HI EVERYONE, and especially the people with a passion for a large array of sciences!
The problem that I want to analyze here is the CONCEPT OF THE SPATIAL LIFTING SYSTEM.
Before starting, please let me tell you some related story:
Years and years ago (more than twenty, for sure), I saw a video game presentation where space ships were trying to terraform one strange planet, doing something very impressively simple: they let to fall from high altitude huge rectangular pieces that would penetrate and stuck into the soil instead of building any foundation - so they had thick walls for a construction where to stay - after of course uniting those blocks between them. If you ask me, this was not a too difficult task instead of building in an entirely unknown soil and location, or worst, to dig underground for creating a shelter. (Obviously, they could penetrate the soil if that had water, so the planet was friendly for humans' life.) Later then, the passengers translated between the buildings and the ships from the orbit in a system similar to what I will explain below. Well, thus far it seems the characters of a video game discovered longtime before us something wonderful :))) I was struck for years by the simplicity of their ideas. Of course, on a strange planet you must keep everything simple and effective.
Fact is I cannot remember that game name (it was shown on a TV in a video games store window while I was passing by there), and that would be nice if anyone knows it to tell me, too :) However, let's just go back to serious things now.
I start my discourse on the idea that until these days the space travel is a very expensive endeavor, because to lift each kilo of payload came until today at a very high cost (multiple of thousand of dollars, as I know, I heard of more than 20k, but not sure, it depends of who you ask for counting it: NASA, BOEING, Russians, Musk, ESA, etc.). I don't go into economics here (for example to say how much is the real cost and how much is the profit of Elon from operating his SpaceX system), I only analyze the manufacturing cost to lift a kilogram of real thing - excluding the fuel itself lifting cost - into the altitude where it can stay in an orbit around Earth, without being in danger of falling again on the surface - therefore my main concept analyze what happens in an altitude where the friction with the atmosphere is non-existent - THIS BEING THE MAIN PRE-CONDITION OF ANY SUGGESTED SOLUTION AT THIS DISCUSSION.
Several problems / constraints / occur here, though:
Imagine we first solve a payload lifting up to the Eiffel Tower's height, then we make it again until we reach the Moon distance or at least the geostationary orbit level or similar. Not to Eiffel tower (was joking here) or the Moon actually, but you get the idea, if we defeat Earth gravity, almost biggest problem is solved.
So I suggest to utilize a system as a rope where the vehicle climbs towards the upper altitude center station. The vehicle either has a reactive engine and the rope is a guide to reach the space station, OR the upper station exerts traction through the rope and raises the vehicle, OR the vehicle climbs as a monkey climbs on a rope in a tree from the jungle (I mean using friction between the vehicle wheels and the rope).
So, let me know, a helicopter carrying a cargo (a container like you see on the seaports, loaded on the commercial vessels), do you think it needs too much fuel to lift that thing at 1km altitude? I don't think so either !! Fact is that the helicopter fuel tank IS NOT SURPASSING the weight of the cargo itself, and this is the MAIN POINT where to start.
OUR DISCUSSION FOCUSES ON ONE AND SINGLE THING: THE EXTRA-LENGHTY ROPE IS A MICRO-TUBE, MADE OF NANOMATERIALS, AND THE FUEL IS PUMPED THROUGH IT TOWARD THE VESSEL. THAT'S ALL AND EVERYTHING. END OF STORY.
If STEP ONE is the working system described above, the STEP ZERO is the building of earth station = the fuel pumping center (so let's just review few things about it), it means also choosing its location on Earth, which has to be:
A... easily reachable by everyone - I mean it is going to become a hub for tourism (where people and cargo are loaded in the lifting vessel for launch), so no way in a populated area like most places in the world, which would made unsustainable the living for those in that area in the future - imagine Venice in Italy, overcrowded because of tourists, their life is not pleasant, as the gross revenue from tourism goes to hotels and not to usual people of the city. Therefore a quite desert Equatorial area in Brazil or Africa would be more fit to construct the home base. It has to be far from areas with dense fly overs by the commercial aviation (in order to always have free sky above). It has to become accessible for fuel, for new airports and hotels around, and of paramount importance to be easily kept the security of its all buildings - because an accident of any nature (mostly provoked by humans) at the facilities would be a real disaster. Obviously the Earth base is a static one, this is why the space base must be static one, too, so no rotation allowed around the Earth, as I mentioned in the first paragraphs. Why reachable by everyone? because it will operate more lifting lines for a single space center (in order to be financially solid maybe even profitable), and people would go up, and stay - as this kind of travel will first of all be affordable, not only the operating costs of it but the total mass displaced from the Earth to the orbit too. Its upper station's purpose is to become the actual launchpad for any future space missions instead of Canaveral or any similar location on Earth. Not only that, but few industries - related to zero gravity processing of materials - might evade there from the Earth, too. Remember what also happens at ISS - they make various scientific experiments despite of big costs needed to receive there the probes from universities around the world. If ISS costed several Billion dollars to exist, a greater Station would amass at least 100 Billions during the time in facilities for its multiple purposes to be reached. If doing it big, do it with a big vision, too. A huge unknown factor yet is still the one addressing if first vehicle could use NO upper station in the beginning. If that would succeed, the project becomes a revolution in itself. Personally I still try to become optimistic in this direction. What do you think, would the initial phase work in the meaning that the unmanned vehicle itself alone goes up and establish itself as the first outer space station ?
