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Continued Success for Space Elevator Tests

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the world's-highest-kite dept.

572

Jacki O writes "According to their Web site the Space Elevator company Lifport recently managed to get their platform and climbing robot to the mile-high mark over the Arizona desert." From the announcement: "A revolutionary way to send cargo into space, the LiftPort Space Elevator will consist of a carbon nanotube composite ribbon eventually stretching some 62,000 miles from earth to space. The LiftPort Space Elevator will be anchored to an offshore sea platform near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, and to a small man-made counterweight in space. Mechanical lifters are expected to move up and down the ribbon, carrying such items as people, satellites and solar power systems into space."

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572 comments

I can top that. (5, Funny)

Orrin Bloquy (898571) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726696)

I stood outside my door this morning in Flagstaff, which is 6200 feet above the Arizona desert.

Re:I can top that. (-1, Offtopic)

Tedium Unleased (764661) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726790)

yet you still suck you dont know what above means ass tart

Re:I can top that. (2, Informative)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726972)

You must still be somewhere on the slopes of the Mogollon Rim and not in Flagstaff, yet. The city is actually at 7,011 feet (or 1 1/3 miles) above sea level. Climb Humphrey's peak just north of the city, and you'll be at 12,633 feet.

Woot! Woot! GNAA! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726699)

Thank you moses, I'll take the FP for the GNAA!

1500 feet not a mile (5, Informative)

babokd (857897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726701)

The robot only made it around 1500 feet. The cable was a mile long.

Feet, not meters (1)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726755)

damn units...

Re:1500 feet not a mile (4, Funny)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726900)

"According to their Web site the Space Elevator company Lifport recently managed to get their platform and climbing robot to the mile-high mark over the Arizona desert."

The robot only made it around 1500 feet. The cable was a mile long.

Rule Number 1: Don't let the facts ruin a good story.

Re:1500 feet not a mile (2, Funny)

kpwoodr (306527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727004)

Rule #2.

If you submit an article, you should be required to first RTFA!

Heres a question (3, Funny)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726924)

Why don't we just build a 500 mile high pyramid of some description? And maybe run a ramp up it, and a pulley system maybe so we can use very simple earthbound techniques to get projectiles to an incredible speed before liftoff? Alternately, its surely easier and cheaper to get a launch from 500 miles up, or put the tail end of a space elevator there. And we could do it with existing technology easily. Its like the question, if there were stairs going to the moon, could you walk it... the answer to that one is yes.

Re:1500 feet not a mile (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726988)

In other news, my Teleporation Shoes are performing extremely well in tests. The shoelaces have survived twelve straight tying tests, including one "bunny ears" test conducted by a young child. Sole durability tests are also holding up well. Teleporation will be tested at some time in the future.

Seriously, that's what this is like. The challenges of a space elevator aren't in the climber; they're in the cable. We're not even remotely close to such a cable. To be realistic, you need a mass producable cable with a tensile strength of over 100GPa at a density similar to SWNTs. That's well more than the strongest *individual* SWNT measured thusfar, let alone the strongest bundle of tubes, let alone the strongest continuous fiber producable. It may well not even be possible with physics as we know them.

I'm a little confused. (1, Flamebait)

Zencyde (850968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726706)

I should have asked this before, but does anyone know how we plan to keep this space elevator up? Also, if it's connected to nothing, then I suppose it isn't very useful for getting items to the moon? Unless of course, the items come prepacked with some sort of mobility enhancing functions.

Re:I'm a little confused. (1)

babokd (857897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726727)

Presumably, the elevator itself will be made of some high-strength material that will be able to support itself. The cable/robot combination is more for the actual construction phase.

Well, you know what they say about assume... (3, Funny)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726749)

Actually, the ribbon will be tied to a really large bird.

A space bird.

Space Bird! (1)

Venner (59051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726904)

You mean like this [angelfire.com] ?

(Sorry, it's angelfire and might notlike hot-linking, but if you enter the URL directly, it ought to work...)

Re:Well, you know what they say about assume... (2, Funny)

plalonde2 (527372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726908)

A European or an African swallow? Or maybe an albatross?

Re:I'm a little confused. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726728)

Take a string, tie a rock to it and swing it around your head. Then you'll get the picture.

