back to article SpaceX blasted massive plasma hole in Earth's ionosphere

A SpaceX rocket ripped a humongous hole in Earth’s ionosphere during a launch in California last year and may have impaired GPS satellites. The Falcon 9 rocket was blasted from Vandenberg Air Force Base on 24 August last year. It was carrying the Formosat-5, an Earth observation satellite, built by the Taiwan’s National Space …

  1. DrMordrid

    Yawn

    This GPS effect happens to a greater degree with other events as well, and the only reason the big shockwave happened this time was the satellite needed a more vertical trajectory. Most fly with a more horizontal trajectory, pitching over shortly aftrr launch.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Yawn

      The unusual trajectory was noted in the article.

      The implications for the future come from a combination of more rocket launches and greater use of GPS.

      1. Peter Ford

        Re: Yawn

        Surely in the future we'll have a space elevator and rocket launches will be a thing of the past...

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Yawn

          Space Elevators push the limits of what materials are theoretically capable of - and without a safety factor (typically 3x for bridges, 1.5 for aircraft).

          It's pleasing that such structures were considered by Buckminster Fuller, and after his death his name was given to the class of materials that come closest to making Space Elevators possible. If we could get the materials, the construction would still require a lot of rocket launches - at least until we can gather and fabricate material in space.

          Still, The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke is a good read (and the author's notes a good background on those who first conceived of the idea) and Feersum Enjinn by Iain M Banks is just staggering.

          1. Killing Time

            Re: Yawn

            @Dave126

            'Feersum Enjinn by Iain M Banks is just staggering.'

            nd vry difcult to reed....

            1. Julz

              Re: Yawn

              Not if your dyslexic

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Yawn Space elevators

          And the space elevator tether will knock all the satellites out!

          1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            Re: Yawn Space elevators

            Well put a little man on the end and have him sweep up the mess - one way of removing the wreckage (lots of it) out there.

        3. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Yawn

          Who knows what effect a bloody great cable going all the way through the atmosphere would have on the ionosphere?

          And as others have mentioned, Arthur C. Clarke's book The Fountains of Paradise is well worth a read.

          1. MrXavia

            Re: Yawn

            I always thought an active structure is a better way we can build a space elevator than just relying on materials...

            plus it could be built from the ground up, no need to launch rockets with all the materials first.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Space Fountain!

              The great advantage is that we could build one with today's technology.

              The great disadvantage is that it collapses if you turn off the power.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Space Fountain!

                "The great advantage is that we could build one with today's technology."

                We could build a Lofstrom loop too.

                "The great disadvantage is that it collapses if you turn off the power."

                Ditto

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Yawn

      "Disruptions in the ionosphere are to be expected for every rocket launch and are also detected during volcano blasts and solar flares."

      And don't forget meteorites. Those that are large enough to hit the ground most likely create the same KINDS of "problems" in the ionosphere.

      The *EARTH* is *NOT* *THAT* *FRAGILE*. And _natural_ processes do the SAME THING, and usually to a greater extent than ANYTHING humans can do. I mean, seriously, ONE ROCKET did "all that" ? I have my doubts!

      1. Uffish

        Re: Bombasticisms

        Did the article say the earth was permanently damaged? It did say that GPS readings were slightly affected. No big deal, except maybe for all of the precision measurements that were taken under the 'hole'. I know that if I had been surveying some affected area during that time I would be obliged to go out and at least check my measurements, just for insurance purposes.

      2. Orv Silver badge

        Re: Yawn

        The *EARTH* is *NOT* *THAT* *FRAGILE*.

        When people assert this as if it's an iron-clad fact, I'm always reminded of the people who said we could never run out of passenger pigeons, because God would never let one of his creations go extinct.

        (This particular effect, though, does seem to be no big deal except for radio services. It's probably worth learning more about, though, so we can anticipate it for other big launches.)

    3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Yawn

      I think the tone of the article is that the effect was somewhat unexpected so we should aim lots of scientific instruments at the next launch to see why our modeling was wrong.

  2. TonyJ Silver badge

    SAW?

