Going up? Kickstarter hopefuls raise space elevator cash

Aug 27, 2012 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org)—A Space Elevator Project has gone past its $8,000 goal on Kickstarter, although the group's ultimate goal is to raise a cooler $100,000 up to $3 million as the project achieves phase to phase progress. The company, LiftPort, has the idea for a space elevator that could take robots, cargo, and humans to the surface of the moon with a single launch rocket solution. The concept could become a reality in eight years. Michael Laine, CEO of the company, set as its first goal the draw of $8,000 to fund the early part of the project that will be placed on the moon, hopefully around the year 2020. Laine has been immersed in space elevator research for over ten years and is the president of the US Alumni Association for the International Space University.

While a small amount of money raised will make them a stronger hobby team the more they raise in time the stronger the possibility that LiftPort can become a true lunar elevator company. As of this writing, the amount that has been pledged is $13,899 with 16 days to go

The overall goal is continued research and work toward the construction of that lunar elevator. "The study will include characterization of materials; analysis of required rocketry and robotics; and evaluation of landing sites and methods of anchoring to the . Additionally, Ribbon spooling, infrastructure deployment, and mitigation techniques will be explored," according to the company.

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The Liftport system would allow access to the lunar surface via a ribbon cable. The Liftport system would first send a base into orbit. A ribbon cable would shoot out towards the lunar surface, and a lander module would attach to the moon's surface. The would be drilled into the surface.

The immediate step first is to test the system on earth with a 2km-high elevator. The company plans to use the funds to create a floating balloon platform tethered to the ground, which will assist a robot to climb into the sky. According to company notes, "the plan is to first build the 'bot, then an indoor test rig. Imagine a vertical treadmill."

When the team is satisfied with its performance, they will build out the Tethered Towers test platform of helium balloons held to the ground with a ribbon. "We can pre-test this up to 200ft without causing a ruckus at the Federal Aviation Administration. Any further, and we need airspace clearances from the FAA, Air Force and Navy."

Laine says that the modest goal of $8,000 at first is to rebuild their community. "We will another campaign; and another, and another and another."

The most ambitious goal of raising $3 million would allow the LiftPort to carry out a one-year feasibility study for the moon project.

If successful, the technology could also act as a cheap communications tower on Earth, help to monitor crops, watch for forest fires, and carry cameras to show a sky picture of natural disaster areas.

"We've been catalyzing and coordinating the commercial development of the Space Elevator for over nine years. I was personally involved with NASA's 2001-2003 definitive research study. My company, LiftPort, grew out of the results of that study," said Laine.

Explore further: Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

More information: liftport.com/
www.kickstarter.com/projects/m… o-the-sky-a-tethered

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webhostingcompany
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 27, 2012
Or, you could ask the company who wont $900,000 to help?
A Seattle-based team has won $900,000 in this year's Space Elevator Games, a NASA-sponsored contest to build machines powered by laser beams that can climb a cable in the sky.
Sonhouse
not rated yet Aug 27, 2012
Don't they have that pesky detail of not having a strong enough cable at this time?

Also, assuming we have a strong enough cable for the moon thing, how high up does it go above the moon's surface? I guess you would call it a lunar synchronous orbit.
Sonhouse
3 / 5 (4) Aug 27, 2012
So the velocity at the surface of the moon's rotation rate is about 4.6 meters per second. Running that out all the way to roughly the distance of Earth, 384,000,000 meters, the result is still 113 meters per second orbital velocity of the moon at that altitude, roughly. 25 times faster than a lunar synchronous orbit has to be to hold a lunar elevator in the same spot without moving. That makes it impossible to build a lunar synchronous orbit space elevator on the moon.
danlgarmstrong
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 27, 2012
Making a geostationary (lunarstationary?) space elevator from the moon does not make sense. In that Sonhouse is correct. For a space elevator to work it would need to go to one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points. There the gravitational pull of the two bodies balance each other and create a point of stability. The Lagrange Point L1 is about 58,000 km above the surface of the moon and would work quite well as the end point of the elevator.
Sanescience
2.4 / 5 (5) Aug 27, 2012
This is one of those "Mother of All Bad Ideas" under the category of technology and experience not up to the challenge.

However it is a great idea for people who would like to get paid to daydream and ponder "wouldn't it be cool if..."

