of the gravity playing on the cable itself.

While any sort of cable based space elevator would require some room for play at the base, I would think a car running on tracks up the side like a train would be more feasible. Though if this were possible there would be very little to limit the size of the load that could be transfered upwards once it did get to the convulsion stage.

RE: A bit misleading
By masher2 (blog) on 1/6/2009 3:02:26 PM , Rating: 4
> "I would think a car running on tracks up the side like a train would be more feasible"

What do you power the car with? If you carry your own chemical fuel, you're back to the rocket equation, and the incredibly poor fuel-to-payload ratio thereof. You could try beamed power if you can deal with the focusing, generation inefficiencies, and atmospheric absorbtion issues, or you can try to carry a nuclear reactor aloft with you. That's about your only options.

This is a fresh new approach. Quite probably impractical...but still valuable for consideration.

RE: A bit misleading
By Reclaimer77 on 1/6/2009 4:43:00 PM , Rating: 1
The whole idea of the space elevator in itself is a crock. This approach is like trying to perfect a better screen door for a submarine.

RE: A bit misleading
By Sanity on 1/6/2009 5:30:51 PM , Rating: 3
Well as soon as you perfect a safe anti-gravity drive that can get us into orbit, and runs off of 6 AA batteries, let us know.

And your analogy is a crock. 0.o

RE: A bit misleading
By Tyndel on 1/6/2009 5:32:50 PM , Rating: 2
Seems to me electricity would be the most obvious solution. Beaming either microwave or laser is just too inefficient.

One of the advantages one could expect from having a space elevator and station would be a cheap efficient way of sending converted solar energy to earth without having to use beaming at all. And if we are already generating electricity at the top and sending it down why not just use, that, to power the climbers?

We are likely, as close to an ambient temperature superconductor(currently ~212K), as we are to the tinsel strength required to hold a space elevator together.

RE: A bit misleading
By masher2 (blog) on 1/6/2009 5:46:27 PM , Rating: 2
> "Seems to me electricity would be the most obvious solution."

Work out the weight of 35,000 km of high-power cable and insulation. Added to the tower, that's a substantial consideration. Also, the line losses over that length are astronomical. There's a reason most power plants are within a few hundred miles of the areas they serve.

Still, some combination of ultra-HVDC transmission and possibly using the cable itself as a conductor might turn out to be feasible.

RE: A bit misleading
By albundy2 on 1/7/2009 3:57:31 PM , Rating: 2
cnt's are conductive correct? cnt's are also the only trully feasable material to construct the cable correct?
iirc cnt's are also one of the best, if not the best electrical conductor. [i beleive i read that here, in a past article.] it would then make the most sense to use the cable as the/an energy source.

i was thinking while reading this article, why not use a helium baloon to power/assist the first few miles up. it would at least shed some weight until the atmosphere, wind or whatever negated the benefit.

RE: A bit misleading
By Gestahl on 1/14/2009 3:24:02 AM , Rating: 2
While CNT's may be conductive, and one day made strong enough for such a project... this isn't the case just yet. When claims are made about strong materials for structural applications, they seem frequently to neglect the elementary science of scale. Just because it is possible to produce a nanotube of carbon which has a calculated strength of 130 GPa and a measured strength approaching that value, it does not mean that this can be translated into a fibre of a length visible to the naked eye, let alone the 120,000 km needed to begin thinking about a space-elevator. Estimating a cable material with a tensile strength/mass ratio of at least 130 GPa/(1300 kg/m^3) would be required to support such dreams.

Assuming we do find a material with a tensile strength strong enough to support itself across the vast distance from surface to <geo orbit, there are other issues that come into play. Corrosion is a major risk to any thinly built tether (which most designs call for). In the upper atmosphere, atomic oxygen steadily eats away at most materials. A tether will consequently need to either be made from a corrosion-resistant material or have a corrosion-resistant coating, adding to weight. While there are known materials (such as gold and platinum which are practically immune to atomic oxygen... or a more common metal such as aluminum which is damaged very slowly, could be repaired as needed)

Also we have the effectiveness of the magnetosphere to deflect radiation emanating from the sun decreasing dramatically the further away from the surface the tether/cable/tower is. This ionizing radiation may cause damage to materials within both the tether/cable/tower and climber(s).

Until these issues can be resolved, while pulling together the many other variables, the dream of a space elevator is nothing more than that, a dream to science geeks (myself included).