    I don't know...probably just me, and it being a Friday and all but surely it should be ASW, as in Acoustic Shock Waves rather than SAW...it just doesn't read right.

    1. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: SAW?

      Doesn't SAW usually stand for surface acoustic wave?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Doesn't SAW usually stand for surface acoustic wave?

        Someone will be along in a minute to claim it means "Social Action Warrior"

        SAW has superceeded "SJW", because "justice" is, er, I dunno, a word loaded with outdated reactionary moral value judgements, or something. :-)

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: SAW?

      Note that for naming the ionospheric response of the shock wave, the literature uses terminology incorporating a different physical interpretation, among them the term ‘shock-acoustic wave’ (SAW) (Nagorsky, 1998).

      [SOURCE]

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: SAW?

        @Brewster

        Ahh...thank you for that. That missing hyphon makes it look much better and more readable.

    3. Tannin

      Re: SAW?

      SAW usually for stands Anti Submarine Warfare. (Sorry, this subject on-brings my lexdixia.)

  3. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Coat

    "The particularly large circular size of the shock wave"

    So it was a circular-SAW ?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "The particularly large circular size of the shock wave"

      ..and if you were watching it happen it'd be a see-SAW.

      1. TheRealRoland

        Re: "The particularly large circular size of the shock wave"

        I saw what you did there...

      2. jimdandy
        Windows

        Re: "The particularly large circular size of the shock wave"

        Or SAW is equally a Squad Assault Weapon, a particularly handy thing to have when you aren't sure what you're going to find when you get there...wherever THERE is. Luckily that device's propellants don't need any extra oxygen.

        But in free-fall, you'd better have a leg wrapped around a stanchion when you pull the trigger. And be prepared to re-adjust your position after you release the trigger.

  4. MondoMan
    Devil

    Really caused by red Lectroids

    They're upset that Lord John Whorfin is loose again...

    1. Flakk Silver badge

      Re: Really caused by red Lectroids

      Blue Blaze Irregulars in the Golden State have been mobilized. Reno and Perfect Tommy are heading up the strike team. Once the situation is contained, the Hong Kong Cavaliers are supposed to play the Palladium.

  5. x 7

    So the rocket wasn't guided by GPS?

  6. James Cullingham

    Disturbances in the wash (Eddies in the space-time continuum)

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/950420-i-have-detected-he-said-disturbances-in-the-wash

  7. diver_dave

    El Reg Standard Handbook

    Interesting read here:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Many-Molehills-Mountain-Marcus-Weeks/dp/190733226X

    Although Sheep in a Vacuum and Norris's do not seem to be in the updated edition.

    DaveA

  8. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    And this is why Musk wants to send us to Mars (and beyond) - it's his flipping rockets wiping out the ozone layer, making it lethal to live on the surface.

    Bah humbug !!! Why doesn't he do something useful like invent electric spaceships.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OMG!!

    So in summary, nothing happened.

  10. Flakk Silver badge

    Interesting

    I've never heard of the Advancing Earth and Space Science Journal before. Neither has Wikipedia. Or my search engine.

    I think I'll wash a grain of salt down with some GMO Berkeley beer.

    1. Frank Marsh

      Re: Interesting

      Hmm... I think the Editor may have glossed over that a bit too quickly. The actual journal appears to be Space Weather from the American Geophysical Union. "Advancing Earth and Space Science" is simply a tagline on their website.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Satellites allegedly impaired

    From article:

    >A SpaceX rocket ripped a humongous hole in Earth’s ionosphere during a launch in California last year and may have impaired GPS satellites.

    Really? How were the satellites impaired? I can see that satellite receiver models of the ionospheric propagation model were impaired resulting in reduced accuracy but that is not what the article states. And was not then not corrected by SBAS? And will the satellites recover in the view of The Reg?

  12. asphytxtc
    Facepalm

    So in summary...

    Thing punching hole through ionosphere, punches hole in ionosphere.

    Ionosphere recovers within hours, like it does every time something punches a hole in it.