As our understanding of space access and space environments grows its becoming pretty clear that YOU DON'T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET. Especially in high risk arenas.

I know that for some people a space elevator would be one project of many, but lets pull our head out of the sand and say congress could fund even one giga-billion dollar space project with little prospects of economic return on investment. One stray spaceship (let alone space debris) and all that time and money ends up lost and possibly doing massive damage to surface facilities as well.
Sanescience
1 / 5 (2) Aug 27, 2012
And one other suspicion I have,
By the time space destinations and national wealth could be developed to the point a space elevator might make sense, it will be a moot and unneeded technology.

On location industrial 3d printing and virtual tele-presence technologies will make lunar industry far more efficient than trucking people and materials between Earth and Moon.

The Moon is going to be an international virtual society of people on Earth, possibly with a smattering of real humans in orbit and even less on the surface. Because that will be the most economically competitive utilization of space/moon.
lengould100
3 / 5 (4) Aug 27, 2012
This article seems full of errors. The standard space elevator discussion is a ribbon from earth equator to a stationary point in Geosynchronous orbit, perhaps with a long counterwieghting strand further beyong geosynchronous orbit. But nowhere near the moon!! That would be silly. The point of this is to attach it to earth surface, meaning geosynchronous point in space. No point on the moon or L1 point will serve that purpose.

At any rate, its all moot until someone figures out a fiber about ten times stronger per unit mass than anything even done in labs yet.
tardiz
not rated yet Aug 27, 2012
Space elevators are nice but I think a coilgun space cannon has more immediate potential as the next generation of efficient launch systems.
gwrede
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 27, 2012
If one insists on throwing money at dead-end projects and daydreams, I'd prefer this at least to cold fusion. But still I wouldn't bet a penny on the end result ever materializing.
CapitalismPrevails
1 / 5 (5) Aug 27, 2012
I LOVE this crowdsourcing innovation. I wish Innocentive and Kickstarter would merge together. If they do, WATCH OUT!
wlasley1
5 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2012
Have to start somewhere, good luck.

cantdrive85
1 / 5 (4) Aug 27, 2012
Not possible! fanciful sci-fi imagination or ponzi schemer in training, take your pick.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2012
It has been well documented that CNT could have the tensile strength however the longest we have is merely milimeters long. all that has to be done is find a way to grow or produce these milimeter long CNT's in a stack that could be bonded together to form a microfiber tether. Spiderweb silk? I heard there have been breakthroughs in that.
I imagine it would take a super-engineer to have the wherewithall and knowhow to put it all together into a mobile manufacturing center that builds the tether and lowers it to earth.

So many engineering hurdles to overcome but I think it's possible to say the LEAST.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (4) Aug 27, 2012
How about superconducting magnets stacked on top of each other, I imagine the electricity requirements would be pretty boggling but anything is possible if there is a desire for it. Compromises along the way will probably make the whole thing pointless in a few hundred years.

I, however, would love to sign up as the worlds first asteroid miner. As long as it's safe and the pay is reasonable.

Who decides where mankind is heading? We do I suppose.
Silverhill
5 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2012
@Sonhouse
Don't they have that pesky detail of not having a strong enough cable at this time?

Also, assuming we have a strong enough cable for the moon thing, how high up does it go above the moon's surface? I guess you would call it a lunar synchronous orbit.
We do have a strong enough material already: Kevlar fiber. (IIRC, Kevlar is even strong enough for a Martian cable.)

How high above the lunar surface? "Only" 88,300 km (far less than the distance to Earth).
Lunar rotational period: 27.32 days * 86 164 s/d = 2 354 000 s.
Lunar value of Kepler's constant = 8 × 10ˉ¹².
R = ³√(T²/k) = 88 300 000 m.
Cornelius2008
5 / 5 (3) Aug 27, 2012
It seems to me that alot of people here do not understand what a space elevator is. Its not going from the moon to the earth, its simply going from the moon's surface to the moon's orbit. the body in this case being the moon. It is possible with modern materials to build one on the moon and mars, due to their lower gravity. This guy was a member of a NASA feasibility research group, and from that group the guy went on to found a company and has been working in the field for the last decade, at this point the feasibility isn't the question.
Valentiinro
5 / 5 (3) Aug 27, 2012
I see a lot of people here who misunderstood the article.

