View Full Version : Going Down! Russia to launch space elevator

30th Mar 2004, 11:48
Russia to launch first space elevator - 03/29/2004 14:33

This unique project has been in development for years.

The idea of constructing an elevator that will be used in space was first introduced by Dutch scientists. European Space Agency (ESA) commissioned Samara's Space University to construct an apparatus that will be capable of carrying various products from the International Space Station back to earth. Nowadays, Russian scientists from the town of Samara are already finishing up their work. The experiment, introduced by the Dutch, has already sparked up interests of politicians and authorities.

The main principle of this freight elevator is rather simple. A capsule loaded with cargo will be lowered to earth by means of a special sturdy 30 km long cable. Despite its large parameters, the cable will weigh no more than 6 kilograms. Upon entering dense layers of atmosphere, the cable will burn and the cargo will continue its trip to earth by means of an air balloon (2 meters in diameter).

Nowadays, it takes a long time for various scientific data to reach earth. The space elevator will solve this problem. Russian scientists from the town of Samara plan to finish their work by October of 2004. First tests are scheduled for the end of the year. The experiment will take place at the base of ?Foton¦ spaceship. Project director Michael Krauf is sure in the project's success.

At this point the project cannot be called economically sound. However, once all nuances are worked out, its profits are expected to be tremendous. It is also expected that such space elevators will be used to examine other planets.

Source: RBC


30th Mar 2004, 12:25
I read in one scientific magzine of a similar contraption, but anchored at both ends ie the Earth and in space. It was designed to remove the need for rockets and apparently is feasible.

30th Mar 2004, 13:29
Isn't this post a couple of days early?!? :ooh:

30th Mar 2004, 13:54
The space station, cable and capsule will initially all be in free fall; so how do we get the cable to 'lower' itself?
Remember to place ad in Glasgow newspaper for riggers :D
. . and what's the tethered jobby going to do to the MSA?

Luv 744s
30th Mar 2004, 13:56
I know that Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote a popular science fiction book (having read it) in 1948 entitled 'Against the Fall of Night' that referred to a space elevator.

I'm guessing he wasn't the first person to think of that idea... so I'm curious -- whom was this Dutch scientist? Henrik Lorentz of Lorentz transform fame? Someone else?

Oddly enough, I saw a recent discussion involving some of the brightest minds at NASA and others outside of the agency, not too long ago, concerning this very subject.

The general consensus was that it was likely technically feasible -- either today or in the near future, but that there still remained an healthy amount of logistical issues to resolve. Legal, political, regulatory, financial, safety, security, public relations, advertising, etc... yet to be resolved. (Not to mention technical issues -- design, validation, composition, length, etc.)

Even from a technical standpoint, there are a number of interesting issues to be resolved... but the general feeling was that it was nothing insurmountable if there was sufficient will (and money) to see it through.

Can we expect one any time soon? Not too likely. April 1st rolling around sooner seems like a more plausible and bet-worthy proposition in the near future. :)

30th Mar 2004, 14:42
google : space.elevator (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=space.elevator&btnG=Google+Search) : about 63,100 results

serious-looking institute (http://www.isr.us/SEHome.asp)

Pprune search returns some results too

30th Mar 2004, 17:24
Isn't this post a couple of days early?!?
Yes, about 2 to be exact. But this is what Pravda says and they wouldn't lie, would they?

Paul Wilson
30th Mar 2004, 17:42
Re Arthur C Clarke,
He also wrote "The Fountains of Paradise" that deals with the construction of the elevator itself. First prerequisite is something like monofilament/bucky balls carbon, as any steel will collapse under its weight, second is a jolly big mass to anchor it in orbit- asteroid ideal.

To build it you start at the asteroid and work down, in fact you just extrude it out of the factory in the asteroid, anchor it to the top of a small mountain on the Earth to get you ouyt of the worst of thre weather. Once it's built the energy cost to get to orbit is something along the lines of $1 per kg, but if you are bringing products from orbit down, it can be effectively free.