Re:I'm a little confused. (4, Funny)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726976)

and make a robot to move back and forth along the string...

and shoot laser beams out of your head that powers the robot...

and have safety procedures in place in case the string breaks, and the robot comes plummeting towards your head...

and have the multinational population living on the surface of your head come to some agreement about who's going to finance, maintain, and operate the thing...

Re:I'm a little confused. (1)

Zencyde (850968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726737)

Wait, scratch what I just said... I'm a little tired right now and missed the counterweight, although that does sound just a tad bit dangerous. Centripical forces, I knew they had a better function than seperating Uranium 235 and Uranium 238!

Re:I'm a little confused. (4, Informative)

timster (32400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726811)

The centripetal force is what holds it down, not what holds it up. From an inertial frame of reference, there is no force that holds it up; that's simply a function of its own inertia. If you wish to use the Earth as your reference frame (as you are doing) you must invent a force, called a centrifugal force, to account for the fact that a spinning object is not an inertial reference frame.

Re:I'm a little confused. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726996)

Just because centrifugal force is what you call an "invented" force doesn't mean it's not real.

You can see its effect everyday in warm areas where the tar in asphalt in freeway on&off ramps moves outward radially from the cars turning on the ramps. This tar is moved by the very real centrifugal force of the car. From that frame of reference, friction is the "invented" force that pushes the car sideways around the turn as a reaction to the "real" centrifugal force.

Aren't frames of reference cool - you can always rephrase things like "what I see is real, and everyone else uses fictious forces", just like politics and religion

Re:I'm a little confused. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726746)

It's anchored to the counterweight. RTFS.

Re:I'm a little confused. (3, Informative)

t123 (642988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726750)

The wikipedia has the answer [wikipedia.org] :

The most common proposal is a tether, usually in the form of a cable or ribbon, that spans from the surface to a point beyond geosynchronous orbit. As the planet rotates, the inertia at the end of the tether counteracts gravity and keeps the tether taut. Vehicles can then climb the tether and escape the planet's gravity without the use of rockets. Such a structure could eventually permit delivery of great quantities of cargo and people to orbit, and at costs only a fraction of those associated with current means.

Wait a second... (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726938)

Wouldn't this rule out use of al non-geostationary equatorial orbits at any altitude less than or equal to the altitude of the anchor, since it would eventually collide with the tether?

Of course I'm not sure what use a non-geostationary polar orbit is.

Re:I'm a little confused. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726765)

the cable or track is connected to a counterweight, *past* a point where a geosyncronous satellite would go, putting tension on it. funky stuff!

Re:I'm a little confused. (2, Interesting)

JazzCrazed (862074) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726769)

It's useful in that objects can use it to climb up and out of the Earth's atmosphere and into orbit, thus saving in the exorbitant costs, financial and environmental, in using rockets. From orbit after escaping Earth's gravity, it's a much easier prospect to jet off to the moon. Although there's use in just sticking things in orbit, as well.

Re:I'm a little confused. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726771)

something to do with the earths rotation. the cable is so long it stays tight. like an olympic hammer thrower.

Re:I'm a little confused. (3, Informative)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726773)

The reason to run the cable out to 62000 miles (far beyond geosynchronous orbit) is to be able to hang a counterweight on the outboard end and to have that provide sufficient tension to keep the cable up.

There was an article in Analog (WAAAAY back when) on the math behind space elevator cables, and they indicated that unless a material such as carbon fibers (nanotubes and the like weren't even on the horizon then) were developed to commercial viability then the required strength to weight ratio would make the cable waaay too wide at its halfway point.

Re:I'm a little confused. (1)

TomorrowPlusX (571956) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726902)

Also, they say the endpoint ( way past geosync ) would be a good launching point for spacecraft. You'd pretty much just "drop" the ship...

That said, these space elevator stories give me the tinglies like visiting the Air and Space museum did when I was a kid. I *believed* when I was a kid that space was mankind's future. I still do, but between Challenger, the ISS boondoggle, etc, etc the gusto is gone. Space elevators, I think, are the logical next step for a true, permanent -- democratic -- future in space. I say democratic because once one's up, making dozens or hundreds more may very well be relatively cheap.

Time will tell. When these finally happen, I'll probably be too old to go up, but maybe my children, or grandchildren will.

Re:I'm a little confused. (1)

Omega1045 (584264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726916)

No waaaay!

