Space Elevator

A space elevator is a proposed type of planet-to-space transportation system. The main component would be a cable (also called a tether) anchored to the surface and extending into space. The design would permit vehicles to travel along the cable from a planetary surface, such as the Earth's, directly into space or orbit, without the use of large rockets. An Earth-based space elevator would consist of a cable with one end attached to the surface near the equator and the other end in space beyond geostationary orbit (35,786 km altitude). The competing forces of gravity, which is stronger at the lower end of the cable, and the outward/upward centrifugal force, which is stronger at the upper end, would result in the cable being held up and kept stationary over a single position on Earth. With the tether deployed, climbers could repeatedly climb the tether to space by mechanical means, releasing their cargo to orbit. Climbers could also descend the tether to return cargo to the surface from orbit.

The concept of a tower reaching geosynchronous orbit was first published in 1895 by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. His proposal was for a free-standing tower reaching from the surface of Earth to the height of geostationary orbit. Like all buildings, Tsiolkovsky's structure would be under compression, supporting its weight from below. Since 1959, most ideas for space elevators have focused on purely tensile structures, with the weight of the system held up from above by centrifugal forces. In the tensile concepts, a space tether reaches from a large mass (the counterweight) beyond geostationary orbit to the ground. This structure is held in tension between Earth and the counterweight like an upside-down plumb bob. The cable thickness is adjusted based on tension; it has its maximum at a geostationary orbit and the minimum on the ground.

Available materials are not strong enough to make a space elevator practical. Some sources have concluded that future advances in carbon nanotube (CNTs) manufacturing can lead to a practical design while others have questioned that result. Possible future alternatives include boron nitride nanotubes, and diamond nanothreads.

The concept is applicable to other planets and celestial bodies. For locations in the solar system with weaker gravity than Earth's (such as the Moon or Mars), the strength-to-density requirements for tether materials are not as problematic. Currently available materials (such as Kevlar) are strong and light enough that they could be practical as the tether material for elevators there.

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The Fountains of Paradise

The Fountains of Paradise is a novel by British writer Arthur C. Clarke. Set in the 22nd century, it describes the construction of a space elevator.

International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC)

BIS Space Elevator Symposium : 7th November 2017 This 1-day Space Elevator (SE) Symposium was held at the headquarters of the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) at ‘Arthur C Clarke House’ in London, jointly sponsored by BIS and ISEC.

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Hot off the press is the April, 2012 SEC eNewsletter.

Space Elevator Reference Top Story

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Space elevator

A space elevator is a proposed type of planet-to-space transportation system.[1] The main component would be a cable (also called a tether) anchored to the surface and extending into space.

Arthur C. Clarke - Space Elevator

Famous futurist on the Space Elevator


space elevator space travel Arthur C. Clarke orbit space tourism elevator space


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