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Space Technology

Space Elevator Gets FAA Clearance 546

lonesome phreak writes "Techzonez has a short piece about the recent FAA waiver received by the LiftPort Group allowing them to conduct preliminary tests or their high altitude robotic lifters. The lifters are early prototypes of the technology that the company is developing for use in its commercial space elevator to ferry cargo back and forth into space."
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Space Elevator Gets FAA Clearance

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  • by bryan986 ( 833912 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:04PM (#13592854) Homepage Journal
    Just imagine the massive migranes you are going to get when you have to listen to musak for some tens of thousands of miles
    • Why is this moderated down? It's at least as funny as other comments I've seen marked +5 Funny.
    • by LSD-OBS ( 183415 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:07PM (#13592877)
      Those symptoms would probably be due to over-exposure to methane :)
    • Those young whipersnappers nowadays, back in the old days we had to listen to Strauss when going to the moon.
  • by xpeeblix ( 701114 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:04PM (#13592858)
    ..all the way to space.

    What could possibly go wrong?
  • by Digitus1337 ( 671442 ) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .sutigid_kl.> on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:06PM (#13592866) Homepage
    Take THAT Led Zeppelin!
  • by JediLow ( 831100 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:06PM (#13592867)
    Wouldn't it be best to launch from somewhere outside the United States - say from the equator? It just makes more sense to me if they used something like Sea Launch [wikipedia.org].
    • by qbwiz ( 87077 ) * <john@noSpAm.baumanfamily.com> on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:14PM (#13592916) Homepage
      If you're a US citizen/company, you still need FAA approval, no matter where in the world you're launching from. No, I don't know why.
      • I don't know why.

        Because the government wants to keep control over what you're doing of course. I'd think that's rather obvious.
        • by kentmartin ( 244833 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:45PM (#13593079) Homepage
          Oh, c'mon - the grandparent here must be bollocks... an unqualified ridiculous statement.

          By that logic, a US citizen, couldn't come to say, the UK, get a CAA issued license and fly with it coz they don't have permission from the FAA?

          I know the Seppo's have been going a bit nuts lately, but, how do you imagine they'd enforce these sort of rules, arrest folks on re-entry into the US? /me hums a song about Cuba.

          • by qbwiz ( 87077 ) * <john@noSpAm.baumanfamily.com> on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:05PM (#13593173) Homepage
            For example, according to Chapter 14 of Federal Regulations Part 47, all trustees of a plane registered in the US must be legal residents or citizens. Since this flight is rather unconventional, something like plane (or balloon + long tether) registration would be required. This isn't just a pilot's license.
            Considering that corporations can't become legal residents (AFAIK, IANAL), whatever country they're incorporated in is where they register their planes. This, of course, assumes a certain universality of laws, but I'm sure the FAA and most other countries have laws in place to ensure that unregistered people don't go flying planes around, even in the middle of the ocean.
          • by stoborrobots ( 577882 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:39PM (#13593324)
            By that logic, a US citizen, couldn't come to say, the UK, get a CAA issued license and fly with it coz they don't have permission from the FAA?

            I believe it only applies to US-registered planes, not US citizens... Since the plane is registered in the US, anything that happens aboard is under US law, including actually flying the thing.

            At least, that's how I understand it works here in Australia. You can't fly Australian-registered planes with a US licence, but you can fly US planes within Australian airspace with a US licence.
    • My thoughts exactly. The space elevator will have to start from the equator and go up from there (or start at geosync and come down to the equator. USA has no land on the equator AFAIK,
    • by j1m+5n0w ( 749199 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:28PM (#13592998) Homepage Journal
      According to the article, they just want to try out some climbers by letting them climb up and down a cable tethered to a mile-high balloon. They're not getting aproval to launch an actual space elevator. (You are correct though that a space elevator would optimally be tethered near the equator.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:07PM (#13592869)
    Welcome our heavly lifting space overlords by pressing all the buttons in the elevator before leaving.
  • Obligatory Comments (Score:2, Informative)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 )
    I'm just going to set the stage for any and all comments involving tensile strength of various materials.

    Last time I checked we do have materials that can handle the stresses of hanging around from orbit.

    At least thats what I remember from /.'s last article about super strength diamnond nano-tubes.
    (or something like that)

    • by Dest581 ( 915603 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:12PM (#13592908)
      But would we be able to hold miles of it together, without anything going wrong? That's the challenge.