Re:I'm a little confused. (1)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726961)

Oops. My Aa key is sticky ;)

Re:I'm a little confused. (1)

DroppedPacket (621464) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726812)

It's held up by magic. :-)

Actually the center of gravity for the elevator has to be position in geo-synchronous orbit. Once it is stable, the cable (part of the mass for the entire COG) then will be stationary over a fixed eqatorial point. The COG can be maintained by having a cable running out the other size with equal mass, or by hooking something large closer to the obital COG.

The cable is essentially in orbit at once spot all the time.

What happens when it comes crashing down? (1)

GuyverDH (232921) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726899)

Now, what happens when some foreign country lobs a small nuke into orbit, pushing the counterweight back towards earth, and all that carbon nanotube/nanofiber/monofilament comes crashing down to earth?

If I recall correctly, there was a book published, where an event like this occured (fiction of course), yet the outcome was pools of bucky ball forming in impact zones, plus all the damage of that much material impacting the earth (the carbon material being heat resistant enough to not burn up during re-entry).

Just a thought...

Re:I'm a little confused. (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726919)

Skyhooks [wikipedia.org] !

Re:I'm a little confused. (1)

arb (452787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726941)

Skyhooks

Great band! [wikipedia.org] ;-)

Don't get me wrong here... (4, Interesting)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726708)

...but it seems like the climber is the easy-ish part of a space elevator. If they were doing work with the carbon nanotubes, I'd be much more impressed.

Re:Don't get me wrong here... (4, Insightful)

barawn (25691) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726888)

...but it seems like the climber is the easy-ish part of a space elevator.

Far from it. All of the components of a space elevator will be revolutionary, not just the ribbon. The climber's mechanical parts have to work flawlessly for about 100,000 km. The actual problem of gripping a cable isn't trivial, either. And it needs to be very low weight. Oh, and very low power. And just to make things even more fun, it'll need to work in vacuum as well.

If you read some of the papers on concerns for the climber at the space elevator conference, you realize that there's nothing easy about this. It's unsurprising that the climber is seeing the most progress first, but that first concern (perfect reliability over 100,000 km) will take a long time, so better to start now.

1 down, 61,999 to go! (5, Insightful)

lannocc (568669) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726710)

A little progress is better than no progress.

Re:1 down, 61,999 to go! (2, Funny)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726878)

You're reading my thoughts too, I feel really stupid for laughing at the tinfoil hat people now... Must get to the grocery store...

Re:1 down, 61,999 to go! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14727028)

isn't space 62 miles up, not 62,000? or did the robot only make it 1 foot off the ground?

1500 feet != 1 mile (4, Informative)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726715)

The article said that the platform (held up by baloons) at the end of the teather was a mile up. The climbing device reached 1500 feet, 500 feet further than previous attempts, but still quite a bit short of a mile.

Re:1500 feet != 1 mile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726800)

I think what it means, is "If you're an investor, you can just throw your money in the hole there".

Who gives a crap about a baloon tethered platform? The REAL space elevator won't be something hanging from baloons a mile up, so what difference does it make?

You might as well have a continuous cable loop on earth and just have the robot "climbing" the loop for 120 equivalent miles, three feet off the ground.

This is all so snake-oil-ish, it's like being able to pick what color you want your Moller aircar, but can't actually get a powerplant that lifts the vehicle.

Re:1500 feet != 1 mile (2, Insightful)

LehiNephi (695428) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726839)

The eventual plans are for a 62,000-mile cable. So they've made it 1/62,000th of the way there, or .00161% of the way. Keep walkin', boys.

One issue I have yet to see addressed is the issue of speed. Rockets make it up to geosynchronous orbit (22,240 miles) very quickly by moving really, really fast. Somehow, I don't think a robot climbing a ribbon will be very fast. Even at 1,000 mph, it'll take almost an entire day to get there. I don't know what the actual expected speeds will be, but I don't think that anything over 100 mph will be practical in the atmosphere due to wind resistance. And once you get out of the atmosphere, you have no easy way of dissipating the heat from friction.

