Saturday, December 23, 2006

Space Elevators: A Future I can Envision.. Part 1

Concept art of a space elevator. Source: Lift Port Group
(see part 2) So, what exactly is a space elevator? It's exactly what you'd imagine; an elevator that goes into space. Basically the ideas proposed for a space elevator consists of a "base station" that has a geosynchronous counterweight tethered to it.

The four basic elements required for such a concept are: the base station (as previously mentioned), a cable sometimes referred to as the "ribbon", climbers (the elevator portion), and the counterweight.

The base station could come in a variety of forms. One being a mobile form. The base would most likely be positioned in the ocean or another large body of water. Its mobility could be used to maneuver away from satellites and other orbiting objects but I think something as amazing
Concept art of a potential Base Station. Source: Lift Port Group
and "game-changing" as a space elevator would take precedence. It would be much simpler to change the orbits of everything else and use the cost/material advantageous method of a stationary base. A stationary base could theoretically have a significantly shorter, required cable length depending on altitude. A shorter cable could also reduce the required thickness of the cable as a whole, eliminating even more cost and materials necessary.

The technology for cable construction is not as far away as one might think. It is estimated that the tensile strength required for the tether would have to be in the range of 65-120 Gigapascals. To put it into perspective steel has a mere 2 GPa or less of tensile strength. Fortunately, the advent of carbon nanotubes has produced strands that could resist as high as 52 GPa before snapping and the theoretical capability is beyond 120 GPa. Mass production and creating large strands is currently an issue but the future looks optimistic as the demand for carbon nanotubes is way beyond just space elevators. We're talking computers, planes, bridges, rockets, and other materials in general. Demand is high and likewise research too.

Concept design of a Climber. Source: Lift Port Group
Climbers would serve as the "elevator" of the system but due to a construction requiring a larger center than tips ( necessary because of centripetal forces) it would not use typical elevator methods. Hence, the name climbers. The proposed designs, friction held rollers and robotic arms with hooks, present less of a challenge than actually powering the climbers. The best method I've read about so far has been powering it by lasers. The concept would be similar to a laser powered solar sail (look for a post about this in the upcoming future). This technology is still in its infancy and isn't very efficient currently but it looks very promising.

Lastly, we have the counterweight. Many have pushed the idea of an asteroid as a counterweight but I happen to like the potential of the alternative: a space station. Not a whole lot to explain here and I'm sure you could imagine some of the capabilities a space station on top of a space elevator could have. I.E. spaceport, research labs, weightless space construction, space hotels, etc. etc.

Lifting the cable into space presents a bit of a problem but Bradley C. Edwards (former Director of Research for the Institute for Scientific Research) has proposed a highly efficient method for doing so. The method involves creating an initial, "seed" cable that is very thin and launching it first. Next, small climbers would progressively add thicker and thicker cables from the ground up until the desired proportions are reached.

Initial costs are also relatively "affordable" for a system similar to the seed cable, starting at an estimated $5 billion.

My next post will concern the advantages and the costs that a space elevator would have in more, specific depth. I invite you all to come back and read it and to also post any questions or comments that you would like to see addressed in the next article.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Water Currently Flowing on Mars?!

"December 06, 2006
WASHINGTON - NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars that suggest water carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years.
"These observations give the strongest evidence to date that water still flows occasionally on the surface of Mars," said Dr. Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program continue reading..."

Before and after imagees depicting erosion. Source:

With liquid water this means there is an even greater possibility for life on Mars than previously thought. Other than potential life on Mars (and something the article fails to mention) is the potential of the situation.With liquid water underground the proposition of a permanent outpost doesn't seem so far fetched. The water could be used for fuel, energy, and obviously a water supply for humans. If there wasn't a reason to visit Mars with humans there certainly is one now.

This is also an interesting addition of knowledge concerning the possibility of terraforming parts of Mars or even all of it. There is already a tented city thats is going to be finished within the next year or two on Earth in Kazakhstan. Thats right, the same country that the character Borat is from... Now imagine for a moment, the 58th highest GDP country in the world with $125 billion in purchasing power [ref] ; what could a nation with $12.3 trillion [ref] accomplish? Building a tented outpost or colony on Mars doesn't seem that far fetched now. Imagine if another Paul Allen or Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) decided to invest a better portion of their net worth into a similar tented outpost.

Projected images of the completed city of Astana. Source: BBC News
Take for example Robert Bigelow (previous post), he has spent a scant $75 million to research, develop, test, and launch Genesis I into orbit and it took him a mere 6 years to get to this point from absolutely nothing. Now look at NASA on the other hand... it has cost them over $100 billion since 1993 to get to the point where they are now with the ISS [ref]. And while Bigelow is prepared to spend a mere $500 million through 2015 to complete several space hotels and sell them for $100 million a piece NASA is estimating costs $300-500 billion. Keep in mind that this is only NASA's contribution to the ISS and doesn't include the 14 other countries involved. So, with the efficiency of private
companies a mission to Mars or even an establishment on Mars doesn't seem too far-fetched, especially with the recent interest from wealthy individuals.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Genesis I Completes Successful Launch into Space

Inside Genesis I after successful inflation in space. Source: Bigelow Aerospace

The first huge step was completed in the Genesis project by Bigelow Aerospace. On July 12, 2006 the Genesis I module was launched on a Dnepr booster from the Yasny Launch Base in Siberia. According to the Bigelow Aerospace website (see page) the 1/3 scale model completed all its assigned tasks.