    GPS *SIGNALS MAY* have been affected, although no study was actually done to measure the actual effect on GPS signals.

    ...

    Slow news day?

  13. breakfast
    Coat

    More like the I...OH NO... sphere.

  14. Richard Boyce

    Unusual trajectory

    Why was the trajectory unusually vertical?

    The satellite required a near-polar orbit, but it still needed to obtain orbital speed, so one would think that building that speed early to reduce gravity drag would be important.

    Was the desire to recover the booster a factor?

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Unusual trajectory

      ROOSTA:

      They’re not. They’re taking the building!

      [Sound of air whoosing past the building]

      ZAPHOD:

      Wha-what have I done to deserve this? I walk into a building…they take it away.

  15. Slx

    I've always thought that the best approach would be to float something up to the edge of the atmosphere then have a much smaller rocket blast to get it out into space.

    Using huge rockets just seems unnecessarily crude.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is a interesting idea! Surely they must have considered this... wonder why they don't do this?

      1. Richard Boyce

        Besides other things mentioned, I guess it would rule out the use of cryogenic propellants such as liquid oxygen. By the time, you got the rocket up to height, it'd be covered in ice and a lot of propellant would have boiled of

        Also, recovering the rocket and payload if there was an aborted launch would be a problem.

        1. Tannin

          Re Richard Boyce.

          It is routine to use cyrogenic propellants in upper stages of existing rockets, so I doubt that this would be a problem. I'm not sure how the engineers do it but, as an example, the upper stages of the Saturn 5 way back in the 1960s, having been lifted by a LOX - kerosene first stage, used LOX - liquid hydrogen. (Hydrogen for the upper stages because, although it's difficult to handle, it delivers twice as much thrust as kerosene.) For subsequent uses (e.g., the lunar lander) they preferred hypergolics because these provide reliable stop and restart.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Like the B52s carrying the X15 up before launch? I believe Paul Allen just wheeled out his humongous prototype for taxi tests. And of course, it's also been done with the venture Branson is now(?) selling tickets for.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Wasn't that pretty much what LOHAN is supposed to do? (If she ever gets off)

        Paris because the reg had been there before.

        1. ravenviz

          Maybe Skylon space plane is what you are looking for.

    3. Timbo

      "I've always thought that the best approach would be to float something up to the edge of the atmosphere then have a much smaller rocket blast to get it out into space."

      You still need to reach "escape velocity" although having used say a large helium balloon to get to the brink of the atmosphere, you wouldn't in principle then need as big a rocket to go the final few km.

      But you'd still have to accelerate much more quickly to reach the required velocity and that might put larger G forces on the payload.

      Time might also be an issue as it will take longer for a balloon to "float" up to the required altitude and it will be dependant on wind speed too - as you wouldn't want it in the wrong place so it cannot achieve the correct orbit or geostationary position. Also, I guess the helium would be lost so that would be a cost issue?

      Of course Virgin Galactic are still planning to use a larger "mothership" to fly a smaller passenger craft up to the edge of the atmos.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        "...still need to reach '[orbital] velocity'..."

        Under your chair you will find a very special balloon and a satellite (the payload).

        Balloon McBalloonface carries the satellite and continues to float up slowly, straight up and up and up..., and gently deposits the satellite payload into a geostationary orbital slot. Where of course, it stays.

        Discuss...

        1. ChrisBedford

          Re: "...still need to reach '[orbital] velocity'..."

          Balloon McBalloonface carries the satellite and continues to float up slowly, straight up and up and up..., and gently deposits the satellite payload into a geostationary orbital slot. Where of course, it stays.

          Ummm. You posted this as a joke, right? You do realise a balloon (aka lighter than air flight) can only take a payload as far as there is air? And that geostationary (or any other) orbit is "somewhat" beyond that?

          1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: "...still need to reach '[orbital] velocity'..."

            CB complained "...realise a balloon..."

            Oh no. Our mythical Balloon McBalloonface is not merely "a balloon".

            It's **a very special** balloon, where the critical phrase "a very special" is widely recognized as allowing such Thought Experiments. If you wish, you may close your eyes and think of Space Elevators while we continue back on point ("...need to reach '[orbital] velocity'...").