B... in an area where the "ropes" would be more afar of NEO issues (Near Earth Objects, space debris in other words), that pose a huge challenge to any space vehicles, or satellites, forced to maneuver in order to avoid them - interested people please check the BBC series in that topic - but it's also a lengthier movie on Discovery, I think - about how we are at only one small step distance from being forced to not use anymore the upper atmosphere, because of collisions that continuously multiply those pieces of junk travelling at bullet speeds and able to pierce the fuselage of any aircraft reaching their altitude - this thing is called Kessler syndrome. By the way, all stuff of recent launching of Elon's satellites only grew bigger this syndrome :( ...
C... the space base must be able to be self-sufficient, so please describe how you would make that in the beginning: to not fall or deviate, keep direction, avoid collisions with NEO if any, or any other issues you think could occur - for example how the people from Earth base could check and know that it's safe to launch an ascent of the vehicle, and what to do if something unexpected happens in between (well, except of a cheap parachute system attached to the vehicle, LOL... )
So please let's think together:
How could be made the fabric of such nanomaterial in order: to be easy to be made, cheap, low weight, able to insulate the vapors of fuel (in order to not lose fuel through its pores and not contaminate through leaks the atmosphere), resistant to breaking, collision, fracture, pinches, even biting by curious birds, water-repellent, in order to not become a thunder attractor and electro-conductor lighting rod while in stormy days also because it will already go through the clouds and up.
Easy to be made - because we speak of at least more than 36000 km of such cable - maybe the length of all submarine cables used to the world internet connectivity between the continents - so the material must be available as the metal is nowadays, only to not be metallic.
Cheap - see above - so to be easily replaced if needed, and not to expect years to construct the all system because of any potential lack of investments in this area - because main merit of space lift is that is cheap and thus affordable for the nations.
Low weight - this must go in deep as to what is its structure and its diameter, too. Would be it comprised by a single hole ? By more tubes instead (for being more resistant and more secure to fuel leaks) ?? Would be in a diameter less than 0.1 mm ? More ? Even less ? What density might have, and strength at such diameter ? Everything counts in it.
Able to insulate the fuel - so is it going to be interlaced? Woven? Casted from a single piece? What kind of system checking errors would you suggest in fabrication if casted? (and how would you check that the brand new tube material is impermeable since even in the production factory)
Reflective (optional) - in order to not get too hot because of the sun light and warm the fuel inside it up to the limit where it goes into vapors or generates extra pressure in end connectors (at earth base and vehicle level, too, putting thus in danger all systems), or worst, to explode or create holes in the tube structure so all pressure is lost making it unusable (fact which would make the vehicle - loaded with cargo or people - to FALL - event that we want to avoid at all cost, of course).
ATTENTION - the vehicle must also descend along the rope, too, be it another material or the same that carries the fuel inside it, in order to be reusable.
The primary logic of using such system is that the materials are going to be elevated at the upper station level - where they can be assembled in whatever you name it: a Star Wars like city in the clouds (that one was Bespin) for residents wanting the most top location in the world), another space station, a factory for making rockets navigating to Mars, you name it. If a residence or hotel would be established there, similar but shorter tubes would be used to just suck oxygen from the atmosphere below too, for the humans living and working there.
Because to build directly at high altitude components for a rocket assembled without higher cost (and without actual shape and functioning logic of having excessive fuel containers) would make more logic - however that could be another discussion - as we mainly try to discover here if possible all the engineering effort for such world project for just putting in function such lift.
So please contribute to this discussion, if have in your mind engineering facts or data, solid conclusions or sources, too, about each point mentioned. Please keep it short and at the point, so everyone reading your comments to be able to relate to the main content.
