The concept of a space elevator has been around since 1895. A lot of people have dismissed the idea as science fiction, but a study conducted by experts suggests a space elevator is possible, and the risks can be mitigated via technological progress.
Definition of the space elevator
A space elevator is a space transportation system with a tether anchored to the surface of the Earth and extends into space. It is designed to allow transport along the cable from the Earth’s surface into space without the use of rockets. Researchers say it could provide a safe, inexpensive, and quiet access to outer space.
According to the theory, the cable will be held up by the competing forces of gravity and upward centrifugal force. The cable will be under tension and stationary in a single position on the planet. Once the cable is deployed, an elevator-like structure can be used to repeatedly to ascend from the surface of the planet to the orbit and back.
Early space elevator concept
Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky came up with the concept of a space elevator in 1895. He was said to be inspired by the Eiffel Tower. His design was a tower that would reach up to 35,790 km, which is the geostationary orbit height. His concept was a compression structure while modern-day versions call for a tether or tensile structure.
Science has proven that a compression structure will not work because there was no known material with enough compressive strength to support its own weight. Another Russian scientist Yuri Artsutanov came up with a more feasible concept that utilizes a geostationary satellite as the base to deploy a structure going down to the Earth’s surface. The cable is lowered from the orbit to the surface with the use of a counterweight.
Modern Space Elevator Developments
Researchers are trying to develop a feasible space elevator. According a study, an elevator to space is possible through a major international effort. Advances in technology can reduce the risks. It can be used to send people to space via electric vehicles that go up and down the tether. The Earth’s rotation will make the tether tense and able to support the electric vehicles.
There are several companies that are developing their versions of the space elevator. The LiftPort Group announced in 2005 that they will utilize carbon nanotubes to construct their elevator. They even launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their research.
Even Google got into the action when it considered designing one but the search engine giant scrapped the plan because they found it to be not feasible. In 2012, the Obayashi Corporation announced that a space elevator can be constructed in 38 years with the use of carbon nanotube technology.
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- Space elevator – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- HowStuffWorks "How Space Elevators Will Work"
Space elevators are explained in this article. Learn about space elevators.