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LiftPort: Building a Space Elevator
Alex Steffen, 3 May 05

Space elevators intrigue us. We've written before about LiftPort Group, which is planning to build one. So it was interesting to read an interview with Michael Laine, LiftPort's chief strategic officer:

What's your role?

We're the commercial company that's acting as the catalyst for the elevator. We bring the brainpower together and we start assigning tasks.

We're also interested in designing and building the robotic climber, and we're building a factory in New Jersey to create nanotubes as a money-making sideline.

The project will cost $7 billion to $10 billion. We're on target to complete it within 13 years.

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I hope they get the carbon nanotube tensile strength and manufacturing processes---along with sustaining CNT's strength with length when implemented in a ribbon---there have been so many strides this year--it is very hard to predict how this idea will evolve. I beleive the elevator will be built--when it will be built is a different story. I think CNT' are reaching critically low prices, and second of all, I think that they are doing longer and longer CNT's while not jeapordizing strength.

I recommened a bussiness entity that focuses only on bringing carbon nanotubes into this strong ribbon--instead of waiting untill all peices fit together. This way the elevator project will be sped up. How do we do this? goverment invests 5 billion in research only on this particular area.

The faster we get an elevator--the faster we will be independent of oil (we will be able to beam cost-effective renewable energy from space)--because putting things in orbit would be so inexpensive. I would say they spend 5 billion just to speed up the process and get the best minds in America to start focusing on how to implement this into a ribbon. If it fails in 4 years, well, I am sure many "unexpected" discoveries will come from it(as always) that will benefit society in other areas. If it does, the whole face of our society will change, we will be able to seek our dreams of space exploration and beyond, and be able to battle poverty all over the planet--with almost limitless energy from solar sattelites.

Let's speed it up, 5 billion is the lucky number.

Posted by: jack on 4 May 05

The space elevator is an idea whose time has almost come. I applaud Michael Laine and company for their vision. However, I fear they are overlooking one potential problem in today's crazy world. Wouldn't this be a terrorist's dream come true? What would an airplane do to this thing? How could you protect it? Now's the time to think of things like this while they have time to come up with the answers.

Posted by: James on 5 May 05

I'd say that you have to crawl before you can run. Let's see if nanotubes can successfully replace Kevlar, Spectra, and other high-tensile polymer fibers in the marketplace before betting on the success of a space elevator application.

Posted by: manofsan on 7 May 05

hi guys,

i wanted to thank you for paying attention to our project and for your support and enthusiasm, we apprecaite it.

jack, yup, i think $5b sounds like a pretty lucky number. actually, our specific goals are $4B from givernemtn grants, in a variety of research areas (CNT is one, but lasers, atmospherics, marine engineering, and a bunch more are also vital.) $3B from private investment in equity and $3B from private investment in debt financing.

james, you are right to be concerned about air safety and such. we answer several of your questions in our FAQ - because we get asked them a lot. i hope you understand my reasons, be we are not talking publicly about our security procedures. however, as a former US Marine, i assure you, we are looking at the threats involved (terrorists, nations, and other issues) and are developing plans, now, to deal with these issues. thanks for your concern, we're 'on-it'.

manofsan, you're correct. CNT will have to overtake the conventional materials you are describing. some of the cnt composites are already doing it, in the lab. thats one of the reasons we are creating out production facility, to start rolling this stuff out to the commercial markets as fast as we can. so, give us a little more time, weve only been working on this stuff for a few years now, bu it think you are about to be surprised.

take care.


Posted by: michael Laine on 8 May 05

How about involving other nations? Is America the only nation of the planet who is able to make a space elevator? What would be the problem of drawing in the EU, Russia and many of the industrialized Asian and Middle Eastern nations into a global cooperation (akin like ITER, only a bit faster)?

Being a EU citizen I would certainly like to see more transatlantic cooperation on such important matters.

Posted by: Mikkel Kjær Jensen on 9 May 05



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