Today we bring you the surprising news that space elevators are not yet a viable business concern, as the Department of Financial Institutions Securities Division (DFISD) in the state of Washington issued a cease and desist order against LiftPort. The LiftPort Group (motto: Change the world or go home) was founded in 2003 with …
Managing Perception..... Not Uncle Sam's Forte
In essence, a rebuke for raising/spending $117,000 on a project they believe in but which is still not realised.
Hmmm.... Can we expect the Department of Financial Institutions Securities Division (DFISD) in the state of Washington to issue a cease and desist order for the Collapsed Towers ...Teleport2Iraq project too?
Which project management team needs their heads examining the most and which one do we really need protection from?
The DFSID is the organization which goes after bogus companies that dupe investors.
The stock in the company was unregistered and the company was breaking the law by soliciting the investments in the manner that they did.
So I'm not sure which perception are you trying to manage?
Clearly the company that is trying to build a tethered satellite doesn't have all of its infrastructure in place. Anyone outside of government grants who invests in this idea at this early of a stage is nuts.
I never understood...
How the geostationary satellite would possibly bear the weight of the elevator. Even when you find a tether strong enough, you've still got to:
a) Keep the 2 endpoints fixed in place (one's the Earth, so that's easy enough) and
b) Keep the Earthed end of the tether on the ground using something rather strong.
Keeping the satellite in place (a) is definitely the more complex of the problems, as what's to stop it plummeting to Earth under the weight of both ends of the tether?
"LiftPort and Tethered Towers have until September this year to start generating revenues of $25,000 per month"
All they need to do is charge for reservations for the space elevator - just like how Pan Am took reservations for moon flights back in the 1960s. Two hundred people at $125 a pop per month can't be all that hard. If they charge $150 a go they will be making a comfortable profit, even without having to build the elevator. In fact, they could save money by taking non-refundable reservations for the elevator, and then not building the elevator at all. Perhaps they could spend some of the money on consolation prizes in one of those "vomit comets".
They broke the rules, laws and regulations about selling stock, or that's the assertion by the regulatory body, as I read it. Nothing to do with making fraudulent claims. 85 investors only raised $117k? Nobody's betting very much of the farm on these guys producing some sort of licensable technology that might develop from the quest for a beanstalk, which is fair enough.
re Robert Grants understanding
"How the geostationary satellite would possibly bear the weight of the elevator. Even when you find a tether strong enough, you've still got to:"
"Keeping the satellite in place (a) is definitely the more complex of the problems, as what's to stop it plummeting to Earth under the weight of both ends of the tether?"
fill a bucket with water, take hold of its handle, and swing it around in a circle; what happens to the water?
the cable dosnt need to be strong just to support the elevator, it needs to be strong to hold the satellite, and keep it from dissapearing into space.
my understanding of it is that its not quite a geostationary satellite, but just a little further out, like that bucket on the end of your arm.
re: I never understood...
The way I've always understood it, the tether has to be 2x the height of geosynchronous orbit (or a bit longer with a great big counterweight on the end, beyond geosynchronous orbit), so that its centre of gravity is geostationary, or perhaps slightly above geostationary to keep the tether nice and taut. That way the spaceward side is just connected to the tether, rather than supporting it. Also, if you want to send something Outward Bound, you can traverse the tether to the end (ie way above geosynchronous orbit), let go at just the right moment, and use your angular momentum to significantly reduce the delta-vee which your spacecraft has to effect to get there.
However, I am not an aerospace engineer - would love to hear from those who really know!
Re: I never understood
If you place the satellite so the center of mass for satellite and cable is at the altitude of geosynchronous orbit, it will stay in place relative to a point on Earth and not exert any pull on the Earth end of the cable.
However, if you let a large number of masses crawl up the cable by exerting force on th cable, this would slow down the total system. Seen in another way, since the crawler mass gains angular momentum relative to Earth, the satellite+cable must lose a similar angular momentum. So you must position the satellite+cable so its center of mass is slightly higher than geosynchronous orbit, so a pull on the cable is required to keep it in place (the cable is, hence, not exactly vertical). This way, the angular momentum lost by adding momentum to the crawlers is regained by Earth's pull on the cable. Every crawler will take a bit of angular momentum from the Earth instead of from the satellite+cable system, but there is enough of that to go round.
So, the cable needs to withstand the pull that keeps the satellite in place and the additional pull of the crawlers. So you need a very strong cable. Additionally, you need to place a very heavy satellite in geosync orbit. There has been suggestions of capturing a small asteroid, but that needs technology beyond what we have now.
A more realistic plan would be incremental build-up: First build a minimal system that can only carry a few kilograms. Then use that to ferry masses up to build a larger satellite and at the same time make the cable thicker. Eventually, you can build a system that can take serious workloads. But even a minimal system is going to be expensive, so I'm not holding my breath.
the proper term, from what I know, is actually geo-synchronous. it means the the orbital period of the satellite is in sync with the rotation of the Earth, and this IS one of those.
