Friday, July 3, 2009

Another Space Elevator Concept

Inflatable Tower Promises Easy Access to Outer Space
Eric Bland, Discovery News
Easy Access to the Stars Discovery News Video

July 2, 2009 -- An inflatable tower nine miles tall and tethered to a mountain top could cut the cost to launch spacecraft, reduce the need for geostationary communications satellites, and improve cell phone signals.

"This structure could be made of commercially available materials," said Brendan Quine, who, along with Raj Seth and George Zhu at York University in Toronto, Canada, wrote an article detailing their tower in the journal Acta Astronautica.

The tower itself would be 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) tall, 230 meters (754 feet) across, and weigh approximately 800,000 tons, or about twice the weight of the world's largest supertanker when fully inflated with a variety of gasses, including helium.

To keep the Kevlar-laminate tower from floating away, and to provide access, three elevator tubes would anchor the tower to the ground. An elevator ride to the top would take about 40 minutes moving at 22 miles per hour.

Tethered to a mountain 3.1 miles high, the tower would initially rise 12.4 miles (20 kilometers). "At 20 kilometers you still have gravity, but the view would be similar to that of an astronaut," with a black, not blue, sky. The ultimate height of an inflatable tower could be 200 kilometers (124 miles). A person, or communications array, could also see 373 miles in any direction from 12.4 miles in the air.
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