Here's an explanation.

This article is not about an earth-space elevator.

An earth-space elevator could work, but to do so we need the capability of making miles long nanotubes or something stronger. While that is currently impossible, there are several other concerns which would be problematic for an earth based cable.

A moon based cable wouldn't need to be nearly as strong, and in making one, they could more easily get on and off the moon from space. You would still need a rocket from earth, but it wouldn't need to go as far and wouldn't need to lift off from the moon, it would just turn around from the lunar-synchronous part of the elevator. Also they are planning to experiment with micrometeorite repair and other technical challenges which would help with any space elevator system. Furthermore a space elevator cable can be extended past the synchronous point allowing you to fall off the end and get a speed boost.
dominick_mignella
not rated yet Aug 27, 2012
all you people are completely missing the point of a space elevator. Its to get people, cargo ect... Into orbit around the Earth CHEAPLY! Since it costs $10,000 a pound with conventional space craft this is the alternative and we do have a strong enough material for the cable...nanotubes, granted we are not yet able to produce them any where near the scale needed but when the time comes of actual construction we'll be there
FainAvis
1 / 5 (2) Aug 27, 2012
So at what elevation above the lunar surface is the lunar synchronous orbit? If they cannot achieve a synchronous orbit then the lunar base station has to travel around the lunar surface on rails.

There are plenty more problems than merely how to make a tough cable. Its strength is a misdirection.

I'm thinking Ponzi.

antialias_physorg
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
If successful, the technology could also act as a cheap communications tower on Earth, help to monitor crops, watch for forest fires, and carry cameras to show a sky picture of natural disaster areas.

Is there some advantage of a tethered blimp with a ribbon to earth over an untethered/mobile one that I'm not aware of?

So at what elevation above the lunar surface is the lunar synchronous orbit?

You could station the cables to go past L1 or L2. But both these points are further out than Earth geosynch orbit (56k and 67k km respectively) And you'd need substantialy longer cables/counterweights than merely going to these points. So we're probably talking more about a 100k km cable.

I get roughly the same values if I calculate lunar synchronous orbit. Orbit is proportional to the cube root of the product of mass (Moon: 1/80th of Earth) and rotation period squared (Moon: 27 times that of Earth). So Lunar synchronous orbit is about twice that of GSO (36000km).
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2012
This is one of those "Mother of All Bad Ideas" under the category of technology and experience not up to the challenge.

While I think it's as yet unworkable a lunar elevator is at least more feasible than a terrestrial one. I give them credit for chosing the easier one first.

Then again: getting down to the lunar surface (and up from it) using conventional methods isn't THAT hard once you are in orbit (or something like a small gauss gun for non-personel transfer from the surface). So the real advantage of having a lunar elevator over these methods seems marginal.
Anda
1 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
The hole article is a joke, right?
Trim
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
Why not have a rotating tether in lunar orbit, properly designed it could pick up and land material on the moon surface.
To help it maintain lunar orbit it can eject electrostatic dust it picks up from the surface using solar energy.
danlgarmstrong
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
The Space Elevator idea has been around for a long time. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky dreamed it up in 1895. Many scientists have studied it and deemed it feasible, both from the Earth (with the right materials, carbon nanotube tethers could work, but so far have not) and from the moon or mars (the lower gravities would allow current materials to work). Liftport has been around for almost a decade working on various projects with an end goal of building the elevator.

Looks like LiftPort's kickstarter campaign is going well. Their goal was $8000. They now have over $21,0000 pledged. Here is a link to check out what they want to do with the money: http://www.kickst...tethered

Sonhouse
5 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2012
@Sonhouse
Don't they have that pesky detail of not having a strong enough cable at this time?

Also, assuming we have a strong enough cable for the moon thing, how high up does it go above the moon's surface? I guess you would call it a lunar synchronous orbit.
We do have a strong enough material already: Kevlar fiber. (IIRC, Kevlar is even strong enough for a Martian cable.)

How high above the lunar surface? "Only" 88,300 km (far less than the distance to Earth).
Lunar rotational period: 27.32 days * 86 164 s/d = 2 354 000 s.
Lunar value of Kepler's constant = 8 × 10ˉ¹².
R = ³��š(T²/k) = 88 300 000 m.

