17 Oct 2008

Article: Space Elevator!

CEans,

It has been long time since anyone from our team (that's all of us, including you!) has written any article. So I thought of converting a discussion I'm having with my father into an article. The discussion is inspired from our Small Talk with Mr. Burt Rutan - The Race For Space. Here's what we have been discussing -

Engineers from all over the world have been trying hard to conquer the big space out there. One of the most successful and commercially viable project so far is Mr. Burt Rutan's Space Ship One/Two and the White Knight. So, we have been thinking, are there any other ways to take humans to the space, let them enjoy the zero g conditions at a very affordable rate. For the sake of information, the tickets for space ship two are way beyond common man's reach. I heard that the tickets are about 200,000 USD for a single person (correct me if I'm wrong). There must be a cheaper & safer method to take the common man into space.

What we have been thinking of is a giagantic elevator to the space. The construction would involve setting up a tower [similar to the Eiffel Tower] and installing high capacity motors and a mechanism to pull the lift to the top, smoothly. Now, our traditional steel cables won't be very effective. So we thought of the Maglev principal to take the lift up to the top. The columns will have high-power magnets mounted all around the inner parts of the tower, surrounding the cabin. The magnets will be powered in succession and the magnets planted around the cabin will be polarized accordingly to develop repulsive force. This mechanism can take the lift up and down at any controlled speed.

The advantages of this mechanism would be many, over the space ship one/two and other mechanisms. First of all, it will be an extremely safe system. Secondly, the operating cost of such a system would be little as compared to the rocket fuel required to power the space ships. The system will be able to carry 20-40 people to the space at the same time as against 6 people in Space Ship!

The biggest challenge, however will be to construct the sky-high towers. I invite all comments, thoughts and more ideas from all our CEans. I want all of you to extend our discussion.

[PS: Do rate the article by clicking on 'Rate Thread' ] 😀
Mayur Pathak

Mayur Pathak

Branch Unspecified
22 Oct 2008
Some doubts-

1. What about the stability of the structure.
2. Maglev is currently used only for a super sonic linear horizontal motion. For that principle to work vertically, it will need a controlled environment so that the elevator is not darted away from the structure and thrown into space. So what would be the polarity parameters you will apply... and how?
3. Burj Dubai is easily the tallest building in the world and look how difficult and extremely costly it is to construct it. How do you propose the construction of the elevator to be economically viable?
4.
the_big_k
The advantages of this mechanism would be many, over the space ship one/two and other mechanisms. First of all, it will be an extremely safe system.
I disagree. Tell me how? Also, what would be the proposed height?
22 Oct 2008
Well, there's a difference between a tower like burj dubai which is meant to accommodate people and have all other facilities. For the space elevators, the towers will be of the form of Eiffel Tower (Maybe structural engineers can comment on it) . Eiffel tower, though not very tall, by the nature of its construction has a great stability.

Yes, Maglev is currently being used for horizontal supersonic transport. But the space elevator can make use of the priciple: Like poles repel each other. I believe the speed can always be controlled by successive formaing of magnetic poles all around the cabin.

Initial cost of construction might be huge : but in the long term, its going to be a huge cost save. That's all I believe. Experts, please comment! 😀

mahul

mahul

Branch Unspecified
22 Oct 2008
Does not seem very feasible to me. For instance, the construction would involve transporting the construction materials over enormous vertical distances often with weights far greater than those of 20-40 persons. How would we arrange that?
Ashraf HZ

Ashraf HZ

Communications
22 Oct 2008
I think it'll be quite expensive to line high powered magnets (and very heavy) all the way to space. You need to traverse 100 km to be at space. You'd also need a very large base to support it. Its better to have rockets assist the launch rather than use magnets 100%.

Exactly do you propel the lift vertically upwards? Magnets can only repel perpendicularly to the direction they are lying along. Unless you angle the magnet somewhat (45 degrees?). Also, assuming you use electromagnets, it'll require a lot of electricity to power it up all the way to space.

I have a strong feeling that by the time we finished constructing a tower JUST for going to space, space tickets will be more affordable 😀
22 Oct 2008
ash
Also, assuming you use electromagnets, it'll require a lot of electricity to power it up all the way to space.
Come on, we may put solar panels all around the tower !

Rocket fuel {what is it called?} is damn expensive and looking at current state of fuels, I don't think fuel will be cheaper in near future. Look at it this way - you take only 10 people into the space after burning kiloliters of petrol.

Space elevator could be effective. [​IMG]
Mayur Pathak

Mayur Pathak

Branch Unspecified
22 Oct 2008
I think you will need too many solar panels for generating the amount of energy to propel an elevator up. Tell me, what height you propose to construct? Because I still have my doubts over the stability of the structure.

ash
I have a strong feeling that by the time we finished constructing a tower JUST for going to space, space tickets will be more affordable [​IMG]
I agree 😛
Ashraf HZ

Ashraf HZ

Communications
22 Oct 2008
The_Big_K
Come on, we may put solar panels all around the tower !

Rocket fuel {what is it called?} is damn expensive and looking at current state of fuels, I don't think fuel will be cheaper in near future. Look at it this way - you take only 10 people into the space after burning kiloliters of petrol.

Space elevator could be effective. [​IMG]
Candlestick Rocket Ship

*wide grin*

Think of it this way. There's a greater incentive to develop cheaper and cleaner rocket fuels, not only to bring people to space, but also the thousands of satellites.

Not going to disregard the use of magnets, but its better to use it to aid a rocket launch than to building a 100 km tower so people can look out in space 😉
Mayur Pathak

Mayur Pathak

Branch Unspecified
22 Oct 2008
I always believed that triangular structures (pyramidal or like a cone for that matter) are the most stable structures that the rectangular ones.

