A Canadian firm has been granted a US patent for a space elevator, an ambitious concept that could one day make launching objects into space cheaper.
The concept of a 20km high tower developed by Thoth Technology envisions the giant lift to be pneumatically pressurised and actively guided over its base.
The firm behind the concept says the space elevator would help cut costs of launching objects to space by up to 30 per cent. It would allow the most energy-demanding phase of every launch to be circumvented. Overcoming the stage where Earth’s gravity is the strongest close to the surface of the planet requires the most fuel and the fully reusable tower would allow the saving of a considerable amount of money as well as emissions.
“Astronauts would ascend to 20 km by electrical elevator,” explained Thoth President and CEO, Caroline Roberts. “From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refuelling and re-flight.”
The engineers behind the concept envision the tower to be combined with self-landing rocket technologies, such as those under development by American firm SpaceX, together providing a completely reusable and thus much more cost effective launch system than what is currently available.
“Landing on a barge at sea level is a great demonstration, but landing at 12 miles above sea level will make space flight more like taking a passenger jet,” said the designer of the space elevator Brendan Quine.