            The larger point, just in case it was also overlooked, is about the veracity of the supposed requirement for speed to reach orbit. This trivially obvious analysis indicates that it isn't necessarily so.

    4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Most of the energy that you need to impart to a satellite is kinetic, not potential. The "gh" term for something raised to low earth orbit is smaller (2.5 * 10^6 for 250km altitude) than the the ½v² term for orbital speed (about 25 * 10^6 for 7km/s). Consequently, that "smaller rocket" will be 90% of the size of what we use now.

      Floating a thousand tons of rocket fuel a few kilometres into the air would require you to displace a few thousand tons of air, to get the bouyancy. Air is about 1kg per cubic metre, so that's quite a big balloon, no matter what you fill it with.

      1. sisk Silver badge

        Out of curiosity, did you factor air resistance into that calculation? I ask because I was ball-parking (with estimates because I'm too lazy to actually do the math) around 75-80%. Which, when you factor in the cost of helium, would still make it not really worthwhile. We could use hydrogen as our lifting gas, which would be much cheaper, but a hydrogen balloon that stands a good chance of being in the exhaust of a rocket engine just seems like a bad idea.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          but a hydrogen balloon that stands a good chance of being in the exhaust of a rocket engine just seems like a bad idea.

          Not quite. The hydrogen is not pre-mixed with oxygen in any way so it will combust instead of explode, which will be a much less violent event (see: Hindenburg, but without the passengers). Also, it will happen in a thin atmosphere, so little oxygen for the hydrogen to react with. I expect the combustion to run out of oxygen locally and extinguish before all the hydrogen has burned, with the remainder of the hydrogen dispersed in the upper atmosphere.

          That is, if you manage to get it up this way, anyway.

        2. Tannin

          "a hydrogen balloon that stands a good chance of being in the exhaust of a rocket engine just seems like a bad idea"

          Just think of it as an unorthodox sort of afterburner. :)

          .

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Which, when you factor in the cost of helium, would still make it not really worthwhile. "

          IF we had a helium economy then that might change.

          We could have had access to massive quantities of bloody cheap helium for the last 40 years if Richard Nixon hadn't killed off the Oak Ridge Molten Salt Reactor experiments for political reasons, then outlawed any and all further research in order to ensure the still twitching corpse stayed in its grave (look it up, molten salt nuclear activity is explicitly outlawed in the USA)

          Anything using molten sodium as a coolant ("no, honestly, we can assure you it won't catch fire this time") is a bad idea from the outset - just ask the Japanese about what happened at Monju - and that didn't even involve any radioactive material.

    5. Martin Budden

      "I've always thought that the best approach would be to float something up to the edge of the atmosphere then have a much smaller rocket blast to get it out into space."

      What a load of ballockets!

      p.s. also known as rockoons, but that doesn't sound nearly as funny.

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      The huge rocket is primarily for speed, not altitude. The speed given by a launch aircraft is usually achieved by most rockets in less than 30 seconds and altitude in less than 2 minutes

      Aircraft launches have huge payload to orbit penalties because the maximum payload of the aircraft is the _gross_ mass of the fully fuelled rocket. The only advantage they offer is the ability to put very small payloads in a desired orbit relatively quickly and it's not that much of an advantage considering the massive cost penalties incurred.

    7. Craig 2

      As the doctor said, getting it up is fairly easy, keeping it up takes much more effort ;)

  16. E 2

    Shorely you meant CSAWs?

    Shorely you meant CSAWs?

  17. Refugee from Windows

    Phooey?

    Bigger rockets have been launched in the past (notably Saturn V), and in the days when HF communications were more important commercially, there were no problems reported with the ionosphere recorded. If there had been, I am sure the FCC would have picked this as having been noted by members of the ARRL. Surely there would have been plenty of reports of the effects of launching through the various layers, indeed various governments (including the UK) have carried out experiments and regular measurements of the ionosphere.