Consider this- If I have to construct a triangle with 1kilometer as the base length and for the base angles as 89 degrees, what would be the height of the triangle? That probably might take you to space :grin:
22 Oct 2008
mayurpathak
I always believed that triangular structures (pyramidal or like a cone for that matter) are the most stable structures that the rectangular ones.

Consider this- If I have to construct a triangle with 1kilometer as the base length and for the base angles as 89 degrees, what would be the height of the triangle? That probably might take you to space :grin:
Woo hoo! Some crazy engineering here! 😁 Great going fellas, looking for more ideas & thoughts!
B195URF

B195URF

Branch Unspecified
22 Oct 2008
Anyone read Arthur C Clarkes Fountains of Paradise? its the first place i ever read about the whole concept of a space lift. his theory was fantastic, and if the materials were available, extremely plausible. the main concerns we're having as human beings though is energy - although in the book a work around for that was also made, whereby on descent the lift would free fall to a particular height and then breaks would be applied, and the resulting friction would generate enough power to send it back up. one of the best books i ever read😁 i recommend it to anyone.

His idea was to contruct the main lift system in space itself and then build down using a flexible yet strong diamond substrate. can't remember exactly as i read the book about 3 years ago. give it a read. its gooood!
B195URF

B195URF

Branch Unspecified
22 Oct 2008
power could be supplied from the drop off point in space using an array of solar panels in space and as the big k said along the tower. that many solar panels would have to be enough!
Ashraf HZ

Ashraf HZ

Communications
22 Oct 2008
Interesting! But what mechanism would you use to send it back up? The magnet idea?

As much as I am an advocate of solar energy (I'm working on a project on it), we're gonna have to wait a while before it is cheaper and more efficient. Installing it too soon will be very costly and wasteful.
Mayur Pathak

Mayur Pathak

Branch Unspecified
23 Oct 2008
So we have two problems here. One, how are you going to construct a tower 'that' tall and two, how are you going to propel the elevator up.

I'll post again with some thoughts on what structure to be built, how to make it safe and other things. This sure is an interesting topic. Thanks Biggie!
23 Oct 2008
I just got another idea for article 😉 . Will try to post it by evening. Let's see.
Ashraf HZ

Ashraf HZ

Communications
24 Oct 2008
Ya know, instead of a big tower, why not an atmospheric floating platform, supported via a plethora of helium or hydrogen balloons? Position it at the stratosphere. With that you have cut half the distance needed to go to space. Connect a bunch of platforms, and you'll have a stable base for cheaper launches (or a shorter tower) 😉

People (or cargo) can reach to platform using balloons from ground (or launched via airplane).
24 Oct 2008
ash
Ya know, instead of a big tower, why not an atmospheric floating platform, supported via a plethora of helium or hydrogen balloons? Position it at the stratosphere. With that you have cut half the distance needed to go to space. Connect a bunch of platforms, and you'll have a stable base for cheaper launches (or a shorter tower) 😉

People (or cargo) can reach to platform using balloons from ground (or launched via airplane).
Not very sure, but do those balloons reach upto a point where the 'g' is almost zero?
Ashraf HZ

Ashraf HZ

Communications
24 Oct 2008
At the moment, balloons can only go up to 50 km:
Flight altitude record - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Honestly, I have little idea behind the dynamics of high altitude balloons, but can garner a guess that the absolute height would be where the top-most gases lie. Of course, near-zero g is still a looooong way above.
xheavenlyx

xheavenlyx

Electronics and Communication
25 Oct 2008
You know Biggie, I used to imagine (still do sometimes) what would happen if, hypothetically speaking, a loooooong wire is connected from a orbiting satellite to a stationary base on earth, the satellite is geostationary; meaning the satellite is stationary w.r.t a point on earth. Can someone then climb the wire? (like a capsule?)

Well, a wire is of no use, but an elevator, wow. The biggest problem, as many have already said, would be of constructing pillars to hold the elevator. Also, forces on the base will be tremendous! I may do some and reply later 😀

But overall, the idea seems pretty amazing and crazy, normal in CE 😀
25 Oct 2008
The aim is to let people experience zero 'g' at a low cost. Space elevator could be built in various ways. We need more crazy ideas on the topic!
gohm

gohm

Branch Unspecified
27 Oct 2008
I don't think the elevator is feasible due to the mentioned size the structure would need to be. Just think how far down into the earth the supports would need to go to support the weight and wind forces? Now maybe something very light weight and able to flex and move? Even better, if it is just to experience 0g, you do not even need to venture into space to experience. Astronauts travel in high altitude in a jet sharply diving in a wave pattern to give temporary 0g experiences. There's a company in Florida and Russia that will also take youup for the same flight. Making that experience more cost effective as well as rocket trips into the upper atmosphere (I think a company in Texas and Russia will shoot you up there in a capsule) more cost effective and safe would be another route.
just2rock

just2rock

Branch Unspecified
30 Oct 2008
Carbon Nano Tubes is the key for Next generation hazzlefree Space travel from Earth.Carbon Nano tubes are around 10,000 times harder & tension supportive than STEEL. This will tend the molecular dispersion that may can generate once Gravity Pull comes in picture as an obvious.The composite S=v*t or the net distance from earth to Space will take around some hours to reach. To avoid the centrifugal force what is needed is nothing but to chalk out a place on earth having least Earthquake/ Cyclonic hazards.Thats all Stanford university & U.K cambridgwe are working to make the future Space Elevator a reality.
gohm

gohm

Branch Unspecified
29 Nov 2008
So I found this information:

Going Up? Private Group Begins Work on Space Elevator
The Audacious Space Elevator
'Space elevator' would take humans into orbit - CNN.com

Looks like I will be "eating crow" on my statements in the future, laugh!

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