RE: A bit misleading
By wordsworm on 1/7/2009 4:41:48 AM , Rating: 3
If you carry your own chemical fuel, you're back to the rocket equation, and the incredibly poor fuel-to-payload ratio thereof.

Something to make up for my Texan bashing - think "nuclear powered car". Can't really make a rocket that uses nuclear thrust, but since climbing an orbital tower would require mechanical energy it would be quite 'easy' to utilize nuclear power to send something into orbit.

I still prefer the idea of using maglev space launches. Surely it would be cheaper. You only need about 4mm of track, and if you could launch it 10km from sea level, a lot of the issues of friction (with the rest of it being encased in a vacuum) could be addressed. I can't help but think it would be a heck of a lot safer than an orbital tower to boot.

RE: A bit misleading
By jlips6 on 1/8/2009 4:57:14 PM , Rating: 2
perhaps this is just me displaying my ignorance, but why not use an improvised version of a counterweight system? line going down one side, then the opposite side.
|( )| i mean, it is an elevator after all...
|( )| and dailytech also messes up ascii pictures. grr.
|( )|
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0( )0
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RE: A bit misleading
By Amiga500 on 1/6/2009 12:56:39 PM , Rating: 2
Well, to be honest, it is a bit obvious isn't it?

I'd like to think (at least most) of the readers at DT are smart enough to realise the connotations. :-)

RE: A bit misleading
By Amiga500 on 1/6/2009 12:57:37 PM , Rating: 2
That should probably have been implications, not connotations.

RE: A bit misleading
By Dharl on 1/6/2009 12:58:36 PM , Rating: 2
Section off the elevator with a "repeater" in place. Then you wouldn't have to worry as much about tension of the cable and or loss of motion.

Of course the question then becomes: How do you section off such a device without causing any sort of interference with the motion?

RE: A bit misleading
By Sanity on 1/6/2009 2:00:49 PM , Rating: 3
Since you're being serious, I'll make a serious reply myself.

How about, when we come up with a cable strong enough, we give it the capability to expand and contract in a way that would increase and decrease the diameter of the cable itself. This would create a sort of wave that a car could ride up or down. Kind of like how our intestines push food around, but on the outside. I mean hey, if we're making carbon cables that are thousands of miles long, why not.

RE: A bit misleading
By 2uantuM on 1/6/2009 2:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
Why not just make the cable have a core made of some conductive metal (for power),surrounded by carbon fiber (and possibly some insulation, and then more conductive metal around the outside for ground? Sort of like a giant coax cable. The just cut a slit up the side so the elevator can get easy access to the power and then use a motor to work its way up.

RE: A bit misleading
By Sanity on 1/6/2009 3:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
Seems to me that just the motor added to the car would add weight you don't need. Let alone adding thousands of miles of metal in the cable itself. And sending power over thousands of miles of cable is not easy. If the elevator idea were that easy, we wouldn't be reading stories like this. We'd be reading about how over-budget the project was already.

RE: A bit misleading
By Amiga500 on 1/6/2009 3:10:59 PM , Rating: 2
Here is a thought...

Why not just use a winch?

1 guide line and 1 pulley line. The space station at the top of the elevator has to have quite a bit of mass to stay up... so stick a power plant in there (nuclear and or solar - if it would provide enough juice), attach a winch to the elevator itself, and away you go...

RE: A bit misleading
By foolsgambit11 on 1/6/2009 7:16:02 PM , Rating: 2
I imagine the fear is that, if the upper winch cable breaks.... I guess you could have emergency breaks on the car, that wouldn't add much weight.

I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By Proteusza on 1/6/2009 8:18:08 AM , Rating: 3
As above...

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By dreddly on 1/6/2009 8:20:09 AM , Rating: 5
I can't count the number of times I have been proposed carefully timed jerks only to be sorely disappointed...

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By tastyratz on 1/6/2009 8:23:18 AM , Rating: 3
did they try to get you for more than the standard rate afterward?

Sorry Mick, but I think you must have known before you submitted this the majority of the comments would be dirty.

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By MrBlastman on 1/6/2009 9:33:47 AM , Rating: 5
If they time their jerks just right, they can shoot that load right up into space!

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By MrBlastman on 1/6/2009 9:46:55 AM , Rating: 5
This does beg the question though... what are they using as a lubricant? I mean, they aren't just going at it in the rough are they?

Of course, I've always said that a little friction heats things up.

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By Zshazz on 1/6/2009 9:51:12 AM , Rating: 5
Of course they will. With as much action as this things gonna see, the last thing they want to do is chafe the shaft.

