Popular Space Elevator Video Not “News,” says LiftPort Founder

Article written: 8 May , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

An online video that’s been circulating like wildfire on the internet recently is actually almost two years old, says Michael Laine, founder of LiftPort, a company looking to develop a space elevator. The video was taken in the fall of 2006, at least 20 months ago.

The video has been downloaded over 200,000 times in the past few days, and has been extremely popular on sites like Digg. “I find the whole thing kind of a farce, actually,” said Laine. “I’m glad people are seeing it and commenting on it, but if someone thinks this is news, its not.”

The only reason Laine could site for a possible resurgence of this video is that last Friday, the Conan O’Brien show featured a guest talking about space elevators. Laine wonders if that led to people doing searches about the subject, finding this old video on You Tube, and re-posting it as “new.” Laine says LiftPort has received slightly more email than normal the past couple of days, but until now no one has contacted him to check on the authenticity or timing of the video.

“Everything in it is true, except the timing is strange,” said Laine. “Those are my quotes, (listed along with the video) but I don’t know how someone obtained them, and got that wording. What’s ironic is that we’ve done a lot of experiments since then. That specific test was supposed to be a mile high test, but we had problems with the ribbon snapping. The FAA required that we put markers on it, and the acetone used to mark it weakened the ribbon substantially. The test turned out to be 1,000 feet. We actually were very happy about the test, although we almost lost the ribbon.”

Laine was especially surprise to hear of this new interest in Liftport, since the company has gone through some hard times over the past year, losing investors, a building, and other support. Laine said he will have some positive news to report soon, so stay tuned.

And OK, here’s the video. (You Tube’s version, not LiveLeak’s!) It is pretty amazing.

Click here for more information about LiftPort.

Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.


18 Responses

  1. Tyler Durden says

    Space elevators are the only realistic future for space travel. Sure, they’ll be expensive as hell once we’re able to produce cables strong enough to work, and will require a ridiculous amount of ground space to work, but the advantages can’t be ignored.

    With rocket launches the best one can hope for is maybe $10,000 / kg in launch costs. With an elevator no fuel is required, so you can boost an unlimited amount of stuff into orbit and all it costs you is the price of maintaining the elevator and paying the staff.

  2. John Mendenhall says

    Tyler Durden – “With an elevator no fuel is required, so you can boost an unlimited amount of stuff into orbit and all it costs you is the price of maintaining the elevator and paying the staff.”

    Were it that simple. Read a little more on space elevators. The laws of physics are inexorable. The same amount of energy is required to move a kilogram up the space elevator as is required to put the kilogram into orbit, neglecting the fuel required to raise the fuel in the rocket. While better than the rocket, it isn’t free. In addition, the technology needed at the anchors and at the synchronous end will make the space shuttle look like a kindergarden toy. Nevertheless, the space elevator(s) look like the way to go. Witness NASA’s stunning lack of success in getting back to the Moon.

  3. rusty says

    sure it’s feasible if you don’t want anything orbiting below GEO altitude.

    I can see this on spinning orbital platforms or on asteroids but not on Earth or any other object with a seriously populated orbit.

  4. rivenburg says

    The REAL promise of the space “elevator” is that one end sits up in a hairy stream of sunlight easly convertible to electricity.
    The other end sit on the earth with it’s 6.x billion electricity users.

    Engineers since the 1960s have said that the technology to supply the entire planet with enough electricity from space based solar power plants is already here, just no technology to get the power to the ground, until now.

    Thats right people, this could be the next saudi Arabia energy wise, a possible complete replacement for most existing sources of energy and completely “green”.

    WE could even make it “dump” ozone by million ton at exactly the correct altitude to replenish the ozone layer.

    BTW, latest solar technology is up to 26% conversion eficiency.

  5. rivenburg says

    Rusty:

    YOu ARE correct, ALL LEO sats would have to go, anything below geo-sync orbit would have to go. This makes the required length of the cable about 25,000 miles.

