WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE AN ELEVATOR TO SPACE

Posted by Beverley Smith on

If you would prefer to take an elevator to space rather than rocket an elevator to space could  become an option in the future.

 

For about 50 years now, rockets have been the only means of transportation to space but they have been known to be very expensive.

 

A NASA Inspector General report once revealed that its agency spent about $491.2 million to get just six of its astronauts into space. That averages to about $82 million per seat.

 

 

Space Elevator

 

 

But based on some scientists believe, it is possible that there would be another means of transportation to space for astronauts and payloads in the not-too-distant future: a space elevator which could extend from the surface of the Earth to an altitude of about 22,000 miles where geosynchronous satellites orbit.

The idea of space elevators was first introduced to the world in 1895 by a Russian Scientist known as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky who was a known pioneer of rocketry.

 

He proposed that if a tower was built to be about 22,236 miles (35,800 kilometers) high, it would get to geostationary orbit which is the point where the satellites follow the Earth’s rotation.

 

He also proposed that these could be used to carry payloads to outer space.

 

Diagram of space elevator

 

 

 


The space elevator will likely be comprised of a space station that is tethered between a counterweight in Earth's orbit and an anchor.

 

With this tether, vehicles could climb to space like an elevator car using a cable to travel from floor to floor.

 

The sideways speed of the vehicle also increases as it climbs higher and higher due to the fact that the Earth is rotating, which enables objects that are already in orbit to just take off from a dock in counterweight.

 

 

 Space Elevator Dock

 


However, one of the main obstructions in the development of a space elevator is the fact that it will be one of the most expensive structures ever built even if it will minimize the cost of getting astronauts and payloads to space by about 100 percent.

 

So even if it will be very expensive, it will help save a lot of money in the future. It is expected to cost about 10 trillion yen (which is about $90 billion).


NASA has acknowledged that the main theory of a space elevator is sound, and scientists and researchers from all parts of the world have been looking for a way to build it as soon as possible.

 

A global construction firm based in Tokyo known as the Obayashi Company has revealed its plan to build a space elevator by 2050 while China has revealed its own plan to build one by 2045.

 

However, the schedule of the Obayashi Company is based on the fact that carbon-based graphene will become scalable by 2030.


One of the main problems faced by researchers and scientist in the development of space elevators is the material to be used.

 

The space elevator will require a tether that is built from a very strong, flexible and dense material that can be used to carry tons of loads for tens of kilometers from earth.

 

This is mainly due to the fact that gravity will reduce the farther away from Earth the vehicle is so the cable has to have a tensile strength that can support about 5,000 kilometers of itself.

 

 

Finding a material that is capable of this has proven to be very challenging for researchers.
Some engineers have proposed that the tether could be made of ultra-flexible and tough graphene, but some time back, a study by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University ruled them out.

 

However, a lot of researchers still believe that carbon-based graphene will be crucial in developing the space elevator tether despite the study by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

 

 

Graphene material for space elevator

 

Other materials that were also proposed for the tether are diamond nanothreads and boron nitride.
The Japanese do not seem to be stopped by the material problems in their effort to build a space elevator. They have announced their plan to test Kevlar as a tether material in space on the ISS to see if it will work.


REFERENCES
Futurism
Gaia
Science alert
NBC New


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