The July, 2016 issue of the ISEC Space Elevator Newsletter is now available: July 2016 ISEC Space Elevator Newsletter
Please note that registration is still open for the 2016 ISEC Space Elevator Conference in August in Seattle, WA! Time is running out, so register today before the deadline of August 14!
Also see the June 2016 ISEC Space Elevator Newsletter.
When I teach space systems engineering, early in the class, I always ask: Has any launch from America's spaceports ever launched on time? If one were to say that the launch team scheduled a launch 4 months prior for 2 O'clock on Tuesday the xth day of month y, the answer is not only NO, but a resounding NO. This is not bad as the principal purpose of a launch is SAFE delivery to orbit. The American process is to Launch when Ready, not on-time. Other countries have other launch practices, but America's approach is Launch when Ready. Multiple launches have been delayed over six months - until ready. This lesson is one learned from years of difficulty. Expensive satellite launches demand successful delivery to orbit.
When you go to a train station, what are your expectations? Of course, on-time is the watchword for train schedules. Most of the time, airlines make departures close to their expected times. Bus schedules are almost always on time. So why is access to space any different. It is just a delivery system to a user location.
One of the underappreciated aspects of projected space elevator operations is the capability to launch on time. The current concept of the Initial Operational Capability in the time frame of 2038 is one launch at dawn each day. As this is just an elevator trip to space, launch on time is the watchword for this type of access. One launch per day per space elevator each day. This would be routine access to space as well as low cost. These two traits tied with the concept of 14 metric tons of payload for each space elevator each day will change our understanding of space access. This transportation infrastructure will change the world and open up our solar system for humanity.
Dr. Peter Swan, President - ISEC
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The June, 2016 issue of the ISEC Space Elevator Newsletter is now available: June 2016 ISEC Space Elevator Newsletter
Please note that registration is still open for the 2016 ISEC Space Elevator Conference in August in Seattle, WA!
Also see the May 2016 ISEC Space Elevator Newsletter.
This page also contains links to several historic Space Elevator studies, including:
Please be sure to check out the National Space Society's other pages on space related topics:
Space Elevators have been mentioned on the web in a number of places. Here are some samples (links will open in a new tab):
The Space Elevator is the most promising Space Transportation system on the drawing boards today, combining scalability, low cost, qualify of ride, and safety to deliver truly commercial-grade space access - practically comparable to a train ride to space.
Rocket-based space launch systems are inherently limited by the physics of rocket propulsion. More than 90% of the rocket's weight is propellant, and the rest is split between the weight of the fuel tank and the payload. It is very difficult (if not impossible) to make such a vehicle safe or low cost. A target cost of $1,000 US per kg is proving to be impossible to reach. In comparison, airliners charge us about $1 per pound, and train transportation is in cents per pound.
The Space Elevator is based on a thin vertical tether stretched from the ground to a mass far out in space, and electric vehicles (climbers) that drive up and down the tether. The rotation of the Earth keeps the tether taut and capable of supporting the climbers. The climbers travel at speeds comparable to a fast train, and carry no fuel on board - they are powered by a combination of sunlight and laser light projected from the ground. While the trip to space takes several days, climbers are launched once per day.
The first "baseline" design will use 20 ton climbers, but by making the tether thicker (which can be done using the Space Elevator itself) we can grow the Space Elevator to lift 100, or even 1,000 tons at a time. In addition to launching payloads into orbit, the Space Elevator can also use its rotational motion to inject them into planetary transfer orbits - thus able to launch payloads to Mars, for example, once per day. Imagine the kind of infrastructure we can set up there, waiting for the first settlers to arrive... Looking back from the year 2100, the construction of the Space Elevator will be considered to mark the true beginning of the Space Age, much like the advent of the airplane or steamboat heralded the true commercial use of the air and sea.