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Still Waters

Scientists invent Inflatable ‘space elevator’

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Still Waters

It is an idea that every small child has had at some point. Instead of sending up rockets into space, why not simply build a huge lift.

Now a Canadian firm has been granted a patent for a 'space elevator' which will shoot cargo 12.4 miles into the stratosphere from where it can be launched more easily.

According to Thoth Technology, the lift would cut the cost of space flight by around one third because shuttles would not need to carry enormous amounts of fuel to get themselves off the ground.

http://www.telegraph...scientists.html

http://thothx.com/news-2/

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MeOnlyMe

This is huge! A Landing Pad for spacecraft!

Once we finish this our space programs are really going to start doing some amazing things.

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bubblykiss

We know hot air balloons can reach the outer limits of the atmosphere, but this is brilliant.

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DieChecker

I'm somewhat skeptical. Keeping this thing from falling over will be a engineering feat equal to solving Global Warming. All kinds of cross winds are possible. And I wonder how they plan to pressurize 12 miles of tunnel that goes straight up? They'd either need many platforms with pressurizing equipment, or a single ground station that would probably be similar in size to the Pentagon. But, that is just guesses. So far this is a concept, not a design, as far as I can tell.

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pallidin

Huh, I don't think this concept will get-off the drawing board.

Incredibly dangerous... too much can go wrong.

Stick with what we know works, is my opinion.

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Infernal Gnu

A drone will probably collide with it by accident or on purpose causing it to deflate catastrophically and fly crazily all over the continent like a popped balloon.

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Patient Zero

Will an elevator to the stars have that god awful elevator music playing in the background?

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Paranomali

Eeep, imagine being stuck in that elevator

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Frank Merton

No doubt if enough of them were to be built sooner or later there would be a catastrophe. Engineers design things to be fail-safe, but they never are -- they overlook possibilities and of course there is always budget and time pressure that brings about the taking of shortcuts.

Still, once fully tested and operational, I would love to go up in one. I imagine the danger would be rougly equivalent to taking a long airline flight. I might though carry some cyanide so that just in case I would not be subject to the possibility of that long fall.

I had earlier been told this way of getting into space was impractical because of the long time one spends high in the atmosphere without radiation protection. I don't see this mentioned in the story.

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Noteverythingisaconspiracy

Bulding a tower like this doesn't really help much with the fundamental problem with space launchers: The need to overcome Earths gravity.

If such a structure is built, the spacecrafts launched from here would still need to achieve a speed of 7,8 km/s (28000 km/h) to reach orbital velocity.

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Waspie_Dwarf

Bulding a tower like this doesn't really help much with the fundamental problem with space launchers: The need to overcome Earths gravity.

If such a structure is built, the spacecrafts launched from here would still need to achieve a speed of 7,8 km/s (28000 km/h) to reach orbital velocity.

That's true but you could level the same comment at air-launched rockets, which are currently coming into fashion.

The initial phase of a rocket launch is not about massive acceleration, it is about clearing the majority of the atmosphere. Rocket engines work more efficiently as the atmospheric pressure drops. Also the more of the atmosphere you clear the less air resistance their is. Less atmosphere will also mean a less substantial fairing will be required to protect the payload.

All of these factors reduce the amount of fuel required by the rocket and therefore reduce cost. They are the reasons behind the recent move towards air-launched rockets and are the factors behind this proposal.

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Frank Merton

Bulding a tower like this doesn't really help much with the fundamental problem with space launchers: The need to overcome Earths gravity.

If such a structure is built, the spacecrafts launched from here would still need to achieve a speed of 7,8 km/s (28000 km/h) to reach orbital velocity.

I don't know -- escape velocity would be less and the atmospheric drag would be almost entirely removed.

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Waspie_Dwarf

escape velocity would be less

It would be less by a trivial amount. I've just calculated it as 1.175x10-5Km/s

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
typo.
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Noteverythingisaconspiracy

That's true but you could level the same comment at air-launched rockets, which are currently coming into fashion.

The initial phase of a rocket launch is not about massive acceleration, it is about clearing the majority of the atmosphere. Rocket engines work more efficiently as the atmospheric pressure drops. Also the more of the atmosphere you clear the less air resistance their is. Less atmosphere will also mean a less substantial fairing will be required to protect the payload.

All of these factors reduce the amount of fuel required by the rocket and therefore reduce cost. They are the reasons behind the recent move towards air-launched rockets and are the factors behind this proposal.

I do not dispute the value of launching from a plane or a high tower, but I just don't think that the cost of a tower like this would be worth it. If we really wan't to massively cut down on cost we probably have to develop single stage to orbit (SSTO) launchers. The ultimate solution is probably the space elevator, but that is still a long way into the future.