    The frequencies used by GPS are c 1.5GHz - these pass straight through largely unscathed. There may be some odd rotation effects for instance very occasionally, but unless you're trying to thread a needle from space, largely insignificant.

    Not so much punching a hole, more just a minor ripple.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Phooey?

      RfW suggested, "...GPS ...these pass straight through largely unscathed."

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_Area_Augmentation_System

  18. brook_tno

    Meter GPS no big deal?

    I doubt any construction or survey crew would consider their centimeter or millimeter GPS system being a meter our to be no big deal. Hope no one was paving or pouring concrete in the area that day!

    1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Meter GPS no big deal?

      When your bum is being kicked for 100 mm discrepancies that shouldnt be there, and your daily workload is increased with an extra half hour to an hour of quality assurance checks and verification

      - I say crucifixion is too good for 'em.

      1. ChrisBedford

        Re: Meter GPS no big deal?

        your bum is being kicked for 100 mm discrepancies that shouldnt be there

        What absolute bollocks. GPS is not specced to be accurate to 100 mm, so you should be using something more accurate if you are working to that sort of tolerance.

        In the building example above, for instance, using GPS as a substitute for a land surveyor is a piss-poor excuse and just downright lazy. You'd deserve to have your bum kicked - right out of a job.

  19. JCF2009

    One meter error?

    ". . . fluctuations were probably pretty small and could have led to a range of errors in GPS navigation of up to a meter - not significant enough to cause major problems . . ."

    One meter error passable for ordinary civilian road navigation, but certainly not for surveying or some military applications.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One meter error?

      >One meter error passable for ordinary civilian road navigation, but certainly not for surveying or some military applications.

      Those are two very different scenarios with very different solutions:

      Surveying: in these cases you use at the very least differential GPS (DGPS) but more likely real time kinematic (RTK) or carrier tracking. The latter allows you to use the L2 signal without having to decode or decrypt it. With RTK you can get down to 1.9 mm (yes, millimetre) precision. Result: no problem.

      Military: these guys have access to L2 signal decryption and receiving L1 together with L2 allows you to determine ionosphere propagation without having to resort to models. With L2 you get close to the fundamental limits of GPS which is about 1 m error. Result: no problem.

      BTW: I am still awaiting El Reg's explanation of the impaired satellites.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: One meter error?

        "With L2 you get close to the fundamental limits of GPS which is about 1 m error. Result: no problem."

        That's 2cm, not mm. (RT2)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One meter error?

          There is a difference between relative positioning as with carrier tracking and absolute positioning which for GPS is geocentric and defined to withing just one metre.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: One meter error?

            "which for GPS is geocentric and defined to withing just one metre."

            Which for _NAVSTAR_ GPS is defined to within 1 metre.

            Gallileo, Beidou and Glonass GPS systems all have different (and usually stricter) accuracy statements. The high precision systems use them all as well as ground based signals.

            Even civilian smartphone handset use L2/Q2 signals these days - from all the above, as well as the Japanese and Indian constellations where available.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: One meter error?

              >Even civilian smartphone handset use L2/Q2 signals these days

              Really? Care to cite sources?

              The latest I hear on chip set s for multiple bands was a Broadcom chip for L1 + L5. As L2 is encrypted and thus only usable in civilian settings for carrier tracking and that is used in surveying I would be very surprised to hear of any civilian smart phone with L2 capability.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: One meter error?

      If you need less than 1 metre accuracy you're not _just_ going to be relying on L1 band GPS, nor will you be solely using space-based positioning systems.

  20. sisk Silver badge
    Joke

    Why does "blow a hole in the ionosphere" sound like something a Bond villain would try to do? Is Elon Musk a Bond villain now?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Is Elon Musk a Bond villain now?"

      Yes, and he just tore the earth a new one.

  21. DCFusor Silver badge

    Launch from altitude

    @Ken Hagan is right about the energy, but neglects an important fact of rocketry -

    At 1 gee, your efficiency is zero - you're burning to just hover.

    You want to accelerate as fast as the payload can stand to avoid wasting all of that first gee.