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By Dreifort on 1/6/2009 11:43:58 AM , Rating: 5
instead of liftoff...will it be jerkoff?

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By phxfreddy on 1/6/2009 11:53:34 AM , Rating: 2
Appears you guys are engaging in mass-debates over this subject.

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By MrBlastman on 1/6/2009 1:03:35 PM , Rating: 3
Nah, we're just a circle of jerks. ;)

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By Dreifort on 1/6/2009 1:04:27 PM , Rating: 3
don't let us rub off on you

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By DPigs on 1/6/2009 1:42:10 PM , Rating: 3
Lol. This thread is made of pure win. =D

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By Dreifort on 1/6/2009 2:04:19 PM , Rating: 2
Don't break the rythm DPigs... we don't want to end this thread before it climaxes.

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By Drexial on 1/6/2009 2:29:19 PM , Rating: 5
Jerking always did seem like the cheaper way to get a load out.

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By tastyratz on 1/6/2009 2:36:14 PM , Rating: 2
what about what the shaft is made of? It has to be VERY stiff and point straight to the sky or they are in for a big mess after the load launches.

By Dreifort on 1/6/2009 2:45:28 PM , Rating: 2
the engineers asked where they were supposed to put the new elevator shaft... the scientists repsonded, "Anywhere, but if you get it near a black hole, that would suck...and if you point it in the wrong direction, that would blow."

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By MrBlastman on 1/6/2009 2:48:34 PM , Rating: 2
The last time I got shafted by a stiff I... umm...

oh, whoops...

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By Dreifort on 1/6/2009 2:59:05 PM , Rating: 2
if you take a date on this elevator, will she tell her friends how she had the ride of her life?

or will she say it was out of this world?

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By MrBlastman on 1/6/2009 3:36:56 PM , Rating: 2
It depends on how good you were with your hands...

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By Dreifort on 1/6/2009 3:47:38 PM , Rating: 3
just have to push all the right buttons and hope you reach the top floor before the cable pops.

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By cheetah2k on 1/6/2009 4:11:13 PM , Rating: 2
Husband: Hey baby, how about a bit of bump n grind tonight?

Wife: Sorry honey, I'm taking the Space Elevator!

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By Dreifort on 1/6/2009 4:19:06 PM , Rating: 2
sorry, space elvator is out of commission for 45 mins.

overcast weather, there is a whiteout up top.

RE: I see this idea in an Austin Powers movie
By tastyratz on 1/6/2009 4:27:05 PM , Rating: 2
a shaft like that could really set the mood with a little "atmosphere"... don't you think?

By acase on 1/7/2009 9:17:21 AM , Rating: 3
"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Looks like we have at least another 50 years to be backed up before this idea comes.

Orbital Towers
By wordsworm on 1/6/2009 1:49:37 PM , Rating: 3
I always preferred the term 'orbital tower' to 'space elevator.' Somehow the latter term connotes bad music on the world's longest elevator ride. Who here would want to listen to Avril Lavigne music at 1/2 speed played on a synthesizer for an hour?

What I don't understand about this whole issue is why they figure the energy in sending ships to space is an issue. As far as I know, the earth's rotation provides all the energy they need to get out. I understand that from the base to some point energy needs to be used, but after that point that energy could be recouped by adding magnetic generators at the end point which would siphon off the energy from the goods at the end of the launch. The longer the launch, the more force would be applied to the goods being launched.

RE: Orbital Towers
By Alareth on 1/6/2009 3:17:02 PM , Rating: 2
I prefer the term skyhook.

RE: Orbital Towers
By Rivenburg on 1/6/2009 4:02:11 PM , Rating: 2
hey someone with a brain AND an education.

Yes after midpoint the centripetal force would propel you out & slowing down would be an issue.

what most people miss about this structure is that it WONT BE PRIMARILY FOR GETTING INTO SPACE.
It will primarily be a superconducting power link to the earth from a massive ring of solar sats at the 26000 mile Geo-sych point.

Power for the climbing wont be an issue, just grab a tiny piece of the insanely intense electrical field a few meters away via magnetic field it will generate. Super conducting materials allow almost NO penetration of themselves by magnetic fields thus they would have one from this powerful a current on the outside of the cable.
In a real life space tower, powering the lift wont be a problem.

Now lets discuss the movement of a 26000 mile long cable massing more then several cities worth of sky scrapers.
BZZZT, non-starter. The energy involved is insane. Complete power loss on each stroke up in the gigajoules range. This will turn to heat at some point & be a real mess.