      That, and the money needed to build and maintain it.
    • I personally think your trying to start a discussion rather than preemptivly stop one. Anyways I believe we don't have a strength yet, but I've heard talk of strength being enough to go half way, which is good enough for initial test. You could hover test tether from really high really big helicopter. Or given enough money you could hang it from orbit and have it reach halfway down... a much better test, and you would be testing the upper orbit effects which arn't as well known.
    • What's the longest diamond nanotube that's been developed to date? A few microns, probably?
    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:05PM (#13593176)
      Last time I checked we do have materials that can handle the stresses of hanging around from orbit. At least thats what I remember from /.'s last article about super strength diamnond nano-tubes.
      You'll need a slightly more authorative source even if it was modded insightful.

      Remember that you are really talking about a constuction similar to a railgun wrapped twice around the equator then stood on it's end - the extra length is due to having to have a counterweight to keep it up there, and the railgun is the linear motor idea to move things up. Climbers like the machines proposed in the article would cut the mass per unit length and the strength required, but we are still talking about getting in incredible amount of mass up to geostationary orbit by conventional means to build the thing before we can start using it.

      It's a chicken and egg thing, one we get the materials we need to have a need to more vast amounts of mass into orbit and beyond before it is useful - and we won't really be seriously considering moving vast amounts of mass into orbit without something like this. It becomes more feasable if we can use some mass doesn't take so much fuel to get it there in the first place - hence the idea of having a great big rock as a counterweight.

      • Most serious suggestions don't involved anything about a linear motor. It's more like a normal mechanical device with power beamed from the ground.
        This makes the cable a plain physical object without any electrical or magentic requirements.
      • by Stinking Pig ( 45860 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @12:56AM (#13593648) Homepage
        Kim Stanley Robinson (_Red Mars_) had an elegant solution to this problem... use a robot factory to push a carbon-rich asteroid into position, then spin cable down from it. The non-carbon mass of the asteroid remains to provide counterweight (and structural support for a space station, which is a handy thing to have at the end of a space elevator.

        Still a chicken placed before the egg if considered with today's technology, but it's more feasible and practical than "build all the cable on earth and lift it into space, so we can lift heavy things into space".
  • A Bit Premature (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Azarael ( 896715 )
    It's not like anyone is going to be building one any time soon. It would probably take years just to gather the raw materials.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:07PM (#13592875)

    great idea, all we need to do is invent the technology , im not holding my breath

    perhaps the bookies should be taking bets

    Fusion Power
    Space Elevator
    Perpetual Motion
    Duke Nukem Forever
    Microsoft Linux
  • But..... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hydraulix ( 893404 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:09PM (#13592888)
    I hate to be the person that gets stuck on the 900,304,564,282,012,373 floor. :(
  • So (Score:3, Funny)

    by cxreg ( 44671 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:09PM (#13592889) Homepage Journal
    When is Six Flags building one? And will the speedpass be valid for it?
  • by lorelorn ( 869271 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:11PM (#13592900)
    We don't have a business plan,

    We don't have any investors,

    We don't have a product,

    But we do have in-principle government approval!


  • by treebeard77 ( 68658 ) * <treebeard AT treebeard DOT net> on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:13PM (#13592909)
    Thoughts on Space Elevators [mit.edu] by Blaise Gassend has a lot of good info & links on space elevators
  • ... I'd get in on the bottom floor and some kid would hit EVERY button.
  • by aktzin ( 882293 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:18PM (#13592943)
    Maybe Sir Arthur will live to see parts of "The fountains of paradise" coming true.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountains_of_Paradise [wikipedia.org]

  • by GroeFaZ ( 850443 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:24PM (#13592973)

    marking the first-ever test of this technology in the development of the space elevator concept.

    It may be the first test of the technology that actually requires a federal permit because of the altitude, but here [liftport.com] are pictures and a video of an earlier test in November 2004.
  • Tower of Babel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 88NoSoup4U88 ( 721233 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:26PM (#13592982)
    When I read about those space elevators, I somehow always have to think about the Tower of Babel [wikipedia.org] (and I'm not even religious) :

    From Gen 11:1-9

    1. Now the entire earth was of one language and uniform words.
    2. And it came to pass when they traveled from the east, that they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.
    3. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and fire them thoroughly"; so the bricks were to them for stones, and the clay was to them for mortar.
    4. And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered upon the face of the entire earth."
    5. And the Lord descended to see the city and the tower that the sons of man had built.
    6. And the Lord said, "Lo! [they are] one people, and they all have one language, and this is what they have commenced to do. Now, will it not be withheld from them, all that they have planned to do?
    7. Come, let us descend and confuse their language, so that one will not understand the language of his companion."
    8. And the Lord scattered them from there upon the face of the entire earth, and they ceased building the city.
    9. Therefore, He named it Babel, for there the Lord confused the language of the entire earth, and from there the Lord scattered them upon the face of the entire earth.

