In this latest episode, I sat down with Dr. Peter Swan and Adrian Nixon of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC). In a few days, they will be presenting some exciting new research findings at the 2022 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris.
The space elevator is a dream originally proposed over a century ago that would enable regular and cost-effective access to space. In its modern form, it would consist of a tether connecting Earth to a counterweight and space station in orbit. Earth’s rotation keeps the tether taut while climbers deliver payloads and crews to orbit at a fraction of the cost of rocket launches.
At least once a generation, the idea is revisited to see if we have the capability to build one. Alas, the stumbling block has always been the tether itself since no known material has ever been strong enough to handle the stresses involved.
A few months ago, I caught up with Dr. Swan and Nixon when I was writing an article on the topic for Interesting Engineering, and they revealed that we are now at a point where such a structure could be realized! The key is graphene ribbons and an industrial manufacturing technique that can mass produce them for a lot less than previously thought!
Given the current rate of progress, humanity could have an elevator to space and all the things it will enable before mid-century. This includes space-based solar power (SBSP), the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit (LEO), near-earth asteroid mining, missions to deep space, and settlements on the Moon and Mars.
Best of all, a space elevator is a “green” alternative to rocket launches that release a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases. So, in addition to ensuring humanity’s future in space, it is also a means of saving the planet from Climate Change! Check out the episode below:
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