The only way to use this method is to have a VERY small secondary cable to vibrate up & down AND it has to be powered from the space end so it's pulling not pushing. fortunately thats where all the free power is.

chances are the midpoint will be a station that allows the car to be reversed for the second half of each trip to keep the appearant local "down" on the floor and to control the climb/decent.

RE: Orbital Towers
By masher2 (blog) on 1/6/2009 5:24:59 PM , Rating: 2
> "I understand that from the base to some point energy needs to be used, but after that point that energy could be recouped"

True-- but that point is geosychronous orbit, 35,000 km straight up. The energy required to do that is quite considerable, and can be calculated straight from the old PE equation, u=mgh.

RE: Orbital Towers
By wordsworm on 1/7/2009 3:50:03 AM , Rating: 2
OK Spock... I mean Mash, for the sake of fun old physics math which isn't one of my abilities, how much longer than 36mm would the orbital tower have to be to recoup the energy required to launch? Instinct tells me that even at 1km, we'd be talking about some serious speed. Consider that a good sling can propel a rock fast enough to brain Goliath.

From what I understood, any orbital tower at all would require a length greater than 35.7mm anyways, just to keep it up. So, I don't know how many more km/mm would be required to recoup the energy used to launch a kg into space, I'm sure it's significant.

RE: Orbital Towers
By masher2 (blog) on 1/7/2009 11:36:58 AM , Rating: 2
For a precise figure you need to write an integral, which I outlined a few posts up. But if all you want is a "free ride", there's a much simpler way. The energy you expend on the way up can be recovered on the way down through regenerative braking (the same tech used on hybrid cars). You'd need a godawful massive battery to store the energy, but in theory at least its possible.

Now, if you want to use the elevator for launches beyond earth orbit, you simply build it beyond geosynch and use the excess dV to launch. One 150,000 km long, for instance, would give you a free ride to anyway in the solar system, if you're willing to use slow Hohmann-transfer trajectories at least.

By JonnyDough on 1/6/2009 7:05:49 PM , Rating: 2
A cable will add substantial weight and is quite impractical. This idea will never work, nor will it ever happen. Some sort of maglev is more likely, or maybe using a light gas to slowly lift the vehicle in combo with something else, is much more practical. I imagine a really light gas would work well to raise it up to a certain height, and then pumping that gas into a central tube on the tower to provide more pressure would be able to jet the vehicle once it reaches a certain point. The lightest weight, most efficient and SLOW method of raising the elevator is obviously going to be the way it works. If this thing ever does get off the ground, it will most likely take DAYS to reach the top, not minutes. The transport vehicle has to be pressurized as well. This will be THE engineering feat of mankind.

I really believe that some sort of a balloon with a light weight gas, which is then used to pressure lift the elevator once in the lighter atmosphere is the most likely way this will be done.

RE: Impractical.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/6/2009 7:33:09 PM , Rating: 2
The entire concept of a Space Elevator is impractical itself.

RE: Impractical.
By JonnyDough on 1/7/2009 12:05:27 AM , Rating: 2
Not necessarily. I think it is possible...but the whole "tethered to the ground" thing is pretty crazy. People think elevator and they automatically think cables. A cable of that proportion could never support it's own weight. A tower itself (tower of Babel ring a bell?) would come crashing down too. No wonder everyone started speaking in tongues, the impact would create an earthquake that would leave the brain's language center all jumbled. Obviously, any space elevator would have to be connected to the moon, and built from both ends. In fact, we'd be more likely to accidentally pull the moon into earth than anything. Maybe you're right. Maybe this is just another stupid idea. Quantum mechanics has a better chance to offer a solution of swapping the properties of particles in two different places than a space elevator ever has of coming to fruition. You know, like a worm hole/warp gate or what have you. I'd look to the particle accelator/collider scientists to come up with a way to get people and objects to space before I expect an elevator.

RE: Impractical.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/7/2009 5:55:03 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't say the idea of a Space Elevator is stupid. But yes, I believe for the here and now, its a bit.... much.

The metalurgical requirements alone for a project of that scope isn't anywhere NEAR possible.

I have never been a doomsayer, but yes, as you say there could be unforeseen consequences of such an Elevator as well. Not to mention the very real threat that a small meteor or something could impact it with disastrous results.

how does the cable stay taut?
By bohhad on 1/6/2009 10:44:28 PM , Rating: 2
maybe somebody can explain this (slowly) to me... how does the space elevator cable stay up in space? wouldn't enough weight on the elevator pull the anchor back to earth?