    So let's hope Liftport Group has their translators ready ;)

    • Re:Tower of Babel (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah.. the Lord can be like that kid that comes along and knocks your block tower down. Jerk.
      • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @12:05AM (#13593430)
        6. And the Lord said, "Lo! [they are] one people, and they all have one language, and this is what they have commenced to do. Now, will it not be withheld from them, all that they have planned to do?

        7. Come, let us descend and confuse their language, so that one will not understand the language of his companion."

        Man, thank goodness nothing like that will happen when we try to build the space elevator! That would sure screw things up.

        I mean, if you consider the possible implications of hrejit nü hrønfar ngornbø hleptic i vrüdenik slahh! Hlah! Nrkramnü, egnem znepi znepi frafnuu fraarg. Ple, ple plehehahrmon!Nkramnu? Nkramnu. Vrreedonfarnu o slan wethnip nkri nar franfor. (n'ktuthnish omo san wanaroomh!)

        • Our apologies; the people responsible for the last post have been fired. Entirely new posts discussing the future ramifications of space elevators will replace them shortly. Meanwhile, here are some delicious pictures of a traditiønal møøse picnic from the wild snøw covered peaks of Nørway.
    • by TheGavster ( 774657 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:45PM (#13593081) Homepage
      This just in: Dayton, TN has ruled that no dictionary showing the developmental history of words may be used in its schools, as this violates biblical doctrine that God caused all languages to spring into being at once.
    • Re:Tower of Babel (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:00PM (#13593147) Journal
      Son of a bitch! What sort of asshole would do something that like? "Oh look, there's some people acting peacefully in a joint operation. Well I better fix their little red wagon! Haha! They'll surely worship me after this."

      If there is a Christian god, he is a DICK! The only person whose more of a dick then him, is superman. [superdickery.com]
      • Re:Tower of Babel (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jafac ( 1449 )
        If there is a Christian god, he is a DICK!

        Um, the same theme occurred in ancient babylonian mythology, judaic mythology, christian mythology, and islamic mythology. So I wouldn't blame the Christian God specifically.

        Actually, the same thing seems to have happend in computers too. Once the whole world seemed to have standardized on Posix. Then Bill Gates came along. . . .
    • by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:20PM (#13593256)
      If you take that section in context instead of just reading it itself, you would find that the problem was not that they built a tower, but their motives for building it. They wanted to get closer to God. Theres nothing wrong with that except for when you do it outside of how he tells us to. He didn't tell us to build a tower to him to get to him, he told us to let him come to us. He was disgusted with the Babylonians because of their pride, not because of their tower building prowess.
    • Nice to see the Kansas scientific community give their thoughts on the subject :)
    • by Jerk City Troll ( 661616 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:46PM (#13593352) Homepage

      God has a tantrum because human beings are attempting to do something other than slaughter mindlessly in his name. Here, we see people attempting to accomplish a feat of engineering. In reprisal, God thwarts the effort by rewiring their brains to inhibit communication. This leads to the formation of diverse cultures and perspectives, which in turn leads to ignorance and intolerance in many cases. As a direct result, human kind engages in mindless slaughter in God's name.

      Eventually, however, our species ends up creating much taller towers a thousand years later anyway... Which people then destroy, causing mindless slaugher in the name of God.

      God is stupid.

  • by irrision ( 536964 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @10:48PM (#13593099)
    Does anyone else think that perhaps this article should be linked to the actual source instead of a link to a link that links to another site with a quote from the original source and no link to it? I mean at what point does this become a rumor when it's so far from the original source? Oh here's the link to the companies website: http://www.liftport.com/ [liftport.com] And here's one to their staff blog which is much more interesting reading then this quote: http://www.liftport.com/progress/wp/ [liftport.com] And heres a link to their september newsletter posted on their forums that talks about the FAA approval among other things: http://www.liftport.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25 3 [liftport.com]
  • AstroNautical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:32PM (#13593301) Homepage Journal
    I want to see the US build a "skyhook" space elevator on the Equator [google.com] right off Jarvis Island [cia.gov]. Jarvis could house the cargo/control center. Nearby Kiribati could become an (inter)global shipping hub. And Hawaii would be even spacier than it is now.
  • by Nerdposeur ( 910128 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:32PM (#13593302) Journal
    In "Rainbow Mars," Larry Niven (who also wrote Ringworld, seemingly the basis of Halo's ring-shaped planet) imagined "world trees" that grow downward from space and attach to a pre-grown stalk on a planet.