Lu Zuckerman
30th Mar 2004, 21:27
Let us assume you can tether the elevator at one end to the space station and the other end to the earth the tether would have to be about 22,000 miles long as to do so the space station must be in a geosynchronous orbit. The space station is around 200 miles up so the station and the point of attachment on the earth would be traveling at different speeds.

Another point to consider if the elevator (read cable) is metallic it will be cutting through the earth’s magnetic field and generating an extremely high voltage that would have to be drained off to earth. That will cause some severe RFI on the space station.

Then again there is the elevator that just hangs from the space station and burns off due to friction between the cable and the atmosphere. If this could be accommodated, then the package to be lowered on the elevator would encounter that same friction and most likely burn up when it reached the end of the elevator. Lets’ assume this system works and the package does not burn up. The cable will be trailing the space station by several hundred miles and you would never know where the package was when it reached the end of the cable.

In the past satellites would release film canisters at about 200 or so miles up and they would be retrieved in flight by a specially equipped C-130. Why not go this route. All you would have to do is scale the system up.

:E :E

Genghis the Engineer
31st Mar 2004, 10:48
It's a while since I've read "Fountain's of paradise", but I seem to recall that the main structural material used was non-metallic, I think form of ultra-high-tech carbon fibre.

Samara University by the way is a very real and serious aerospace university - in the soviet days it trained most of the Engineers for Tupolev and the progress rocket plant, amongst others. Samara (previously known as Kyubychev) was where much of the Soviet high technology and aerospace industry was moved by Stalin as the Germans started to threaten the main Russian industrial heartland around 1943. I studied there briefly about a dozen years ago, and learned ten times as much in a few weeks about microsatellite design (my main interest at the time) as I had in several years studying astronautics at a British university.

Then, realising that nobody was ever going to offer me a ride in one, I switched to aeroplanes...


31st Mar 2004, 11:18
Lu Zuckrman,

Have you a good link to those C-130 recovery shenanigans? It sounds very clever...I had no idea.

I'm a final yeat physics and space technology student and we've just had the pleasure of some questions regarding this tether idea. In February '96 a metal sphere on the end of a 20km tether was lowered from Columbia. The voltage induced by the tether cutting the Earth's magnetic field can drive a current by attracting electrons from the ionosphere on to the sphere at one end of the sphere while elctrons are ejected from the Shuttle at the other end by an electron gun (like in a TV).

When you tether two orbiting bodies (e.g. the Shuttle and a satellite), their centre of gravity lies somewhere between them and the result is that both are travelling at speeds which differ from their expected circular orbital speeds at their respective altitudes. This leads to the Shuttle experiencing a small amount of 'gravity'.

Mr. A. C. Clarke is truly a visionary...he was writing about space elevators and geostationary orbits moe than half a century ago...crikey :ok:


Genghis the Engineer
31st Mar 2004, 16:22
The Russians also used LEO and wet-film, recovering to land, usually in one of several designated areas of Khazakstan. They reckoned to be able to place it within a 100x100km square, which is slightly large so far as search is concerned. The Resurs was the main series of satellites.

The main location tool was chaff, such as is better known for deflecting radar guided weapons. Released automatically on an altimeter (radar / pressure - not sure) it gave the Russians enough location information to vector a helicopter close enough for a visual ident.

I never knew how serious he was, but Professor Shakmistov at Samara told me that the most common cause of failure was it coming down too close to a Khazak local, who would ruin all the film and aparatus breaking in - convinced that there was a cosmonaut stuck inside and trying to rescue them.

Heady days.


Paul Wilson
31st Mar 2004, 19:20
What I forgot to say was that in the preface to the edition of Fountains of Paradise that I had, Arthur C Clarke took pains to give the credit for the idea of a space elavator to a Russian cosmonaut (can't remember his name) as he was embarrased by the many press reports attributing the idea to him.