Re:1500 feet != 1 mile (2, Interesting)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726898)

Considering that rocket launches can be delayed for several days due to bad weather, and have a 1+ year lead-time, just shipping your project to the launch site probably takes several days at the very least (and for smaller cargo, means shipping it to Russia, and shipping high-tech gear across borders can take time), and that most space projects are currently planned several years ahead of time (besides the significant difference in launch cost, obviously), it doesn't really matter if it takes a day or three to get your object to space with a space elevator. Yeah, rocket launches will still be used for strategic nuclear war, but that doesn't mean that a space elevator doesn't have significant upsides of its own.

Re:1500 feet != 1 mile (1)

larien (5608) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727011)

Yup. Besides, just burning enough fuel for a big sodding rocket to escape the earth's gravity is probably a huge chunk of the cost of each flight; I'd imagine that the space elevator would be much cheaper to get into low orbit than a standard rocket. Also, the ride down would be smoother and much safer than existing technology.

The elevator is a fantastic idea, but there are a number of technological challenges still to be overcome...

Re:1500 feet != 1 mile (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726952)

Speed is largely irrelevant. For most payloads, humans won't be required. For a significant portion of payloads where humans are required, imagine that the "counter-weight" is actually a space station. With humans on board that space station, most payloads won't need to send humans up the line.

The cost savings are significant, which may lead to greater use (even from countries without space programs of their own), which may lead to economies of scale and the production of additional space elevators.

What I want to know is how they're going to manage to avoid all that space debris.

Acme (5, Funny)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726716)

I think the theory for this method of transportation was disproved by Wile E Coyote [wikipedia.org] a few years ago.

Oh no... (2, Funny)

AdolChristin (694990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726717)

I've read Gunnm, these space elevators can only lead to a power struggle between the elites at the top of the tower and the service people at the bottom (with a few crafty middle men getting rich transporting the goods!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Angel/ [wikipedia.org]

Mile High (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726718)

So, are they in the mile high club now?

Lightning Rod? (3, Interesting)

dorpus (636554) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726722)

I'm just wondering, won't these things become a lightning magnet? You say it can be grounded, but what happens when these things stretch into higher parts of the atmosphere with more ions flying around?

Re:Lightning Rod? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726756)

Maybe it can generate its own power then.

Re:Lightning Rod? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726815)

It seems like it should and would have all kinds of strange properties as well. Plus being grounded at high altitude should be a liability since while you probably wouldn't use the elevator in a thunder storm, the high up ions would be ever present and even if the carbon nano-tube ribbon could take that kind of lightning, the robots and their cargo/passengers couldn't.

Re:Lightning Rod? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726835)

That is one of the outstanding questions WRT the space elevator: What happens when you ground the ionosphere?

It's probably too diffuse to conduct well enough into the elevator tether easily, but I wouldn't be surprised if the tether is differentially charged to significant potentials, which could create interesting problems.

On the other hand, it could be an interesting way to generate power for lifters, if you could find a way to have two strands with different potentials along them run the length of the elevator.

I can see the signs now: "Beware the third braid."

Ah, the first robot in the Mile High Club (4, Informative)

adnonsense (826530) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726725)

For those who have not experienced this particular pleasure: the obligatory Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] reference.

Re:Ah, the first robot in the Mile High Club (1)

PopeOptimusPrime (875888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726949)

I don't think it was that kind of robot.

Lifter didn't climb one mile (3, Informative)

Sulihin (612608) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726730)

Note that while the platform was a mile high, according to the article the lifter climed to a height of 1500 feet, besting it's previous record.
In this phase of testing, conducted earlier this month in Arizona, LiftPort successfully launched an observation and communication platform a full mile in the air and maintained it in a stationery position for more than six hours while robotic lifters climbed up and down a ribbon attached to the platform. The platform, a proprietary system that the company has named "HALE" (High Altitude Long Endurance), was secured in place by an arrangement of high altitude balloons, which were also used to launch it. The robotic lifters measured five feet, six inches and climbed to a height of more than 1500 feet, surpassing its last test record by more than 500 feet.
New Scientist Space [newscientistspace.com] also had an article on it, with pictures!

Don't you mean 62 miles? (-1, Redundant)

Erebus (13033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726733)

62000 miles is 1/4 of the way to the moon!

Re:Don't you mean 62 miles? (-1)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726882)

That's what I was thinking, too. 62,000 miles is something like 10 times the diameter of the earth, isn't it? Not to mention how goofy it would look.