Robert Grant, no disrespect but I suggest you go read up a bit more on the physics of space elevators, which are well understood. Apologies if you were being ironically satyrical or something. The key problem with space elevators at the moment are not the theoretical or technical challenges, but simple cost of manufacture (and politics and the inevitable limited capabilities of complex human organisations I suppose) - it would be so expensive to do that the whole world would have to get behind it to achieve it, and maintain that will for many years. Like a global Apollo project, only more-so.
Investors needed an SF nerd
...who would have told them that you need an impossibly strong material to make the cable out of. Hard SF authors (the kind that actually do the math) worked this out in the 60's.
Robert Zubrin is another Con Artist ....
Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin and cohert James McKay are another pair of "space exploration" Con Artists with their bullshit promises (and investment schemes) of terraforming of Mars. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE!!
- (Mars has NO MOON capable of stabilizing it's rotation like Earths!; the CORE IS DEAD - no heat to perpetuate an atmosphere or create a protective magnetosphere!; NOT ENOUGH SUN LIGHT to perpetuate a crop of anykind IF you could grow one!; Sand storms that fry electronics, let alone humans, from the static electricity the storms create!; etc. etc., etc.)
Re: Investors needed an SF nerd
In fact, Andy, it has been established that a ribbon made of carbon nanotubes would comfortably do the job. The problem at present is how to make one 26,000 miles long - although the technology of carbon nanotube production is proceeding apace, and production is thought likely to be possible in less than ten years (given the will and the finance).
However, this may be another technical possibility of the commercial fusion type - always just around the corner.
Hugely expensive, yes. But so was Apollo, and what did we get out of that? A few kilos of rock.
For the space elevator, you don't use *one* cable. Not unless you're suicidal, anyway.
For terraforming Mars (the payoff from which is an entire planet to colonise - with more total space than all of North and South America combined, and Europe seems to have managed that nicely, even with the active opposition of the natives).
To create the atmosphere, we bombard Mars with icey material from Saturn's rings - expensive to get started, and a long-term (probably a century at least) project, but it *can* be done. This also provides some heat input (friction heating of the incoming "ice bombs") and more water. The water is likely enough to put paid to the sandstorms. If it's not, then plant beach grass.
To protect the atmosphere, and any future inhabitants, from Solar radiation, a Mylar balloon is constructed at roughly 15km altitude, enclosing the entire planet, with a few strategically-placed openings for space traffic.
And there's more than enough sunlight to grow crops. We do it just fine in high latitudes on Earth.
Expensive? Sure. Payoff? An entire *planet*. How much is that worth?
Materials technology is currently way below this requirement
This and other interesting information about the concept exists see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_elevator . Materials with the tensile strength needed for the tether, if these can ever be developed, will be deployed in much longer suspension bridges than are currently possible first, so don't hold your breath.
We're getting there
Carbon nanotubes are making much stronger materials possible. Next we make a thermoconductive core, attach shielding to the outer end which keeps the sun off and bingo, heatsink for the earth, no more global warming.
Well THIS is exciting
How nifty. A project I'm involved with has hit The Register. One could have wished for better circumstances. My mind's ear can hear this article in a snark Beeb accent ..
"Anyone outside of government grants who invests in this idea at this early of a stage is nuts."
"Nobody's betting very much of the farm on these guys producing some sort of licensable technology that might develop from the quest for a beanstalk, which is fair enough."
It is, possibly, worth noting that none of our investors have complained. Which, if they are nuts, is reasonable. I take the more charitable approach and remember that
* We were never blatant about our investment - and all mention of investing was removed from our website over two years ago.
* We turned down large sums (by our standards) of money from people whom we felt could not afford to invest it.
* Our investment doc was structured so that (it felt) half of it was filled with warnings and wave-offs and long lists of reasons why investing with us was a terribly bad idea.
* We had a fixed amount that could be invested.
"A more realistic plan would be incremental build-up: First build a minimal system that can only carry a few kilograms. Then use that to ferry masses up to build a larger satellite and at the same time make the cable thicker. Eventually, you can build a system that can take serious workloads. But even a minimal system is going to be expensive, so I'm not holding my breath."
That is actually the approach we're going with. A seed ribbon that will sustain itself and a few climbers. Deployment climbers ascend and layer on more CNT composite as they ascend.
Take terms like 'expensive' with a grain of salt. Our last roadmap (summer of 2006) calculated an optimistic completion date of 2031 and a total (2006 dollars) of between 25-30 billion.
This might be wildly optimistic - but it's hard to see where else money could be spent, given our assumptions.
I will allow our assumptions could be faulty: no one is perfect.
