This Space Elevator could be done now with existing materials, great design, and awesome plan!
To review – a space elevator requires materials that are currently beyond our reach. It is not strictly the strength that is causing a problem, but tensile strength (which does exist in Carbon Nanotubes) & the ability to braid the material to both strengthen and extend it. While there has been some success in that – braiding it beyond several feet, the carbon bonds get loaded to such an extreme extent, the hexagonal bonds that exist in carbon nanotubes become unstable when converting to 5-to-7 member bonds. Unfortunately it will be some time before we are able to scale it up. Now Canada has found a loophole that’s truly spectacular.
Back to Canada and the loophole. A Canadian company, Thoth Technology Inc., having attained patents in the UK and in the US has a plan that uses an inflatable, freestanding structure complete with an electrical elevator and to take astronauts up 12.5 miles then a space plane will launch to take them up the balance of the way into orbit. These space planes will only require one stage since the other are used for the vertical momentum. The energy normally required to get into space is mostly expended during the “vertical’ part of the flight. When a traditional rocket ship launches from Earth, it flies vertically about 9-15 miles before hitting stages where the sections of the rocket drop back to Earth and the waste usually ends up falling into the ocean. After that however, during the final stage, when it enters space, it is flying horizontally. As the Elevator allows the plane to start at 12.5 miles up, a single stage can be used preventing both the garbage in the sea and cost from fuel, and whenever those parts are eliminated so are a number of risks.
Pretty awesome, right? Worried about fuel for the Elevator? The elevator cars can also be powered electrically or inductively, eliminating any need to carry fuel.
In a statement in July, the company Thoth said “The technology offers a way to access space through reusable hardware, and will save more than 30 per cent of the fuel of a conventional rocket.”
Thoth’s vision of the technology includes Space Planes that not only pick up the astronaut’s but land there as well. That means self-landing rocket technologies to make it fully realized though it can be (without that portion) currently.