    But you can't - even for wimpy manned payloads IIRC, because of supersonic "Max Q" loads if you

    get going too fast where the air is still dense - mentioned on all SpaceX launches, they actually have to throttle back some.

    Again, the only benefit you get from fuel is for (total gee -1). So you really don't want to have to throttle down for mere aerodynamic loads (and losses, you can melt nose cones at supersonic speeds).

    Starting from where the air is thin saves this waste, so it's not quite as bad as Ken says.

  22. Milton Silver badge

    Compare and contrast

    I periodically wonder if we have missed a trick by forsaking the Orion nuclear launch system in the 1960s. Using modern clean-warhead tech it is quite likely we could orbit ships the size of aircraft carriers for less fallout than a single 1950s nuclear test. Suddenly, achieving a self-supporting Mars base goes from being extremely unlikely and taking three to four decades of sustained launches, to a single mission that plants the equivalent of a small town down in Hellas Basin in one go.

    Unlikely as that seems, I'd be interested to know if anyone's run the math on phenomena like the ionospheric damage done by routine firework-type rockets. How does a couple fo dozen fireworks like F9 compare with a single nuclear-pulse Orion launch? Might make for some thought-provoking speculation about the right way to get people off this polluted little mudball and into space properly.

    1. mosw

      Re: Compare and contrast

      "Using modern clean-warhead tech"

      Is that like using cruelty-free torture techniques?

    2. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Compare and contrast

      Been reading Footfall?

      I sometimes wonder much the same but I think there are far too many things which could go spectacularly wrong. Emergency use only.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Compare and contrast

      "Using modern clean-warhead tech"

      Where exactly do you think "modern clean warhead tech" came from and was developed for? (which ended up being put into MIRVs)

      "How does a couple of dozen fireworks like F9 compare with a single nuclear-pulse Orion launch?"

      According to various documentaries you'd need _at least_ 2 dozen atmospheric nuclear bursts to get Orion launched in addition to the initial few groundbursts (one on the ground, the next few so close they may as well be). The estimate was 1-3 deaths from atmospheric radiation effect per launch, which was felt to be too many. Are you up for that?

      JFK killed Orion because the twits in the miliitary mocked up a fully armoured fortress in space capable of tossing nuclear bombs back at the ground and showed that to him instead of the intended use of an outerplanetary exploration vessel. He was horrified and stopped it the next day. The 1963 atmospheric nuclear weapons test ban sealed its fate.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Parodigal consequences are too slow to come home

    Hey Yeah, Way to Go.

    Really we live inside a bauble on a Christmas tree, if you break out it will destroy us all.

  24. ChrisBedford

    Loaded with emotive superlatives

    I had thought El Reg was relatively immune to the desperate sensationalism of tabloid-style reporting, but apparently I was way off the mark there.

  25. A Bee

    "1,770,000 square kilometers (1,099,827 square miles), more than four times the total area of California."

    Come on, Reg, let's have some consistency of standard units. What you mean is 85.1904 times the size of Wales.

  26. nwlarryb

    I don't understand!

    Per the article, I don't understand: What's the velocity of a sheep in a vacuum?

    1. Twanky

      Re: I don't understand!

      1/100 c.

      However I can't find why a sheep's speed in vacuum is limited. Also, what sort of vacuum? Dyson, Miele or Hoover?

  27. Ardly

    Fountains

    Would just like to reiterate others comments about The Fountains of Paradise. Superb book!! Sadly I wont be alive to see a space elevator built. I think its just a matter of waiting for materials science to catch up.

    1. Twanky

      Re: Fountains

      Charles Sheffield's The Web Between the Worlds is fun too. Mind you, I would not like to fly in a fully built space tower - can't see the HSE liking that at all.

  28. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    “The researchers estimate that the SAW blasted electrons away, causing the total electron content - the concentration of electrons along a one-meter squared region - to deplete by as much as 70 per cent.”

    Where did all those electrons go?

  29. AndyD 8-)₹

    "four times the total area of California." - hold on _ thought we were using Reg Units ,,, xxx Belgiums please

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019