But who knows, maybe they do mean 62,000 miles? I thought the elevator's main purpose was to get things in and out of just the atmosphere, as to avoid all the problems with expensive and dangerous rocket launches and dangerous re-entries.

Re: Accuracy is Irrelevant. (0)

leathej1 (954779) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726892)

Yes, I appreciated that one too. Gimme a break! 62,000 miles. The Earth is only 22,000 miles in circumference! They also noted that they achieved "stationery" position. Does that mean that they stacked it on a huge pile of paper?

Re: Accuracy is Irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726953)

The Earth's gravity field extends way beyond the main bulk of it's atmosphere. You have to go much more than 50 miles to get to a point where you can have an orbital velocity that is balanced against the Earth's pull but be circling at the speed which the planet rotates.

Re:Don't you mean 62 miles? (5, Informative)

RevRigel (90335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726921)

No. 62 miles is the completely arbitrary definition of "space", but a space elevator that ended at that altitude would simply fall back down. By necessity, the center of mass (radially from the surface of the Earth) must be at or near geosynchronous orbit, so it naturally remains centered over its ground anchor. Geosynchronous orbit is at 22,241 miles above sea level. So, by gradually tapering the cable and extending it past GEO, the center of mass ends up there. Alternatively, you can have a large mass like a captured asteroid or something as an anchor just on the far side of GEO, although you should also have some counterweights you can move around on the cable to keep the center of mass in the right place as a load moves up from the surface. Additionally, keeping the center of mass just a little bit further out that necessary ensures that the space elevator will have just enough tension to keep it taut, giving the climbers an easier job.

Re:Don't you mean 62 miles? (1)

barawn (25691) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726930)

Yah. That's the point. The cable goes to geosynchronous orbit.

Yes. That's long. But it's not as insane as you might think. The biggest concern is the tensile strength of the cable itself. Once (if, and it's a tough "if") that gets solved, it's just a matter of a really really big spool of cable.

Don't get me wrong. It's still moderately insane. It'll be #1 on the Discovery Channel's modern engineering marvels if it's completed - by a large margin. But it's not completely ridiculous insane.

Re:Don't you mean 62 miles? (1)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726999)

When we reach near-lightspeed, when it's convenient to get a counterweight for this "elevator", and someone's stupid enough to make it...it will barely break the top 10 marvels. Probably wont be done on Earth. As mentioned in other posts, you have to be 22k miles (not 62) above the Earth to keep a space elevator's center of mass in geo-sync so that it doesnt fall back to the planet. It's completely and ridiculously insane.

So what? (0, Flamebait)

PhysSurfer (872187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726738)

This is just a meaningless press release meant to drumm up publicity.

The tough thing in building a space elevator is fabricating the Carbon Nanotube ribbon. Making the robots that move up and down the ribbon is relatively simple by comparison.

Is the robot powered by linux? (2, Interesting)

beoswulf (940729) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726753)

Seriously, what does the robot on, what type of power supply does the robot have? It only made it 1500' on a mile long cable. Is that because it's energy supply ran out? Science fiction writers usually say ground based "lasers" or "microwave transmitters" but is that more feasible than 62,000 miles of carbon nanotubing?

High altitude balloons? (2, Funny)

jahudabudy (714731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726754)

The platform, a proprietary system that the company has named "HALE" (High Altitude Long Endurance), was secured in place by an arrangement of high altitude balloons, which were also used to launch it

Uhm, how useful will this be when they try to extend the elevator outside the atmosphere? Presumably, they have alternative methods worked out for stabilizing the zero-gravity portions, but somehow, Space Elevator == balloons is not nearly as exciting as Space Elevator == really cool new future technology.

I'll be excited when I can take the Space Elevator up to my penthouse suite at Hotel LaGrange. Unless, of course, I look out and see there are freaking balloons still involved.

Re:High altitude balloons? (1)

gentlemen_loser (817960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726843)

I suspect that at some point they plan on "anchoring" it in space using some sort of high altitude space station. The problem to solve then would be keeping the station in geosyncronous orbit over the right point on earth (which is largely possible with existing technology).

I'm afraid I can't do that Dave (3, Funny)

Yaksha42 (856623) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726760)

The platform, a proprietary system that the company has named "HALE"

Oh come on, they're just asking for it.

