Space elevators and orbital solar power

Tom James @ 05-01-2009

neonA nice confluence of Clarkian techno-positivism and 21st century orbital solar power in this post on Short Sharp Science:

There’s another slight problem: the elevator doesn’t exist.

And neither do the supermaterials that could make it a reality. The elevator community’s oft-quoted carbon nanotube fibres languish in labs unable to stretch more than a few tens of centimetres without breaking.

All the more reason, says Swan, to get serious research into elevator technology underway. “We should initiate the space elevator project now and have the space solar power people buy into the concept that we’ll have one by 2030 and start planning for it. Instead of a 50-year horizon, let’s have a 20-year one.”

Stirring stuff. The space elevator is in the class of things I definitely hope to see within my lifetime.

[from Short Sharp Science][image from tanakawho on flickr]

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2 Responses to “Space elevators and orbital solar power”

  1. Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) says:

    There are alternatives to a Space Elevator that don’t require materials made of unobtainium. For instance, Keith Lofstrom’s “Launch Loop”, and J. Storrs Hall’s “Space Pier”. I like the idea of the Space Pier especially; I think we understand the economics better, and there’s less advanced technology involved.

    The only problem with JoSH’ economic analysis is that it’s based on using diamond as the construction material, and assumes a major reduction in the cost of large pieces based on nanotechnology manufacturing. That requires a major research effort, almost as large as for carbon nanotube elevator tape. I think other construction techniques, including inflated structures made of more standard materials could do the same job in a much shorter timeframe.

  2. Tom James says:

    Thanks for that, I agree about the inflated structures thing – now we just need some kind of incentive – economic stimulus? Claim your own homestead on the Moon? /Facetiousness

    One or the other of these structures would be a truly great thing to do, and I hope to be around to use it.