The Business of Building a Space Elevator

The people at HighLift Systems are busy pounding the pavement, talking to various government agencies and private firms, looking for anyone to give them $40 million. More than half of that is needed for engineering, design and testing. $13 million is needed for more carbon nanotube composite research–in particular, how to create miles of it. Getting the funding has proven difficult, however, at the government level where money is often committed years ahead of time.

So far, it’s mainly been computer simulations, but soon, HighLift Systems will be testing a prototype climber that will shimmy up a tether to a high-altitude balloon. Also required are real experiments to evaluate how carbon nanotube composites react to the space environment, including being peppered by space debris.

2 thoughts on “The Business of Building a Space Elevator”

  1. I certainly hope this goes ahead quickly. As a senior citizen and long time space nut, it is the only way I have a chance of getting into space without the physical strain of the acceleration of rocket ship; and secondly it just might be affordable.
    Gerry Michaud
    Roslin, Ontario

  2. Despite carbon nanotubes suddenly making the space elevator more than a pipe dream, many still feel that it’s still at least 50 years away. Not everyone though. In this article, Physicist Bradley C. Edwards, who left the Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory to work on the elevator design for a private company, Eureka Scientific, says that the elevator could be a reality in just 15 years. And once it’s been running for a few years, a round ticket might cost as little as $20,000, thus enabling space tourism.

    More importantly though, it would totally change the face of space exploration. Not only would it be cheaper to get vehicles into space (as well as not harming our upper atmosphere) but it would allow for the assembly of much larger space stations and spacecraft. And the huge centrifugal force at the end of the ribbon could be use to inexpensively fling spacecraft to planets such as Venus and Mars. And then we could build an elevator on Mars.

    I find this endeavour to be incredibly exciting. It just feels achievable. And according to Edwards’ estimates, it could be done for under $10 billion. Considering the potential return on investment for this project, and how feasible it’s become, I’m very surprised that they’re finding it difficult to find the funding.

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