Book

Space Elevators: An Assessment of Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward

Authors:
  • International Space Elevator Consortium
  • International Space Elevator Consortium

Abstract

The International Academy of Astronautics just approved a conclusion [“Space Elevators Seem Feasible”] when it published the study report entitled: “Space Elevators: An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward.” The report addresses the simple and complex issues that have been identified through the development of space elevator concepts over the last decade. It begins with a summary of ideas in Edwards’ and Westling’s book “The Space Elevator” (2003). Out of these beginnings has risen a worldwide cadre focused upon their areas of expertise as applied to space elevator development and operational infrastructure. The report answers some basic questions about the feasibility of a space elevator infrastructure.
... The long term exploration and development of space would greatly benefit from the use of planetary-scale tethers, both as dynamic tools and for space elevators [1][2][3]. ...
... Those that rotate so as to cancel the relative motion between the tip and a planetary or satellite surface are called rotovators [4]; such tethers may be used to set up transportation systems moving material to and from planetary surfaces at low relative velocities and without the expenditure of fuel [1,5]. A space elevator is a tether deployed as a static or orbiting structure stretching from a celestial body out into space [2]. In order for a space elevator to remain static (stationary with respect to the surface of the body it is attached to) its center of mass must be in a stationary orbit, with the force of gravity on the tether being balanced by either the centrifugal force of rotation (for a terrestrial elevator) [6] or tidal forces (for a lunar elevator) [7] on the mass of the tether plus any counterweight above the center of mass. ...
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The concept of a space elevator dates back to Tsilokovsky, but they are not commonly considered in near-term plans for space exploration, perhaps because a terrestrial elevator would not be possible without considerable improvements in tether material. A Lunar Space Elevator (LSE), however, can be built with current technology using commercially available tether polymers. This paper considers missions leading to infrastructure capable of shortening the time, lowering the cost and enhancing the capabilities of robotic and human explorers. These missions use planetary scale tethers, strings many thousands of kilometers long stabilized either by rotation or by gravitational gradients. These systems promise major reduction in transport costs versus chemical rockets, in a rapid timeframe, for a modest investment. Science will thus benefit as well as commercial activities.
... The long term exploration and development of space would greatly benefit from the use of planetary-scale tethers, both as dynamic tools and for space elevators [1, 2, 3]. Free-flying tethers must rotate to stay in tension. ...
... Those that rotate so as to cancel the relative motion between the tip and a planetary or satellite surface are called ro- tovators [4]; such tethers may be used to set up transportation systems moving material to and from planetary surfaces at low relative velocities and without the expenditure of fuel [1, 5]. A space elevator is a tether deployed as a static or orbiting structure stretching from a celestial body out into space [2]. In order for a space elevator to remain static (stationary with respect to the surface of the body it is attached to) its center of mass must be in a stationary orbit, with the force of gravity on the tether being balanced by either the centrifugal force of rotation (for a terrestrial elevator) [6] or tidal forces (for a lunar elevator) [7] on the mass of the tether plus any counterweight above the center of mass. ...
... Since this time, several analyses have been conducted on the space elevator, including that of Edwards [2], which investigates several important design features associated with it. In 2013, a more detailed assessment of the futuristic transportation system was compiled [3]. Thus far, there exist more dynamic analyses of the space elevator than static ones. ...
... while these basis functions are admissible (they enforce zero displacement at the base yet allow for non-zero displacement at the tip), they are suitable for this study for yet another reason: they will allow good approximation for the step in tension that inevitably arises due to the presence of a climber. This study assumes the same numerical parameters that were assumed in the most recent comprehensive space elevator analysis [3]. ...
Article
As higher strength to density ratio materials become available, the construction of a space elevator on Earth becomes more plausible. Though many fundamental aspects of the mechanical behaviour of a space elevator have been previously analysed, several details have not been rigorously explored. This paper examines the deformation of the tether from its nominal state when it is loaded with a climber at any altitude. Using an assumed modes numerical approach, the equilibrium conditions governing the static deformation of the elevator tether are derived, taking into account the presence of a climber. These discretized equations are solved numerically to determine the static deformation of the tether. A spectrum of statically deformed tether profiles is presented. In general, when a climber is present below GEO, the extension (and stress) of the portion of tether below it is reduced and that above it is largely unaffected. When a climber is present above GEO, the extension (and stress) of the portion of tether below it is increased (that above it remains largely unaffected). Corresponding strain, stress and tension profiles are also computed and discussed. For these, there is a discontinuity at the location of the climber. These profiles provide insight into the limiting cases for the mass of a climber that will undergo transit. Finally, the absolute displacement of the apex anchor (counterweight) is plotted against climber locations, and is found to be non-negligible. The largest decrease in apex anchor altitude occurs when the climber is situated in the bottom portion of the tether, whereas the largest increase in apex anchor altitude occurs when it is situated at the top.