    The world-trees were huge, but rather than supporting their weight traditionally, the roots were designed to hold them in the ground, as opposed to being flung out into space.

    I guess if you had a space elevator and stuck enough mass out into space, it could take some of the supportive strain off the base of it with centrifugal pull. I'm not sure how the strain would work out on it.

    At first I imagined an elevator box where you open it and push your cargo (a rocket, whatever) out, but I guess it makes more sense to let it accelerate and sling it off the end with centrifugal force, like... like a sling. No fuel required to get moving.
  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:39PM (#13593326)
    Current regulations (faa i think) prevent mile high cities.

    Already there are conglomerates in tokyo with plans and long term roadmaps laid out toward the construction of self contained mile high towers.. (one shaped like nested bowls actually has 7 or so large open air parks contained within.

    The US will never have one as long as these regulations continue to pose even a slight threat to what is already a daunting task in both engineering and financing.

    Truth be told.. i want to live in one of these towers before i'm middle aged, so get moving with the restriction removal!
  • by distantbody ( 852269 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:40PM (#13593330) Journal
    Goto: http://www.liftport.com/donate.php [liftport.com]

    ...and they are asking for donations, saying:

    "Developing the space elevator will require large amounts of financial capital over the next 10-15 years. At the present, LiftPort Inc. is in the early start-up stages, and like any start-up, has strong financial needs in order to achieve our goal of building the space elevator. If you would like to help support our efforts by making a donation, please click the link below. We thank you for your support."

    It makes me feel so good to know i've helped a newborn business down the path of global domination!

    Hooray for groveling private enterprise!

    +5 Cynical
  • by Xanlexian ( 122112 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:47PM (#13593355) Homepage
    http://www.elevator2010.org/site/ [elevator2010.org] Has TONS of information on this. It is a contest site that has been mentioned here before a few times (I'm too lazy to look up previous articles). All of the materials are currently available to construct one. The movie on the site explains a space elevator in simple terms. I recommend watching it.
    • All of the materials are currently available to construct one.

      Not quite. The various space elevator startups, including Liftport, are still waiting for the technology to make carbon nanotubes of unlimited length. Several years ago scientists were making the tubes 4 microns long. Now they are up to several centimeters. After a couple more orders of magnitude they will probably have machinery that can crank out continuous nanotube ribbons of any length, and then the space elevator stands a chance of actually
      • Do we need ones of unlimited length? Conventional rope is made by ravelling lots of very short, comparatively weak, fibres together. Now, the nanotubes currently produced are very low friction, but if you were to attach something like C60 to each end, would you not be able to build a rope out of these fibres that would be incredibly strong and light?

        Note: This post contains idle speculation, and is not backed by any kind of calculation. Or nuclear weapons.

  • by nemik ( 909434 ) on Sunday September 18, 2005 @11:47PM (#13593356) Homepage
    to join the 19741974827320328 mile high club! ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 19, 2005 @12:39AM (#13593579)
  • by davidgrouchy ( 661051 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @01:36AM (#13593789) Homepage Journal
    Great, lay a source of conduction across the natural insulation of our atmosphere and discharge the entire ionisphere into the earth. Wheeeee
  • Why FAA Clearance? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) * on Monday September 19, 2005 @02:23AM (#13593964) Journal
    Because they're flying a tethered balloon in US airspace above the maximum altitude allowed without having to alert air traffic in the area.

    http://www.risingup.com/fars/info/101-index.shtml [risingup.com]

    They have to get a waiver to operate outside the limits set by FAR 101. It's a fairly automatic process. Most rocketry clubs do it regularly. By doing this they get clearance and (somewhat) priority for the airspace, and a NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) is posted at air traffic control centers so anyone heading that way will be informed.

    According to the LiftPort blog, they've seen you coming:

    September 18th, 2005
    Welcome Slashdot readers.

    You're welcome to rummage around and see what we're up to.

    While you are here, sign up for our monthly announcement list. Toss barbed questions at space elevator enthusiasts at the Liftport Forums. Read our out-dated FAQ. Read Dr. Edwards NIAC study and free yourself from /. generated assumptions in the Phase II Study.

  • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @09:00AM (#13595111)
    If a space elevator could be made that can lift heavy cargo up to space, then a similar construct can be used for transferring energy from a solar energy platform to earth.
    • Ignore my other comment (not that that's generally difficult to do!) From the FAQ at liftport.com: Energy is one area that could benefit from a space elevator. Large solar arrays, for example, could be easily lifted into space, creating an inexpensive source of clean, limitless and eco-friendly energy, beamed back down to earth.

The only problem with being a man of leisure is that you can never stop and take a rest.