Unorthodox "space" elevator idea

In summary, the statement is incorrect and the logistics effort would be worse than the additional fuel needed to start close to sea level.
  • #1
serp777
117
6
Would it be possible, instead of building a 22 thousand mile long space elevator, to make a large floating platform 15-20 miles high which would be supported by gigantic hydrogen balloons. You would then take off horizontally and travel into space from there since most of the energy costs are the first 10 miles . A lightweight cable would be connected from the ground to the platform and carts could move up and down in order to transport whatever. Would this be a more cost effective approach to a space elevator, or is the amount of hydrogen and balloons required simply unfeasible economically?

The platform would be constructed on the ground at first, and then materials would be gradually transported up the cable, as the platform ascends, to produce additional hydrogen gas via some chemical reaction. Perhaps the cable could be hollow and hydrogen gas could be generated on the ground and then pumped up to the platform. It would probably take a couple years to reach the ideal height and becomes exponentially more difficult the higher in the atmosphere one goes . Some point would need to be calculated to determine the most cost effective altitude.

Additionally, you could also glide from one of these platforms to some arbitrary location and cut fuel costs immensely while saving the environment. Is this a terrible idea? If so please explain the economic reasons.
 
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  • #2
"since most of the energy costs are the first 10 miles"

The statement is incorrect. Air resistance, yes, most of that is gone rather quickly, but the gravitational well is much deeper than 10 miles. (Theoretically) lifting something straight up from the surface of the planet it won't stay in place until the height is equal to geostationary orbit...
 
  • #3
Most fuel is needed for the horizontal velocity of about 8km/s. Getting up to ~400km is about 10% of this, and getting up to 20km is 5% of this 10%. All you would save is some air resistance.
Are spaceports built on high mountains? No. The logistics effort is worse than the additional fuel needed to start close to sea level (Cape Canaveral and French-Guiana at the coast, Baikonur just at 100m above sea level, ...).
 
  • #4
Some confusion might come from the fact that a lot of small rockets are launched from helium balloons in or near the stratosphere. While I'm not sure, I suspect that such is done to avoid the cost and complexity of using multiple stages rather than simply the amount of fuel required.
 
  • #5


I appreciate creative and out-of-the-box ideas like this one. However, I have some concerns about the feasibility and practicality of this unorthodox "space" elevator idea.

Firstly, the amount of hydrogen and balloons required to support a platform 15-20 miles high would be massive. Hydrogen is a highly flammable gas and would require strict safety measures to prevent any accidents. The cost of producing and maintaining such a large amount of hydrogen and balloons would likely be very high, making this approach potentially more expensive than a traditional space elevator.

Additionally, the process of gradually transporting materials up the cable while the platform ascends would be a slow and complex process. It would require precise calculations and coordination to ensure that the platform maintains its stability and does not collapse under the weight of the materials being transported.

Furthermore, the idea of using a hollow cable to pump hydrogen gas from the ground to the platform raises concerns about the structural integrity of the cable. The constant flow of gas through the cable could weaken it over time, making it less reliable and potentially dangerous.

While gliding from the platform to other locations may seem like a cost-saving measure, it would require precise navigation and control, which could add to the overall cost and complexity of this approach.

In terms of economic reasons, the sheer amount of resources and technology required to build and maintain this platform would likely outweigh any potential cost savings. It would also require a significant amount of time and effort to reach the ideal height for the platform, as you mentioned.

Overall, while this is an interesting idea, it may not be a practical or cost-effective approach to a space elevator. More research and analysis would be needed to determine its feasibility and potential drawbacks.
 

Related to Unorthodox "space" elevator idea

1. What is a space elevator?

A space elevator is a theoretical concept that involves building a structure from Earth's surface all the way up to geostationary orbit (approximately 36,000 kilometers above Earth's surface). It would be a cable or ribbon-like structure that is anchored to the ground at one end and attached to a counterweight in space at the other end. The idea is that vehicles or payloads could travel up and down the structure using mechanical means rather than rockets, making space travel more efficient and cost-effective.

2. How would a space elevator work?

A space elevator would work by utilizing a combination of centrifugal and gravitational forces. The counterweight in space would provide the necessary tension to keep the cable taut, while the Earth's rotation would help to pull the cable away from the planet. Vehicles or payloads would travel up and down the cable using mechanical devices, such as climbers or elevators, powered by electricity generated from solar panels on the structure.

3. What are the potential benefits of a space elevator?

A space elevator could have numerous benefits, including reducing the cost of space travel by eliminating the need for rockets and fuel. It could also provide a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way to transport people and cargo into space. Additionally, a space elevator could open up opportunities for space-based industries and research, as well as make space exploration more accessible to a wider range of people.

4. What are the challenges and obstacles in building a space elevator?

Building a space elevator is a complex and challenging task. One major obstacle is the development of materials strong enough to withstand the immense tension and stress of the structure, as well as the harsh conditions of space. Another challenge is finding a suitable location for the base of the elevator, as it would need to be built near the equator for optimal performance. Additionally, there are safety concerns and potential risks, such as space debris collisions, that need to be addressed.

5. Is a space elevator a realistic idea?

While the concept of a space elevator is still in the theoretical stage, many scientists and engineers believe that it is a realistic idea that could potentially be achieved in the future. Research and development are ongoing, and there have been several proposals and designs for space elevator structures. However, it is a complex and challenging project that would require significant technological advancements and resources to become a reality.

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