    John Mandenhall:
    YOu also are correct, as far as you went.
    Since there is ample solar wind up in the geo-sync orbits, the “weighted end” that would have to slip along the top length of the cable would get hoisted into a slightly higher orbit by solar sail, then allow itself to be dragged back down into its normal orbit by upcoming frieght. It’s not simple or cheap at first but its doable. The upcoming freight platform would take electrical energy directly from the cable & climb it, this would drag the cable down. The energy to put it back in correct orbit HAS to be fed in first for stability.

  6. Jorge says

    I’ve always wondered what would happen if one these fancy and immaterial (in the sense that there’s no material, at least for the moment, that is even remotely usable) designs meets the hard reality of Earth’s atmospheric circulation, with its hurricanes, cyclones or typhoons and winds in excess of 300 km/h.

  7. rivenburg says

    Jorge:
    read “fountains of paradise” by the recently late Arther C Clark.

    Diamond fiber.
    Production of this or a related material is nessesary to reach goe-sync orbit AND to withstand the rigors of our atmosphere.

    Also a certain amount of aerodymanic design & possibly an ACTIVE aero componant (no idea yet what that would be) to compensate for heavy winds.

  8. a very smart pearson says

    i want to slap the pearson who came up with this “space elivator” hype.
    it is the stupedest idea i have heard.
    the more cable or ribon you add, (if the top wants to stay in geo syncrosis orbit) the higher the spacecraft has to go to counteract the center of balance change creating an endless loop also even strong metals like steel or even titanium would not hold thier own weight at this length. if anyone knows the scam artist who proposed the space elivator, slap them for me

  9. he who corrects the very smart pearson says

    actually the space elevator would be placed in orbit synchronous with the earths orbit, so that as the earth spins, the cable would be completely stable, so it would have to be placed at the equator, and this would not be built by steel or titanium. carbon nanotubes are the safest bet to make a space elevator.

    now only to fix the ‘slight’ problem of manufacturing thousands of miles of carbon nanotubes(which would most likely have to be made in space to affront rocketing it up there, which neither would be cheap, as in the tens of billions of dollars) and having an advanced enough computer system and stationary point in space to synch. the entire thing with earths orbit

  10. Astrofiend (Syd, Aust) says

    “# a very smart pearson Says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    i want to slap the pearson who came up with this “space elivator” hype.
    it is the stupedest idea i have heard.
    the more cable or ribon you add, (if the top wants to stay in geo syncrosis orbit) the higher the spacecraft has to go to counteract the center of balance change creating an endless loop also even strong metals like steel or even titanium would not hold thier own weight at this length. if anyone knows the scam artist who proposed the space elivator, slap them for me”

    Hi smart ‘pearson’,

    Actually, I believe it was a chap by the name of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky who first proposed the original concept for the space elevator. I’d slap him for you, but

    a) he’s been dead a long time, and
    b) he’s generally acknowledged as one of the conceptual founders of rocketry and spaceflight, so that makes him just a little more visionary and intelligent than yourself, I would think.

    I would also think that before publicly writing a piece both directly and indirectly calling other people stupid, you would bother to spell-check your work that contains at least 8 spelling mistakes in a post consisting of not many more than 100 words.

    With that out of the way, I can’t envisage such a project going ahead for anything less than many trillions of dollars even in the medium term, so although it is nice to speculate at the moment, I tend to think that more efficient launch technologies will be a far more preferable solution in any time frame bar the distant future…

  11. vag says

    wouldnt you need a velocity of at least 7.82 km/s to put the any object into orbit height??

  12. alphonso richardson says

    Cool video. Still can’t get my head round seeing it as a practical reality

  13. John Mendenhall says

    jorge – “I’ve always wondered what would happen if one these fancy and immaterial (in the sense that there’s no material, at least for the moment, that is even remotely usable) designs meets the hard reality of Earth’s atmospheric circulation, with its hurricanes, cyclones or typhoons and winds in excess of 300 km/h.”