The exclusive article from reports,

"Thanks to a boost today from a Russian and Ukrainian rocket-for-hire company, a U.S. private space firm has sent a novel expandable module toward Earth orbit—and a step forward in providing commercial space habitats.

Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nevada is flying prototype hardware that the firm anticipates will advance habitable structures in space to carry out research and manufacturing, among other tasks. continue reading..."

Outside Genesis I after successful inflation in space. Source: Bigelow Aerospace

Genesis II has a launch date set for January 30, 2007 and looks to be on schedule. The Genesis II will run similar tests but will also allow non-employees to pay for small objects to be sent aboard the module for $295. Not too bad of a price to be able to brag that you sent a picture of yourself into space. I mean how many people can say they have a photo of themselves in space?

Anyways, the Genesis project is the precursor to the Nautilus space station module-- a 45 ft. X 22ft. inflatable SPACE HOTEL. It was initially a design concept by NASA that was inevitably trashed. That's where Robert Bigelow comes along and purchases the TransHab technology from them. Bigelow plans to produce several of the Nautilus Transhabs with a cool asking price of $100 million.

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My Purpose

Welcome to my Space Monitor blog. I hope you will find this blog to be fascinating, thought-provoking, informative, and inspiring.

Let me outline some goals I have for this site. Any feedback would be appreciated so if you have an opinion, comment away!
Anyways, here is what I had in mind:

1. Since the site is, I obviously have a plan of monitoring space! But, to be a bit more specific, I plan on updating this blog whenever any big announcements come from the space travel/tourism/colonization area. Basically, I will be keeping tabs on all the major private companies involved in the privatized space industry such as Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, Armadillo Aerospace, SpaceDev, Blue Origin and many more.

Besides commercial companies, I will also update on relevant news from government agencies (NASA, ESA, Russian Federal Space Agency, Chinese Space Agency, etc).

2. Not only do I want to make the blog a "one-stop" portal for space travel/tourism/colonization news I also want to add my own "two-cents" to the article. I want to comment on all aspects of news such as feasibility, the technology involved, possible ramifications, alternatives, spin-offs, etc.
But I don't want it to be all me. I want to make it interactive and hear your opinions, thoughts, and ideas. If demand is ever large enough I would definitely like to set up a community related to the blog for everyone to participate in (experts and neophytes alike).

3. I have a dream of one day starting my own space travel/tourism/colonization company and so I would like to occasionally post my own ideas and progress. I am currently in the very, very beginning stages of initiating my dream but if you stick around long enough I'd like to share with you my progress and my methods for achieving my goals. This topic will probably be the least updated but I will try to incorporate it into my comments on other space articles.

4. Occasionally I will write miscellaneous posts that don't really fit into any of the above categories. This will happen whenever inspiration strikes so I can't really put a specific label on this. Just know I will try to make it worthwhile :).

I will try to update this as much as possible, in the meantime I would appreciate any ideas or opinions.


It has been a fun ride so far so I thought I'd give a list of some of my all time favorite posts... I appreciate everyone's feedback on my articles and I definitely enjoy the discussions.

Personal Favorite Posts:

And the a list of all the articles in order of popularity by viewers (as of 7/05/07):
  1. A Floating City on Venus
  2. Magnetic Launch System
  3. The Top 10 Things to Experience in A Space Hotel
  4. Why Mine the Asteroid Belt?
  5. Money Backing the Private Space Industry.. Part 3--Robert Bigelow
  6. Space Elevators: A Future I can Envision.. Part 1
  7. "Genesis I is About to Have Company"
  8. Space Elevators: A Future I can Envision.. Part 2
  9. Money Backing the Private Space Industry.. Part 1
  10. Money Backing the Private Space Industry.. Part 2
  11. New Player in the Game: European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company--Astrium
  12. About This Blog--My Purpose
  13. Copy of PDF file
  14. Absolutely Awesome Images of Space
  15. Lunar Dirt Factories? A look at how regolith could be the key to permanent outposts on the moon!
  16. Genesis I Completes Successful Launch into Space
  17. Water Currently Flowing on Mars?!
  18. Genesis II- Updates from Bigelow Aerospace
  19. The Space Colonization Series
  20. Colonizing Mercury
  21. The Manifest Destiny: Mark II
  22. Bigelow Interviewed by MSNBC--Lunar Habitat in the Works
  23. Recommended Space Blogs
  24. Great Space Quotes