Companies like SpaceX have shown that it is indeed possible to cut down cost without something as outlandish as a 12,4 miles tower.

Even though I am sceptical about the tower idea, I do hope to be proven wrong in the future !

I don't know -- escape velocity would be less and the atmospheric drag would be almost entirely removed.

The 7,8 km/s I posted is the orbital velocity without factoring in drag. In reality a normal rocker launcher will have to achieve something like 9 km/s to get into orbit.

Edited by Noteverythingisaconspiracy

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toast

I was sceptical first as well and after reading the complete patent (see link below) and after looking at the company which is

the patent holder I saw that the patent contains more features than the article offers. The outer tube is splitted into segments

and the patent also covers that these segments can get filled up with hydrogen, so the complete structure would be stabilized

vertically by lifting force.

The other interesting aspect is the inner tube. If this tube would be designed as a vaccum chamber I think it could be equipped

with rail gun technology to accelerate rockets through the first 80% of the atmosphere, and its denseness all along below 20kms,

without putting negative effects by air friction like deceleration and damage of the projectile by heat. Short before the rocket reaches

the end of the tower, a hatch have to open (of course) and the rocket can start its own propulsion system to accelerate up to escape

velocity or above.

Even if the rail gun idea isnt covered by the patent no other party can apply for a patent for the rail gun idea as the towers design is

already protected but the tower patent holder can apply for an additional patent that covers both technologies, means the tower plus

rail gun technology. And I think thats the story behind it.

https://www.google.b...tents/US9085897

Edited by toast
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paperdyer

Wouldn't the elevator and launching pad be more susceptible to meteorites? Didn't Arthur C. Clarke have something similar in the last installment of the 2001 saga? I read that in Playboy many years ago. I don't know if it was ever published as a book.

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Waspie_Dwarf

Wouldn't the elevator and launching pad be more susceptible to meteorites?

Not at 12 miles high it wouldn't. Most meteors burn up at between 50 and 75 miles altitude.

Didn't Arthur C. Clarke have something similar in the last installment of the 2001 saga? I read that in Playboy many years ago. I don't know if it was ever published as a book.

As it says in the original article:

Arthur C Clarke also wrote about a space lift in his 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise claiming it would bring down costs by transporting cargo directly up to satellites.

Clarke's space elevator reached from the Earth to geostationary orbit, over 22,000 miles up.

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toast

Wouldn't the elevator and launching pad be more susceptible to meteorites? Didn't Arthur C. Clarke have something similar in

the last installment of the 2001 saga? I read that in Playboy many years ago. I don't know if it was ever published as a book.

Arthur C. Clarke`s Space Elevator is mentioned in the patent description on page 1:

It has previously been proposed, most famously by Arthur C. Clarke in his 1978 novel, The Fountains of Paradise, that a space

elevator could be constructed using a cable and counter-balanced mass system. For Earth's gravity and spin rate, such a solution

requires a cable of at least 35,000 km in length and a counter balance mass similar to a small asteroid. Such a system could be

constructed by launching the cable into space or manufacturing it in situ and lowering it into contact with Earth. However, the

technological obstacles that must be overcome, including the construction of a cable with suitable strength characteristics or the

in-space construction of the apparatus, have not been realized since the concept was popularized by Clarke. Known materials

are simply not strong enough to enable the construction of a cable of that length that would even be capable of supporting its

own weight.

https://www.google.by/patents/US9085897

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regeneratia

Yes, I read this in another source. LOVE THIS IDEA.

I even helped fund the local space elevator efforts. But this seems so much better than the company where I placed my money.

Heinlein said that the most economical way out of the earth's atmosphere is either by sling-shot or space elevator methods.

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regeneratia

Huh, I don't think this concept will get-off the drawing board.

Incredibly dangerous... too much can go wrong.

Stick with what we know works, is my opinion.

things like it are already off the drawing board and into competitions already.

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Noteverythingisaconspiracy

Wouldn't the elevator and launching pad be more susceptible to meteorites? Didn't Arthur C. Clarke have something similar in the last installment of the 2001 saga? I read that in Playboy many years ago. I don't know if it was ever published as a book.

It was indeed ! The book is called "3001: The Final Odyssey"" and was one of the last books written by Arthur C. Clarke. Much of the story takes place in a space elevator tower.

Arthur C. Clarke popularised the idea in "The fountains of paradise", but like so many of the concepts in spaceflight it was first proposed by "the father of spaceflight" Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. He is well worth a look: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konstantin_Tsiolkovsky

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