Using (GM/r)^1/2 at that altitude above the moon, I get an orbital velocity of 236 meters per second. Considering the moon spins on its axis at less than 5 meters per second there would be a 230 odd meter per second shift of the top point all the time. That won't work. You need to have an orbital velocity matching the spin rate.
Sonhouse
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
I calculated the altitude above the moon to match the surface spin velocity to be about 230 million Km or 143 million miles above the surface where the orbital velocity = surface spin rate of 4.62 meters per second. Anyone want to verify that?

That is assuming a lonely moon with nothing around it for, say, a billion km.
Sonhouse
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
I calculated the altitude above the moon for the orbital velocity to match the surface spin rate of 4.62 meters per second, and it comes out, according to my math, at 230 million km away from the moon in an equitorial orbit, or 143 million miles if you will. Anyone care to verify that? I used the equation Orbital velocity =(GM/r)^1/2

where G = 6.7E-11, M (mass of the moon) at 7.347E22 Kg and r = 2.3E11 meters which is 230 million km.

I simplified the GM part specific for the moon at 4.92E12

so I get (4.92E12/230E9)^1/2 (square root) which gives me 4.62 meters per second which matches pretty well the surface spin rate of the moon.

Anyone disagree with that math?
Sonhouse
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
I calculated the altitude above the moon for the orbital velocity to match the surface spin rate of 4.62 meters per second, and it comes out, according to my math, at 230 million km away from the moon in an equitorial orbit, or 143 million miles if you will. Anyone care to verify that? I used the equation Orbital velocity =(GM/r)^1/2

where G = 6.7E-11, M (mass of the moon) at 7.347E22 Kg and r = 2.3E11 meters which is 230 million km.

I simplified the GM part specific for the moon at 4.92E12

so I get (4.92E12/230E9)^1/2 (square root) which gives me 4.62 meters per second which matches pretty well the surface spin rate of the moon.

Anyone disagree with that math?


Yeah, I do:) I see what I did wrong. It has to be going faster than the surface speed because of the geometry of the orbit, at 88,400,000 odd meters up the velocity is about 240 meters per second which pretty much matches the time it takes for the moon to spin one orbit, or 2.36E6 seconds.

Sonhouse
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
I did the same equation for the Earth which we know geo sync orbit is about 22,400 miles or just under 36,000 kilometers altitude and the velocity of that orbit comes in at about 3078 meters per second, which of course is much faster than the spinning Earth which clocks in at about 400 feet per second or 124 meters per second at the equator.
Sonhouse
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
For an explanation of geostationary orbits, here is a Wiki and the correct equations:
http://en.wikiped...ry_orbit
Egleton
1 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2012


An earth-space elevator could work, but to do so we need the capability of making miles long nanotubes or something stronger. While that is currently impossible,

Sez who? A little dicky bird told me about a classified thread. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
lengould100
1 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2012


An earth-space elevator could work, but to do so we need the capability of making miles long nanotubes or something stronger. While that is currently impossible,

Sez who? A little dicky bird told me about a classified thread. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Absence of evidence in his case is almost certainly definitive. Last I checked, a few years ago, SWNT's weren't anywhere near as strong as had been theorized, even perfectly constructed single units tested in laboratory conditions. About five years ago, they were still trying to figuire out why, but it looked to have something to do with the electrical properties or something. I gave up following in disappointment, haven't heard anything new lately.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Aug 29, 2012
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Absence of evidence means absolutely nothing.

It especially does NOT mean that something is possible. (it also does not mean that it is impossible). Absence of evidence confers no information whatsoever.

The only definitive thing that one can say about an X, where X is something for which an absence of evidence exists is: "I can imagine X"
That's it.
Psiotic
1 / 5 (3) Aug 30, 2012
We've discovered, recently, Tungsten-Titanium, shouldn't be a problem now. Also some other light alloys, can find the info right here on Phys.org
baudrunner
1 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2012
And years from now when this thing is abandoned who is going to salvage that ribbon cable from the moon or from space? Are they just going to toss it? Will they just let it drop to the surface to pollute the environment? I don't see it happening. It's just a dream.
antonima
not rated yet Sep 02, 2012
damn, 13,000$ is a lot of money..... I think even a regular elevator would be more expensive. -.-

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