... They believe they can build a Space Elevator to match their vision. 7 By the end of the next decade, Space Elevator infrastructures can be incrementally built with more and more capability leading to many complementary missions. Our vision toward the turn into that decade (2040s) is that there will be 6 Space Elevators located around the equator helping with the delivery of massive amounts of payload to GEO and beyond. ...
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This article presents the concept that Space Elevators enable space solar power (SSP) architecture. An SSP constellation will significantly impact the climate change equation by slowing the increase in greenhouse gases across the globe. This article proposes that there is a dramatic need for permanent infrastructures that can move massive amounts of tonnage to Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) in a routine, daily, safe, and an Earth friendly manner. It lays out the concept of a Dual Space Access Architecture where rockets and Space Elevators are both compatible and complementary.
... Such dynamic analyses include system stability on the basis of the modal analysis [4], [5], dynamic response with a moving elevator on the tether [5]- [8] and the suppression of oscillation by control or optimization of the elevator motion [7], [9], among others. Thus far, the research on traditional tethered space elevators has achieved rewarding results; the construction of the space elevator system is expected to be completed in approximately 2037, and operations may begin thereafter [10]. ...
Article
To study the fundamental dynamics of the nonequatorial space elevator, a universal modeling strategy is presented that applies to any anchored latitude. The equations of motion are established on the basis of the lumped mass model of the tether coupled with an interactional elevator. The relationship between the maximum anchored latitude and the design stress is studied by solving the equilibrium equations. The linearized equations of motion are formulated on the basis of the static equilibrium positions to analyze the modal of the tether. Numerical simulation is performed to analyze the properties of the system with a moving elevator. The results show that a positive correlation arises between the maximum anchored latitudes and the design stress. The fundamental modal and the fifth-order modal are associated with the latitudes considering the frequency and modal shape, respectively. Further, the asymptotically stable characteristics are verified. The amplitude of the residual oscillation is magnified with an increase in the anchored latitude or the elevator speed.
... Theory, Culture & Society 0(0) launching satellites, such a project, built as a 'tether' to winch loads vertically into space, would also, they argue, be a crucial step to much more intensive extra-planetary exploration and colonization (Swan, 2013). ...
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Entire libraries can be filled with volumes exploring the cultures, politics and geographies of the largely horizontal mobilities and transportation infrastructures that are intrinsic to urban modernity (highways, railways, subways, public transit and so on). And yet the recent ‘mobilities turn’ has almost completely neglected the cultural geographies and politics of vertical transportation within and between the buildings of vertically-structured cityscapes. Attempting to rectify this neglect, this article seeks, first, to bring elevator travel centrally into discussions about the cultural politics of urban space and, second, to connect elevator urbanism to the even more neglected worlds of elevator-based descent in ultra-deep mining. The article addresses, in turn: the historical emergence of elevator urbanism; the cultural significance of the elevator as spectacle; the global ‘race’ in elevator speed; shifts towards the ‘splintering’ of elevator experiences; experiments with new mobility systems which blend elevators and automobiles; problems of vertical abandonment; and, finally, the neglected vertical politics of elevator-based ‘ultra-deep’ mining.
... Finally, what is likely to be the largest and most costly space infrastructure, the space elevator, must be considered. When (and if, since there are doubts on its feasibility) a space elevator will be technically feasible, its economic feasibility must be evaluated [34]. It will be a viable project only if the traffic between the Earth surface and space will exceed a minimum, that depends on many factors, like the cost of the elevator itself, the alternatives that at that time will be available (it is more difficult to justify a space elevator if one stage to orbit spaceplanes are available, than if LEO is reached only through expendable rockets), etc. ...
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Since the beginning space was an exclusive domain of public organizations, the role of privates is becoming more and more important, and not only in commercial activities. However, the main international treaties dealing with this subject are still based on the assumption that space activities are mostly reserved to states. In the last decade the idea that the role of privates could include the management of space infrastructures and launch vehicles gained support and now private launch services are a reality. An even wider role of privates is now advocated and private exploration and exploitation missions are discussed. This requires that space activity in general can generate an attractive return and those business models are identified.
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Space elevators are expected to change significantly the method of deployment of Earth-orbiting satellites, offering a more efficient and elegant approach than chemical rockets. A space elevator consists of one or more ribbons (tethers) stretching from the surface of the Earth to a counterweight located beyond the geosynchronous altitude. Before a full space elevator is deployed, it is likely that a partial space elevator will be deployed. One of the key requirements for the design of a space elevator is the understanding of its mechanics. This article discusses the statics and dynamics of space elevators.
Conference Paper
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Conference Paper
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