Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

Got a second-hand spaceship you need to sell?

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Post Mon Oct 26, 2009 2:06 am

Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

To my mind there is one major bottleneck in space exploration/colonization/industrialization/tourism/etc., and that is a practical, and inexpensive, way to get off planet. Arthur C. Clarke saw this as The problem, and suggested some sort of rail gun/cannon, or (and this idea, is truly terrific) a 'space elevator.'

In one of his fictional works, he describes the constructing of a cable running from Earth (Sri Lanka, actually) straight up to a space port. Parked at the port would be an assortment of vehicles constructed solely for extra-gravitational transport. The actual 'cable-tether' is the singlemost sticking issue. He had his being constructed from woven nano-tubes.

Once space is made as accessible as inter-continental travel is today, I have no doubt the dam of space development will burst wide open. While I can understand the current desire, and curiosity, to have many exploratory irons in the cosmic fire, I wish the effort were more focused on effective launch methods as THE priority problem. Once solved, all the rest will follow at a pace that is unimaginable in today's astro-economics. Until this priority is set, I fear we will continue to waste time and treasure by hobbling ourselves to an impractical approach to space.

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Post Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:10 am

Re: Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

I approve of this idea.

All you would need is a jet pack/platform to hook onto the tether and you could fly all the way up yourself.
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Post Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:24 pm

Re: Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

I read that Arthur C. Clarke novel, years ago! I think it was called The Fountains of Paradise? The space elevator is a really elegant, beautiful idea.

From memory, I think Clarke said in the novel that as well as the cable going up to a geostationary satellite, the space elevator would also need a counterweight, in the form of another cable extending on into space, to prevent the satellite being pulled out of orbit by the weight of the cable. I may have remembered that wrongly. Presumably making a cable light enough, thin enough and strong enough for a space elevator would be quite a trick.

Googling just now, I see that some other people seem to share your interest in the idea of a space elevator. There's even a frequently-updated blog here:

http://www.spaceelevatorblog.com/

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Post Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:25 am

Re: Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

Realunoriginal: All you would need is a jet pack/platform to hook onto the tether and you could fly all the way up yourself.

NS: I can't see how jet propulsion gets us out of the original/current rocket-style approach. I always thought in terms of electric, or electro-magnetic. But, it appears (thanks to Rick's link) that the direction these "space elevator teams" are going in now is lazar heating; the lazars being a form of projected power. I'm not sure why you'd need to project power, when you already have a cable at hand?

Rick: Presumably making a cable light enough, thin enough and strong enough for a space elevator would be quite a trick.

NS: Indeed! But, a trick that centers on, the mundane matter of, improved materials; which is an area that has provided a lot of tricks in recent history, e.g. electronic computers resulting from solid state transistors replacing impractical vacuum tubes.

Thanks for that link, Rick. I was amazed to see that anything was being done in this area, let alone research teams and space elevator design competitions. Hell, there's even a music group called, ... you guessed it, "The Space Elevators." Included in this are NASA trained people working on this, ridiculous sounding, concept. I mentioned the term ("space elevator") yesterday to my wife, and she laughed. Which is understandable, but then she generally laughs at most everything that I say anyway.

Are any Brits working on this launch approach? If so, do they call it a, "space lift"?

I'm probably bogging this thread by harping on this one method. I was hoping that this thread might encourage some other alternative launch methods I hadn't heard of(?). I remember as a kid listening to Walt Disney, on his Sunday night TV show, regularly explaining prospective ideas for reaching outer-space. In those days (mid-50's) I'm sure all the adults thought he was still in "Fantasy Land." But, in a real sense, it is 'fantasizing,' a la Verne, Asimov and Clarke, that makes "Tomorrow Land" into today's reality.

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Post Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:30 am

Re: Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

A pulley system could work, yeah.

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Post Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:45 pm

Re: Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

Yes, why not "a pulley system"?
I'm not an engineer, so, I'm doubtless missing more than one problem in this approach. But, Archimedes claimed that he could move anything, given a lever and a fulcrum that is up to the job. A pulley and a rope IS a fulcrum (in part) and lever. The missing part of the 'pulley as fulcrum' is a solid place to hang it from. Like any terrestrial elevator, one need only fix their pulley to something with more mass (enertia) than the potential objects it seeks to lift. The fulcrum/tether need only exceed the object's weight in tensil strength. Counter-weights can be be increased or decreased by adjusting the distance they travel (plenty of 'space' for that), or the counter-weight itself.

Of course, 22,236 miles is one heck of a long pull!
But, lifting energy should not be a problem, since there is plenty of room for extensive solar arrays, and no clouds or night to obscure them.

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Post Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:57 pm

Re: Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

Non Sum wrote:Of course, 22,236 miles is one heck of a long pull!

Also depends on how fast you are going, ad momentum. :D

They can get going pretty damn fast, speaking from personal experience.

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Post Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:34 pm

Re: Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

How "fast were you going," "speaking from personal experience"? What experience was that, RU?

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Post Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:17 pm

Re: Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

Non Sum wrote:How "fast were you going," "speaking from personal experience"? What experience was that, RU?

I was speaking of riding a pulley down a steep hill, of course, lol. :mrgreen:

Now imagine a pulley straight down 20000+ miles above Earth pulling you down with a 20 ton load near the bottom.

You literally would fly down.
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Post Sat Oct 31, 2009 10:49 pm

Re: Wanted: practical launch vehicle, cheap!

If you had no brakes, would you go fast enough to burn up in the atmosphere? :o
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