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