Thank you !
P.S. I am not involved in any kind of commercial or manufacturing schema related to this project, so therefore it's not something that relates to me (I even use a pseudonym to avoid visibility for myself), so it's just for general public use. I just put together my ideas to yours, maybe some countries together in the near future would be able to ever make real such a gift for humanity ;^)
The lifting vehicle could be either ugly or nicely decorated, it doesn't matter, what matters is that it's only a box with vertical traction, a balancing system against weight center displacement to not allow erosion of rope at the edges, anyway much simpler than a helicopter, with 95% of its mass being just for cargo or people. As for its shape, you can image everything, from a cone with a tube opened in the middle, where passes the "rope" pumping the fuel, to a cube or a sphere, only please mention some specific design if it's going to be useful for some functions that you might have in mind.
Last thing, if you think some use can be made for a stationary vehicle - for example the vehicle goes at 200 km altitude and then stops here, for viewing a panorama of the Earth then staying there 1 month, or going back, or forward to the space base, this of course would make sense for tourism - be it for the passengers inside the vehicle, or instead for occasional commercial flights of curious people interested to see the space vehicle just staying in the air, at some lower altitude, of course, it's possible to construct everything around the main idea.
Main topic here however it's to be able to understand if this is practically possible to be done. I avoided to create artistic renderings of the project - that would delay this posting after all and maybe they would be different from the vision of the project, but if you're talented you're welcome to post anything visual besides the reasonably scientific ideas.
I would launch for you a math challenge: Is that correct that the cost reduction of spatial lifting, compared to rocket lifting will be toward at least 10x and maybe 100x times smaller? (Aka from 20k+ to some 200+ dollars per kilogram of payload, which would make the launching cost for a maritime container loaded at 40 tons towards the geostationary orbit about only 8 millions instead of many Billion dollars ?) At such costs, any nation could afford to have holiday facilities at geostationary level above the Earth :)) I remind you that you need integral calculus in order to find the whole mass of fuel TMF burnt during usual rocket flights (because after you deplete from the TMF / Total Mass of Fuel / which is carried in the TMR /Total Mass of Rocket / the first single ton of fuel, you must lift only TMR minus 1 from now on, and this decrease in mass is going on and on during all the trip). Must be mentioned that the gravity decreases with the altitude increase, and also friction with the atmosphere is almost zero after first 20km. On the other side, the mass is constant in space lifting, what changes is the altitude therefore the gravitational force. You may consider that fuel burning ratio is the same per each ton lifted both in 'classical rocket systems' and in 'rope lifting system', too. That would be not true, however that would make simpler the calculations.
Hint: a very gross approximation of the calculus would be that if a rocket has 100x time TMR compared to PLM / payload mass / and if TMF = TMR - PLM (which means that even the metal is burnt as a fuel, which is absurd of course, as there is nowhere zero waste), making linear approximation and not integral, say a rocket of 100 tons only has 1 ton payload, the mass of fuel burnt in a lifting 'rope system' would be about ( 1 + 100 ) divided by 2 times lower (about 50 times smaller), assuming that per each 100 kilos of rocket weight the burnt fuel is 100 units, then for 99 kilos only 99 units, and so on (you can do it by geometry and draw a triangle, so the area of it is the multiple of its edges length divided by two, etc.). Last 100 units of fuel lift the actual payload (1 ton), previous other 99 units of fuel lift themselves up to 99% of distance, etc. I wonder if however the payload isn't less than 1/100 from total fuel mass, is it? Can anyone working in related space industries come here with an answer ? Thanks!
A big waste in classical rocket systems is actually the mass of packaging of the cargo and fuel - the rocket itself, which is not either cargo nor fuel to be consumed by fire !! It's kind of useless, except that it's like a shelf in a store: you only deposit on it either the fuel or the cargo or people themselves. I mean useless in the math related to the net weight of the payload of the rocket. Like in the medical analogy with a fat man, where the fat in itself becomes hungry and need food because fat cells are alive, too, not only the human alone, the same way a classical rocket becomes more and more heavy as you prepare it and increase it for launching it one day maybe for Mars itself. If you don't adopt instead radical technologies for at least leaving the Earth orbit, then the budget for such a space travel becomes doomed very soon :) ...
Not to say that such lifting technology would allow also Mars return flights - so is there anyone interested in such thing ? Hello, if anyone would not like too much of being on the red planet, maybe you would love to see your dearly green Earth again, too :) Just my modest opinion.