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Inflatable 12-mile space elevator proposed


Posted on Sunday, 16 August, 2015 | Comment icon 20 comments

Can we build a tower tall enough to reach the Earth's stratosphere ? Image Credit: NASA / Paul A. Newman
A new space elevator concept could see astronauts ascending in to the stratosphere before taking off.
The idea of building an elevator in to space to bypass the need for expensive rocket launches is something that has been mulled over by scientists and engineers for years.

While the idea itself certainly has merit, finding a material capable of sustaining such an enormous structure has long proven to be a problem - as has developing a way to construct something that would ultimately need to be tens of thousands of miles high.

Now however Canadian-based firm Thoth Technology has come up with a novel new solution that solves both of these problems by creating an elevator only 12 miles high - enough to enable easy access to the stratosphere from which spacecraft could then launch much more efficiently.

The futuristic 'ThothX Tower' would be a primarily inflatable structure with reinforced segments and a complex arrangement of fly-wheels to stop it from bending or toppling over.

Astronauts and cargo could be raised to the top either using a pneumatic tube approach or via a funicular railway that would run along the inside of the tube with a carrying capacity of up to 10 tons.

"Astronauts would ascend to 12 miles by electrical elevator," said the tower's inventor Dr Brendan Quine. "From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refuelling and reflight."

If the construction of such a tower ever does go ahead then the resulting structure would be more than 20 times the height of the world's current tallest building - the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Source: Telegraph | Comments (20)

Tags: Space Elevator

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #11 Posted by Frank Merton on 17 August, 2015, 10:33
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.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 17 August, 2015, 11:10
escape velocity would be less It would be less by a trivial amount. I've just calculated it as 1.175x10-5Km/s
Comment icon #13 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy on 17 August, 2015, 12:07
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 rea... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by toast on 17 August, 2015, 14:51
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 fi... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by paperdyer on 17 August, 2015, 17:02
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.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 17 August, 2015, 17:19
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... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by toast on 17 August, 2015, 17:33
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 deion 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 cabl... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by regeneratia on 17 August, 2015, 19:42
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.
Comment icon #19 Posted by regeneratia on 17 August, 2015, 19:43
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.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy on 17 August, 2015, 22:20
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"... [More]


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