Science Fiction writers do tend to come up with some good ideas though. Clarke got communication sattelites, and I believe it was clarke who also thought of water beds:oh: , he thought for hospital patients, but it prevented others from patenting them at a later date.

I just want some of that monofilament carbon that the lead character had in the book, would cut though anything like it was cheese, might even be able to open milk cartons without spilling it everywhere.

Lu Zuckerman
31st Mar 2004, 20:51
To: -<M4v3r1ck>-

You can start here for an explanation. There are several sites on the web. Just dial in C-130 satellite recovery.


To: Genghis the Engineer

Carbon fiber is a conductor of electricity. On unearthed carbon fiber elements on aircraft structure lightning will see it a hole in the structure and attach itself to the carbon composite resulting in a flashover from the internal structure blowing a hole in the carbon composite. If the carbon fiber cord passed through the magnetic field it might build up a charge and carry over into the space station. Or, it could pass through cumulous clouds and get struck by lightning. At this point it as a conductor either explode or, carry the lightning charge up to the space station raising a lot off hell in the process.

:E :E

Dan Winterland
31st Mar 2004, 20:52
And a geostationary orbit is also known as a 'Clarke' orbit after the great man.

Genghis the Engineer
31st Mar 2004, 21:04
Hey, I didn't write the novel Lu.

And if I did, I think my track record of getting my facts right would still be nothing like as good as the Master's.

Incidentally, anybody else read "Glide Path", his semi-autobiographical novel about the development of Radar during WW2?


Lu Zuckerman
1st Apr 2004, 01:02
To: -<M4v3r1ck>-

Here is something better.


Scroll down to Corona Satellite. There is a picture of an actual recovery but not by a C-130.

:E :E

Loose rivets
1st Apr 2004, 09:05
The thread connecting the satellite had a lot to do with spiders and not Fullerine (spelling???)

It would seem that all we need to do is breed a big enough spider, equipe it with breathing apparatus.............

1st Apr 2004, 10:01
Isn't there something also about Point Charges on objects? WQhat would happen if we had a large object in space (earth) which had a long conducting spike on one side that extended from the surface to 200 miles? would we have a real change in the ionosphere?

Paul Wilson
1st Apr 2004, 18:58
I thought Glide Path was autobiograpical, was certainly in the non-fiction bit of my old school library, but then how far can trust a school libraian? Some seriously ambitious stuff went on in WW2, favorite bit of the book is the description of the giant burners placed down the side of a runway to burn off the fog. The idea sounds like something from our colonial cousins - "Hey we got fog sir"

"Well burn it off soldier!!"

Apparantly caused soome "issues" with turbulance on landing.

1st Apr 2004, 20:55
Glide path is a fictional novel, but it is very closely based on Clark's real life role in WW2.

the space elevator in Fountains of Paradise is anchored to an asteroid in geostationary orbit, not a space station in low orbit. You might find it interesting to try reading the book sometime.

Lu Zuckerman
1st Apr 2004, 21:52
To: supercarb

the space elevator in Fountains of Paradise is anchored to an asteroid in geostationary orbit, not a space station in low orbit.

I believe I stated the in order to have one end attached to the earth and the other to a space station the space station would have to be about 22,000 miles from earth. OK so it was an asteroid and not a space station. I have two questions: 1) what do they lower from an asteroid and 2) Who is going to lower what ever it is that is being lowered.

One final question. How do they get the elevator to lower to an exact spot on the earth from 22,000 miles up? They can't shoot it up to the asteroid because of orbital mechanics and the ability to shoot through the window to get it there. The elevator cable will have to be several million miles long in order to meet up with the asteroid and when it gets there who is going to connect it? And, who is going to reel in the excess cable and how?

Just wondering.

:E :E

Paul Wilson
1st Apr 2004, 22:54
I'm no expert on orbital mechanics, but the book went somehing like this.