    Easy, you build a pyramidal structure 10 miles high to anchor the Earth end. And that kind of structure is possible with present day technology, there’s just no need for one . . yet.

  14. rivenburg says

    John,

    Won’t the earth end have to have slip room also for load balancing?

    I far as I can see, the only way to keep equilibrium during freight loading is to allow the entire structure to move up & down a bit, all in relation to load mass* acceleration / mass of the structure.
    Thus any and all earth-side connections must be flexable OR sliding like a brushed electric motor.

    BTW, it’s been pointed out that Killmanjaro is REALLY tall & on the equator. Chances are a structure to “anchor” this to will have to be built in the middle of the pacific, for one reason, it will be the greatest attractant to terrorists ever seen. There will have to be military weapons defending the thing 24/7/365 from rouge aircraft or ships.

  15. rarchimedes says

    Having had this discussion in other places, I still cannot understand the enthusiasm for something that is so many orders past our current capability. There are technologies that promise to be much cheaper for the moment. We could have a space cannon, which could throw a lot of material into orbit, but not humans, and we definitely have the technology for that one, but that is too simple. In addition, there is a technology related to the space elevator, the space tether. Such a tether would need to be less than 1% of the length of an elevator. Also, such tethers can operate in any low orbit rather just at the equator at GEO. Yes, such tethers would still need to be 200-400 km long, but the elevator would need to be around 40,000 km. But, once something is in any orbit, there are slow, but economical means of getting it anywhere in space. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the tether is spun down to the surface and then spun back to orbit with only a few seconds of ground latency. In the meantime, elevators on the Moon and possibly on Mars seem quite possible and beneficial. Neither would require 15 km towers nor the extraordinary materials required for an Earth elevator.

  16. rarchimedes says

    Whoops,

    I missed a major point here. As in the case of the Earth, where a space elevator would be exposed to almost every satellite orbiting below and somewhat above the GEO level, a space elevator on Mars would be exposed to Phobos, that orbits below GEO, and probably to Deimos that orbits so close above GEO that the counterbalance for the elevator would probably be in it’s path. Since GEO is not possible on most face locked moons, to include our own, that would not be an issue for the Moon. The elevator for the Moon would be at the Earth-Moon L1 point, long, but not exposed to many orbiting objects, and none that could not be cleaned up. Also, it is under a much lighter load. See, the problem with space elevators is that they pretty much require the cleaning up of all orbital objects below GEO or above GEO and within the range of the counterbalance piece. This is a problem, to put it mildly. Other than satellites in GEO, almost all other satellites cross the equator on a regular basis and the crossing points move cyclically with a certain amount of drift or non-repeatability. So, nothing that is fixed in that orbital environment is going to do well, as every thing from LEO to GEO and possibly above is in danger of striking the elevator. When we decide to have an elevator, we basically decide to give up all items orbiting in anything but very carefully controlled temporary orbits at any altitude below the counterbalance other than GEO. The problem with things at those altitudes is that they have very little protection from the Earth’s magnetic field, raising drastically the amount of shielding necessary to maintain human beings and even the electronics that we so often put there.

    Before you can safely put up your elevator, you need to put up a large LASER satellite above the counterbalance point to push all the trash and satellites below it out of orbit. That would mean either burning up the ISS or pushing it up to GEO. Of course, it will require a huge amount of shielding to make it useful at that position. With an elevator, that shielding can be provided.

    All of that makes the swinging tethers in LEO much, much more attractive, and the elevator an idea for the very, very far future if at all. Such a tether for the Moon could be at astonishingly low altitudes, making it simple enough to be doable almost right now and most surely in the near future. Again, the advantage of the tethers is that they can place and lift cargo at almost any point on the surface.

  17. juliunizeer says

    Ow I See, I didn’t know that continuous ribbon was being used, anyway it was a great endeavor to handle such situation,and now the only problem is supplying power for the elevator. Thanks for leading me here… http://www.earlyblogger.com

  18. Innocent Bystander says

    Check out “space fountain”. Kind of an interesting take on this space elevator thing.

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