Still cool but.... (1, Redundant)

MaceyHW (832021) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726761)

Just to be clear, the robotic lifters didn't make it to the top. From TFA:
The robotic lifters measured five feet, six inches and climbed to a height of more than 1500 feet, surpassing its last test record by more than 500 feet.
New Scientist [newscientistspace.com] reports that the robots were supposed to climb all the way up but failed.

1 mile down.... (0, Redundant)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726770)

"managed to get their platform and climbing robot to the mile-high mark.... eventually stretching some 62,000 miles from earth to space."

great, 1 mile down, 62,000 miles to go.

Hey I'm at the $1,000 mark now, does that mean I'm closing in on $62,000,000??

sorry guess i'm just a pessismist today, but going 1/62000th of the total distance doesnt exactly sound like "continued success" to me, maybe "progress" but not success...

Re:1 mile down.... (1)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726801)

Bah, stop reading my thoughts. Untill now, I thought all of those tinfiol hat people were crazy. Now I have to go buy some Reynolds Wrap.

Re:1 mile down.... (2, Insightful)

HairyCanary (688865) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726867)

Perhaps the point is that the first mile is significantly more difficult than the next 61,999?

Re:1 mile down.... (2, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727023)

> Perhaps the point is that the first mile is
> significantly more difficult than the next 61,999?

Er...except it's not. As you leave the atmosphere there's temperature extremes...radiation...vacuum. Not to mention every mile you extend the elevator increases the strain the structure must support. The first mile is the *easiest*.

Chris Mattern

video (2, Insightful)

kevin.fowler (915964) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726776)

Regardless of how many descriptions of a space elevator I read, I can not grasp a visual of the process. Anyone have a video of something like the post topic?

Re:video (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727005)

The company (liftport) has some pictures and videos [liftport.com] on their site.

One mile down. (1)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726777)

61,999 to go. While it's nice to know that they're working on it, this may take a little while before it's even close to useable.

Re:One mile down. (1)

BTWR (540147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726828)

One mile down. 61,999 to go.

I'm sure the hardest miles are 0-to-1, the mile where you leave earth orbit, and the last mile."

I'm pretty sure mile 47 is not much harder or easier than mile 54.

If this thing snaps..... (4, Funny)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726788)

...won't it whiplash and kill people all over the world?

Re:If this thing snaps..... (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726814)

Space elevator ribbons can be designed so they break up on re-entry, decreasing the amount of force a ribbon could put on anything. (there are still possible environmental problems, and remotely possible health problems, but it shouldn't have a great chance of directly immediately hurting humans)

Re:If this thing snaps..... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726856)

SInce we don't know what properties a nanotube long then an inch is, I would think saying what can be done for a rope of them 60,000 miles long might be a bit premature.

What if it is in paractical to build them that way? Will they scrap the project, or will they look at the fact that they might be paying less the a dollar a kilogram to get things in orbit and cross their fingures?

'They' being the varies project managers whos jobs will be lost if the project is stopped.

Re:If this thing snaps..... (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726940)

There isn't really a project underway for anyone to be fired from. Currently it's just investment by small companies in hopes that 1) the expertise and any new developments will be commercially useful now (or at least patentable, I guess), and 2) if a company starts now, and becomes an industry leader (eg. once/if the industry gets going), then they'll be much more likely to be dominant in their field and make bigger profits later.

We don't know if it's practical yet, but there are scientists and companies who are willing to work on it to figure that out, and that's a good thing.

Re:If this thing snaps..... (1)

aiken_d (127097) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726836)

No, just in one long stripe along the equator.

-b

62k mile rope... what if it breaks? (1)

dividedsky319 (907852) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726808)

the LiftPort Space Elevator will consist of a carbon nanotube composite ribbon eventually stretching some 62,000 miles from earth to space.

Is there any type of "backup" system in case a portion of the ribbon breaks?

I assume the way this works is that the end goes so far out that the inertia of the Earth spinning keeps the rope taut... but if a small part of that 62k mile ribbon breaks... the thing gets shot into space.

It doesn't seem viable to just have one long ribbon going up to space... seems too prone to problems. (an expensive problem!)

Re:62k mile rope... what if it breaks? (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726845)

I assume the way this works is that the end goes so far out that the inertia of the Earth spinning keeps the rope taut... but if a small part of that 62k mile ribbon breaks... the thing gets shot into space.