Please note that some of the people (not LiftPort) working on this idea think that we're being very pessimistic with cost and time estimates. We look like dour Lutherans by comparison with some published estimates.
"...who would have told them that you need an impossibly strong material to make the cable out of. "
Well .. we did put a lot of language in our investment docs to that effect.
"Materials with the tensile strength needed for the tether, if these can ever be developed, will be deployed in much longer suspension bridges than are currently possible first, so don't hold your breath."
We never claimed we'd be the first user - it would be foolish to think that using a new material in such a critical application is a good idea; clearly it's not
But what happens when.....
In Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars" trilogy, the space elevator thingy came a crashing down during a war. The darn thing then wrapped itself around and around the planet crushing everything under its path.
I can see real estate values dropping..... Under a flight path?...No. Check! Near a freeway?...No. Check! Under the space elevaltor thingy crash zone?...Yes. Ooooer !
"It's only a model"
KSR's "Mars Trilogy" was only a book.
He built his space elevator so it would have a catastrophic effect when the bad guys (or good guys - it has been a few years since I've read it) brought it down a the end of the first book.
Mr. Robinson was kind enough to write an essay in our book (hey - go buy a copy while you can at our website) expressing this sentiment. He said a great deal better than I did of course.
Back here in the real world several things prevent a catastrophic 'Red Mars' scenario.
* We can't make a material strong enough to survive the heat of re-entry, and maintain it's integrity, and smash into the ground, then wrap itself around the planet. No one can.
* If anyone proposes to build a structure that can visit that much destruction, you'd be right to oppose them and tell them they can't build it.
What we think - and this is only one area that needs more study - will happen if the ribbon is severed is this; the bit below the break comes down. The bit above goes up and out. Stress from the break may sheer the ribbon material apart. Re-entry shock for any parts of the ribbon above the atmosphere will burn the ribbon up. Any intact sections are paper light per kilometer and should not cause damage.
Note the liberal use of modifiers; "should" "we think" etc. We simply don't know what will happen - anyone who says they know for sure is not being honest. Before this system can deploy a great deal of study is needed so we know what will happen when things break.
Re: But what happens when....
I always found that part of Robinson's Mars trilogy somewhat suspect. What you do if the tether gets broken is to cut it into several more pieces. The lowest part(s) might crash, but the upper parts will enter elliptical orbits outside the atmosphere.
You might conceivably reclaim the pieces and reattach them one at a time starting with the outermost and catching the lower ones as the pass near their original position.
If the US builds a space elevator, they would probably have the Earth end at or off the Pacific island of Jarvis, which is pretty close the to Equator (22 nautical miles). It is also pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so even if several hundred miles of cable came crashing down, it would create a big splash, but no disaster.
Re: Well THIS is exciting
Not exactly the publicity you'd like, or the circumstances you wanted to hit the register with, I'd guess!
I've been keeping an eye on LiftPort for a while now, and I've been impressed. It's a shame that this kind of thing has happened and I hope you get through it. I think it's very important that those with a visionary ideal, and, more importantly, a viable plan, can go and try it. I know that you've put significant money into both lifting technologies and nanotube research.
Best of luck for the future.
Terraforming with balloons
> a Mylar balloon is constructed at roughly 15km altitude, enclosing the entire planet [i.e. Mars]
A quick calculation shows that you need about 38 billion tons of Mylar ® for that job, and I don't really see how you'd keep it off the surface of the planet. The support structures, each nearly ten miles high and able to support an aggregate 38 billion tons would be fabricated from what, exactly? Or even conceptually? No scrith, mind.
How do you manage to float several tons of material into orbit in the first place? I go t the idea of slowly expanding the mass until it will hold weight, but I dont see how the initial thread escapes the earth. Somehow I don't see the space shuttle reeling out a big ball of wire as it shoots off into space.
Deployment in a nutshell
"How do you manage to float several tons of material into orbit in the first place?"
The plan is to loft the seed ribbon in several flights by rocket to LEO. Mate the components together. The now complete deployment vehicle reels the earth end down and in while the vehicle deploys up and out.
Eventually you end up with a 100,000 km ribbon, with the deployment vehicle at the bitter end, forming part of the counterweight. The lifters that are used to add on to the ribbon are parked nose-tail at the bitter end, forming the rest of the counterweight.
Readers of el Reg - who are a perceptive bunch - will note this plan is fraught with difficulty and issues. How many flights and how much cable makes up the seed ribbon? We don't know - it depends on the composition of the ribbon and how strong it is. On orbit assembly is problematic in that the only example of that to-date has been ISS. We only get one shot at deploying the ribbon. And so on.
In our defense; We have put some thought into this - more than my poor summary at least. The plan takes advantage of current state of the art and does not require really large rockets to deploy - which don't exist and might never exist. It's flexible in that we know things are going to change and we'll adapt to take advantage as we need.