Cana­dian firm patents ‘space el­e­va­tor’ in tower up to or­bit

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Press “S” for space? A Cana­dian com­pany wants to build a tower that would al­low astro­nauts to take an el­e­va­tor part way into or­bit.

The tower would be 20 times higher than Dubai’s Burj Khal­ifa, cur­rently the world’s tallest build­ing that soars 830 me­ters into the sky.

The idea of a “space el­e­va­tor” was first pro­posed in 1895 by Rus­sian sci­en­tist Kon­stantin Tsi­olkovsky af­ter he saw the Eif­fel Tower in Paris, and was re­vis­ited nearly a cen­tury later in a novel by Arthur C. Clarke.

But tech­ni­cal bar­ri­ers have al­ways kept plans stuck at the con­cep­tual stage.

Last month, how­ever, Thoth Tech­nol­ogy was granted a U.S. patent for its “space el­e­va­tor,” which is mod­est in com­par­i­son but prom­ises to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the cost of space travel.

The Pem­broke, On­tario-based firm en­vi­sions build­ing a 20-kilo­me­ter (12-mile) high tower with a plat­form at the top “for launch­ing pay­loads, tourism, ob­ser­va­tion, sci­en­tific re­search and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.”

The tower would be con­structed of pres­sur­ized, stacked cells, ac­cord­ing to the patent.

“El­e­va­tor cars may as­cend or de­scend on the outer sur­face of the el­e­va­tor core struc­ture or in a shaft on the in­te­rior of the el­e­va­tor core struc­ture.”

Haul­ing pay­loads on an el­e­va­tor into near space would vir­tu­ally elim­i­nate at­mo­spheric drag, and then launch­ing them into space from the strato­sphere would re­quire less fuel.

The com­pany es­ti­mates this would re­duce the cost of space flight by one third.

In his 1979 novel “The Foun­tains of Par­adise,” Clark pro­posed de­liv­er­ing pay­loads from the ground to outer space by us­ing a huge ca­ble an­chored to an or­bit­ing plat­form.

But this re­quired a 35,000-kilo­me­ter-long ca­ble — which can­not be built us­ing ex­ist­ing ma­te­ri­als — and a coun­ter­weight the size of a small as­ter­oid.

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