RE: how does the cable stay taut?
By bohhad on 1/6/2009 10:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
would centrifugal force keep it in orbit?

RE: how does the cable stay taut?
By masher2 (blog) on 1/7/2009 11:42:18 AM , Rating: 2
Look at it this way. At geosynchronous orbit, a satellite rotates in exact time with the earth, right? That implies that below that height, a satellite moves faster than the earth revolves, and above that height, slower.

So all the mass on the cable below geosynch is rotating too slow to stay in orbit on its own. That exerts a downward force. By itself, it would fall down, yes.

But all the mass on the cable *above* that height is now moving faster than orbital velocity, meaning centripedal acceleration pulls it outward. Put enough mass past geosynch, and the entire system has a net upward force, stronger than gravity.

RE: how does the cable stay taut?
By bohhad on 1/7/2009 8:01:09 PM , Rating: 2
OK, thanks for the explanation, masher. Makes sense now.

By Spivonious on 1/6/2009 9:46:08 AM , Rating: 2
So the rhythmic jerks who spend all day in the arcade playing DDR are going to help space elevators?

By Omega215D on 1/6/2009 9:52:20 AM , Rating: 2
I think they meant those snobby iPod users always dancing in the background with their iPods. =P

Anyway jerks are not careful with their timing which makes them jerks.

By lagitup on 1/6/2009 10:51:24 AM , Rating: 2
I think it actually referred to the people who have tinny speakers in either their phone or iPod and force us all to listen to their crappy music, carefully timed for when you have a headache >.<

By wingless on 1/6/2009 12:29:45 PM , Rating: 2
Gundam is becoming a reality. All we need now are GMs and ZGMF Zakus.

Seriously though, reading daily tech is like seeing ideas for some new sci-fi Japanese anime. Real life is getting interesting finally (especially if RL doesn't end on or about Dec 21st 2012).

RE: Gundam
By Darkness Flame on 1/6/2009 12:44:07 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking something similar. It's like ... the creators of Gundam 00 knew what was going to happen before hand ... now all we need are the mechs to go with it.

RE: Gundam
By nugundam93 on 1/7/2009 8:21:06 AM , Rating: 2
I'm waiting for celestial being's intervention if AEU doesn't complete their orbital tower. hahaha.

but seriously, one of the posters here mentioned using the tower as a connection to basically solar arrays in orbit...and that would be good for energy production.

lockon stratos, nerai yutsu ze!

By Totally on 1/6/2009 8:47:16 AM , Rating: 1
Carefully timed jerks on his stick shoots one into space.

RE: Never
By rudolphna on 1/6/2009 1:37:14 PM , Rating: 2
sorry, not nearly as funny as the ones talking about austin powers....

By HelToupee on 1/6/2009 9:23:42 AM , Rating: 2
I guess the Beastie Boys will have a job then. :)

By Integral9 on 1/6/2009 9:43:44 AM , Rating: 2
Isn't this just another version of a space tether? Since CNTs are conductors and assuming they could be used much in same way a tether is used to generate electricity, could they not also generate their own electricity using the earth's magnetic field?

By mikefarinha on 1/6/2009 10:22:17 AM , Rating: 2
Someone's been listening to too much Aerosmith - Love In An Elevator anyone?

By PigLickJF on 1/6/2009 11:50:15 AM , Rating: 2
I could be wrong, but it seems like this idea, while working very well on a 3-foot broomstick, would have trouble translating to a ~50-100 mile-long cable. It seems like the energy loss over that distance would be far too great to allow this method to get something all the way up the elevator.

By Smilin on 1/6/2009 3:38:29 PM , Rating: 2
I can't adequately describe the image that came to mind when reading this headline.

It involved the comedian Steve Martin, one of those arrow-through-the-head novelties, some thick black rimmed plastic glasses, 80's background music, and him dancing.

Did anyone else get the same vision? You'd know it if you did.

Time for some Seinfeld
By lownotslow on 1/6/2009 7:21:24 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like a good time for George Costanza's jerk store to hit the ground running.

Rhythmic jerks and sky hooks
By owyheewine on 1/7/2009 10:24:57 AM , Rating: 2
The rhythmic jerks that I know are all busy touting global warming and designing sky hooks.

what about the ionosphere?
By clickitysplit on 1/14/2009 1:17:07 AM , Rating: 2
wouldn't all that conductive material passing through the ionosphere generate more than enough electricity to drive the elevator?

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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