Find your chosen asteroid (carbonacious condrite?) then travel to it conventionally (ie spacecraft)

Plant a few rockets on the thing and fire them off to change orbit to put the asteroid into Geo orbit (or close to it, safer to aim high and refine it once it has arrived on site) This would take a few years in order to avoid a huge fuel cost.

Once your asteroid is in geo orbit, you set up a manufacturing plant on it, meanwhile ship up 25000-30000 miles of magic super wonder cable attach one end to asteroid, and lob the end at the Earth. (what you lob down is a re-entry capsule shaped a bit like apollo ones, but no-one inside, did have parachutes in the book though, to avoid very high touchdown speeds.

Anchor Earth end of cable, then you build the actual elevator system down from the asteroid, using the manufacturing plant that you've built on the asteroid.

Raw material for wonder cable is carbon, which is what the asteroid is made from, so supplies to the space station/asteroid are limited to people, machinary, and air/food/water. Basically until system is up and running, most supplies come from conventioal rockets.

Supercarb - I shall have to remonstrate with my old school librarian, doubt she'll be interested 15 years after I left though:D

Lu Zuckerman
2nd Apr 2004, 03:48
The book, according to everybody on this thread that has read it, is / was very interesting reading and maybe it was (is).

I worked on the Saturn Apollo program, the Atlas ICBM, several communication satellite programs, two sounding rocket programs and I developed the On Orbit Maintenance Program for the European Space Station. If I proposed any thing that has been discussed on this thread to my superiors I would have been tarred and feathered and run off.

:E :E

2nd Apr 2004, 04:15
Ok, I'm not a physicist, but here's my take on things.

Let's assume you've got a station or whatever in geo orbit, and you've got a very strong lightweight cable.

If you carry a rock to the top of a building, you are increasing it's potential energy. All the effort you put into hefting it up is "stored" in the rock.

Orbit is a trick by which you spin around the earth, thus rotating the direction of gravity, and thus preserving your potential energy while spinning around. The point: the amount of energy it took to "lift" it into orbit is still there.

So, to lower your fancy fan assembly manufactured free of defects in zero-g, you need to exert as much energy as was needed would be needed to heft it to begin with.

The space shuttle uses all that juice in the big bottle to get into orbit; and it uses drag to return. This is why the space shuttle has a very low operating altitude. If it's too far up, it's little reserve of fuel is not enough to slow it to the point it drag can take over.

Thus, because of all this energy expenditure, I believe a space elevator is of little use.

Of course, I'm not a physicist, so be nice to me, ok? :)

2nd Apr 2004, 13:05
Sorry, perhaps I misunderstood what you wrote.

You said:

This is not rocket science. In fact it is not science at all.

Let us assume you can tether the elevator at one end to the space station and the other end to the earth the tether would have to be about 22,000 miles long as to do so the space station must be in a geosynchronous orbit. The space station is around 200 miles up so the station and the point of attachment on the earth would be traveling at different speeds.

I interpreted this as you asssuming that Clark had suggested that the elevator could be attached to a space station in 200 mile orbit, and hence criticizing him for not realising that the top end would have to be in geosynchronous orbit. Apologies if this was not the intention.

2nd Apr 2004, 13:10
Didn't Clarke say that the space elevator would be built "about 50 years after everyone stops laughing?"

Paul Wilson
2nd Apr 2004, 19:16
I shall have to bow to Lu's superior knowledge of current technology.

But I believe the point that was being made was that once constructed the Space Elevator is a (relatively)stable system, hence the only only problem is how to build it. That I suspect will be a problem for our grandchildrens' grandchildren. Just because we can't figure out how to build it now, doesn't mean we won't in the future.

Got to admit that it is an elegant solution for access to orbit though, and indeed furthur exploration/expansion through the solar system.

w.r.t. the energy problem, all problems dissapear if you send up as much mass as you bring down. Then you are only dealing with frictional losses.

p.s. by the last chapter (set several hundered years ahead) they've got four, sited around the equator, then linked them up with a ring.

and lets not even get started on Dyson spheres, or Niven rings