Space Exploration Chronology: 2050-2059 | The Space Elevator is Operational



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2050

The Space Elevator, megastructure of the century, is operational


Credit: courtesy of NASA/nasaimages.org
Click on the image to enlarge it


Construction begun Around 2040
Megastructure became operational January 1, 2050
Objectives Build a floating structure west of the Galapagos islands, capable of transporting people and cargo to the geostationary orbit in space, through a series of gigantic elevators
Results The cost of delivering cargo or people into space dropped by over 100 to 1000 times, enabling unprecedented expansion of human presence in space


In 2030's, United States of America, European Union and Japan formed a joint agency responsible for construction of the Space Elevator. They pledged long term funding necessary for the completion of a project that was envisioned for over a hundred years. Serious planning begain in 1970's, however, it was clear that absence of the needed materials would prevent any further development.

The basic concept has been developed by the late 20th century, it required an equatorial-based floating station, tethered to a balancing base in the outer space, in geostationary orbit. The primary obstacle was absence of a tethering material that would be both extremely strong and light. This became possible with effective carbon nanotubes that appeared in the 2030's.

During the latter half of the 2030's the brightest minds from various fields were working together to create the blueprint for the most complex Man-made megastructure ever conceived. Initially, it was considered whether China, India and Brazil should be involved in the project. The decision was made against such inclusion after it became evident that the involved costs were bearable and they were miniscule in comparison to the expected profit.

The agency contracted mostly private companies, due to the highly globalized nature of the economy and the nature of the project itself, which required development of entire new subfields. The approach to the project was reminiscent of the 1960's Apollo Moon landing missions of NASA.

Construction began in 2040's, the cost amounted to 15 billions of dollars (2010 rate). Factions of the agency debated in favor of cargo-only elevator, stressing the potential dangers to human transporting as well as costs which could be cut in half in case of a cargo-only structure. Radiation exposure dangers of the Van Allen radiation belt was one of the primary concerns. However, political and economic decision was reached to go ahead with the full project.

A large, floating spaceport was built to float near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, west of the Galapagos Islands. Varying sizes of elevators are utilized to send payload up. Most elevators are designated for cargo, ranging in payload mass capacity. At least two elevators are for passengers, they have several emergency life support systems installed. After an elevator leaves, it travels for approximately 35,000 km (22,000 mi) up. Velocity of the elevators is presently unknown, but the trip could take about a week. Elevators are geomagnetic vehicles, similar to high speed trains of the early 21st century, but powered through steady beam of laser light from the floating base. Upon reaching the geostationary orbit, which is where the center of mass of this structure is located, elevators are docked into a space station, with permanent altitude, set to balance the Space Elevator. Carbon nanotubic cables will go 20 kilometres beyond the geostationary orbit.

Once completed, the Space Elevator became responsible for over 90% of mass delivered into space. Countries and companies involved in the overseeing agency, both generated financial profit and increased their geopolitical influence.




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