The Only Way Is Up

The space elevator is a wonderful vision of a new route to space – but every road to low Earth orbit has its hazards. One such obstacle to overcome is the huge amounts of radiation that the climbers and their passengers would be exposed to while passing through the van Allen belts, but (unsurprisingly) the engineers working on beanstalk projects are already taking this into account in their speculative designs. Of course, it’s different for those who travel by rocket, as they spend a fraction of the time in the hot zone – which might explain why there’s been no shortage of applicants to the Russian space tourism program.

3 thoughts on “The Only Way Is Up”

  1. Tanks of water – which can be cached at the top for later use – around the passenger compartment – no worries.

    Well, for the passenger. Water is heavy – it’s going to cut into revenue just a bit.

  2. At 200kph (which sounds pretty fast given that you’re going straight up a cable), getting into orbit (at which point you can disembark the climber) doesn’t happen until you reach the balancing point, which is at 35,000 kilometers, right? That’s 175 hours (more than a week) to get up, and presumably another 175 to get back down. Better be a pretty comfortable climber…

    Also, when you’re up, you’d be geostationary, so your earthview would never change.

    Finally, wouldn’t you “power” the tether, not the climber, using solar energy captured in orbit?

  3. Better be a pretty comfortable climber…

    The image you’re looking for here is not airline travel in 2006 but more like rail travel in the heyday of rail in America, the 20s. A galley with regular meal service, sleeping berth and so on.

    Finally, wouldn’t you “power” the tether, not the climber, using solar energy captured in orbit?

    Chicken and egg problem. Using stuff in orbit is expensive and complicated – that latter may not change for a long time. We certainly can’t count on energy from orbit for the first one, thus the ground stations beaming power up to the lifter.

    I’m rambling now ..

    Energy is expensive, sure. But not more so than the cost of lifting and maintaining power stations in orbit to deliver power.

    Also we’d need more stations in orbit that we would ground side. They’ll be whirling past the ribbon, the laser gangs on the ground are fixed in place.

    You can _walk_ over the a ground-based laser and pop an inspection hatch. The same act on a space-based system requires an lengthy mission, an expensive vehicle to get there, special training to survive EVA …

    A ground-based laser also sooths political issues over having ‘lasers’ mounted in the sky orbiting over someone’s territory. Our are pointing out and up. Nobody is up there .. yet.

    More rambling – consider what a company that has experience with power beaming could do ..

    Beam power to satellites – hey it’s a revenue stream.

    Power UAVs. Better have five nines of quality if you’re delivering power to a vehicle over a populated area …

    Power Sats. Ya, I know the future is SPS using microwave arrays. But a rectenna is huge. The collector for an electron beam is small. Many places in the world depend on power brought in over long distances – copper theft if a huge problem for those lines.

    If a city in (say) Africa could pony up the money for a collector farm – and we’re not talking hundreds of acres just a few for the collector and a ‘danger area’ – then their power source is adjacent to the city and not hundreds of kms away, coming over terrain that may or may not be under their control.

    Imagine the impact if Egypt hat NOT needed the Aswan dam for power?

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