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Sometimes breakthrough Space Elevator

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posted on Jan, 23 2005 @ 07:18 AM

posted on Jan, 23 2005 @ 07:52 AM
NIAC has given more than $500,000 to Seattle-based HighLift Systems to develop the concept under the leadership of the company's chief technology officer, Bradley Edwards.

The key to the concept's feasibility lies in the material that will be used to construct the ribbon between the Earth and outer space. Nanotubes are essentially sheets of graphite -- a lattice of carbon -- seamlessly rolled into long tubes that are mere nanometers in diameter. These are 100 times as strong as steel, but much lighter.

"Carbon nanotubes are rapidly developing," Cassanova said. "They are not long enough to stretch from Earth's surface to 62,000 miles, but there are a number of organizations working on that now."

David Raitt, senior technology transfer officer for the European Space Agency, believes the question is not whether to build a space elevator, but only how long it will take.

"It's like Jack and the beanstalk," Raitt said. "Just think of this idea of having this ribbon snaking up into space 100,000 kilometers long. It will be about a meter wide, but it will be as thin as paper. People would come just to see it."

Edwards said a space elevator could transport materials into the cosmos for about $100 a kilogram. He estimated that sending materials on a shuttle costs $10,000 to $40,000 per kilogram. That could make it affordable, for example, to build huge solar-energy gatherers and send them into space on the elevator.

"African countries could send up a solar satellite, and use that energy to build wells, and pump water and develop their economies," Edwards said.

Bill Rever, senior manager of business development for BP Solar, has been in contact with Edwards and said the space-elevator concept is "very promising."

"I was very impressed with the level of detail in their analysis of potential engineering problems, and their proposed solutions," Rever said. "They've done a lot of homework, and it really shows. It's far beyond the level of a bunch of guys with an idea. It's definitely at the level of actual engineering to make it happen."

Edwards is working with people worldwide on different aspects of the project, and looking for more investors to raise the $10 billion necessary to build the elevator. Some of that financial support could come from companies interested in developing space tourism

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