Wrong. The non-Earth end would be in orbit and if the tether parted, the section in orbit would continue to orbit. The downside would be that the end of the tether attached to the orbital station would set up a drag in the Earth's atmosphere and would eventually cause the station to begin a slow spiral to the ground. However it would not be sudden and given it would have to spiral down from 62,000 miles, there would be plenty of time to recover and string a new tether.

Re:62k mile rope... what if it breaks? (2, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726954)

there would be plenty of time to recover and string a new tether.

      What I have always wondered is if anyone has calculated how much the Earth's rotation is expected to slow down once we start sending mass up that thing. You know, like the ice skater who sticks her arms out to slow down and pulls them in to speed up? There's no such thing as a free ride, and the energy "savings" will eventually become apparent, it will have come from the Earth's angular momentum. I wonder what climate trouble we will have then.

No drag (1)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726965)


The downside would be that the end of the tether attached to the orbital station would set up a drag in the Earth's atmosphere

No, it wouldn't. It's in a geostationary orbit, so it's moving at the same speed the earth's surface is. There wouldn't be any relative velocity, so no drag.

--MarkusQ

I wonder... (4, Funny)

Eric Damron (553630) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726816)

...when they extend that thing if the moon gets nervous?

1/62,000 (1)

Jeff Benjamin (528348) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726825)

Sweet, they are 1/62,000th of the way there!

in other news (3, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726829)

According to their Web site the Space Elevator company Lifport recently managed to get their platform and climbing robot to the mile-high mark over the Arizona desert.

In other news today, Denver-based Space Elevator company Black Shaft Industries have succeeded in achieving a height of 35 feet with their platform and climber, still easily besting their rivals Lifport. "We had a head start," acknowledges Chief Engineer, Michael Wesznick, "but our elevator didn't really need it. Plus, it has a cooler name." Wesznick went on to claim, that the elevator in question (named "Darth-Vator" to those of you who were wondering) will be the "father of all other space elevators", and, adding to this reporter's confustion, will at some point in the future "betray the Emperor to save it's son's life." Personally, I'm rooting for Lifport.

typo (0)

notea42 (926633) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726875)

There's got to be a typo in that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth's_atmosphere [wikipedia.org] [Wikipedia] says that people who travel 50 miles up are considered astronauts, which sounds like a much more reasonable number to me. Heck, the Earth's radius is less than 6400 km, which is a lot less than 62000 miles. Probably got some extra 0's in there, or posted the wrong units.

Re:typo (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726946)

The edge of space is around the 50 mile mark, an astronaut is one that exceeds the atmospher of our planet.

move along nothing to see here (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726926)

who cares

LEGO!?!? (1)

marcushnk (90744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726964)

Have you looked at their image gallery?
Their prototypes are made of bloody lego!

I love reading about this stuff (1)

jerryodom (904532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726966)

Despite all the technicalities that many Slashdot users like to point out I think its great that people are testing methods to get into space that don't involve lighting a giant bottle rocket.

"Carrying such items as people" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726968)

Their PR people are just... well, they have no very uplifting imagination when it comes to wordsmith skills.

Not sure why everyone so skeptical (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727015)

I mean, we are all geeks and nerds, so we of all people should support this science.

Its something I will have to see to believe, but in theory, it all sounds quite practical. The only "IF" in the whole concept is if we can actually manufacture a carbon nanotube ribbon 62,000 miles long and how exactly are we going to get it in place. A smaller if is whether we should actually do it. Something falling out of the sky with 62,000miles of cord attached to it could mess things up around the equator pretty bad. (BTW, read the Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars trilogy)

I think this is one of those things that while we try and pursue it, even if its natural end is failure, much new technology and science will result from it. An effective, cheap and efficient way to generating carbon nanotube structures is what I hope will result from the endeavour, if not an actual space elevator. It just seems they are working on the elevator part before working on the part that will actually make the concept work.

And if it falls? (0, Troll)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727022)

Does the firm have any ideas on how to avoid tremendous death and destruction if this immensely long cable were to fall to the Earth, possibly hitting certain areas twice as badly if it were long enough to wrap more than once around? Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars [amazon.com] has an especially disconcerting description of this happening. This sort of technology is exciting, I just hope enough attention is being paid to safety.
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