“Space Elevators” Are Closer Than We Think

A Space Bridge – the elevator to the entire solar system.



By: Alexander Zabavskiy, Journalist

Although it may seem like a far-off idea, the space elevator—a building that extends into the sky—might be closer than we think. According to Stephen Cohen, space elevators could become a thing in “the next two to three decades.” Cohen describes the space elevator as “a cable spanning from Earth to space, along which people and freight can easily travel.” According to his op-ed, engineers and scientists are pioneering new techniques for creating these enormous structures that could fundamentally alter how humans access space.

Why a Space Elevator?

The cost and energy needed to travel to space could be drastically reduced thanks to space elevators. Companies like SpinLaunch are already testing novel, potentially game-changing technologies that have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of launching small satellites and scientific payloads into orbit. However, space elevators would also able to launch humans, supplies, and scientific payloads into orbit. The term “space mission” would be replaced with “transit” if space travel becomes commonplace and mostly unaffected by the weather, according to Cohen. Human transits would be safer than existing procedures, which require astronauts to assume a non-trivial risk to their life with each launch.

How a Space Elevator Would Operate

Cohen explains that the space elevator would be a satellite that would orbit at the same speed as Earth, that satellite would be attached to a 100,000-km-long cable, which would extend from the Earth’s equator. The elevator would have a mechanical climber that would travel to different altitudes. Over time, various concepts have proposed various kinds of mechanical climbers. One concept for a space elevator, for instance, would travel at extremely high speeds along the space cable using maglev rail carriers. The material needed to build these elevators would have to be 50x stronger than steel, which is impossible with the technology we have right now. Cohen thinks that we might just be a decade or two away from acquiring the necessary materials to create space elevators. Scientists are continuously working to create stronger materials and technologies. The development of space elevators may be an outcome of this effort in the future. It would be a development that could allow more people access to space and enable humanity to explore the cosmos more thoroughly than before.