We don't really have to be chained to Earth by rocket technology limitations

Written by James E. D. Cline, online 2006/01/12:
We don't really have to be chained to Earth by rocket technology limitations. I'm composing a new intro to my website here.

We all know that the only way possible for us to get high enough into space so that we don’t come right back down, is on a rocket all the way up to orbit, right? By the fiery thunderous push of big reaction engines thrusting all the way to earth orbital trajectory, the only possible real way? Actually, there are a couple of other ways possible, and far more efficient orbital access too. But why be concerned with such things?

Speaking perhaps a bit too generally in this paragraph: options need to be known so as to make intelligent decisions to guide the direction our future goes. Resources availability and utilization potentials are key items for making these decisions. Access to potential great new resources is explored here, focusing on the basic scientific principles that would be utilized along with the technologies applying them for this purpose. Then the exploration of the resource mechanisms made feasible by this type of access is done, to help decide the value of the potential resource access system, and the potential changes to civilization in general, and individual lives in particular, are projected. Attention also is given to other significant factors governing the actualization of something new, including rival technologies, corporate financial prior commitments, potential relationship to the political aspirations to power of some people.

Starting with things that are already known and easily comprehensible, we next combine them to create something not currently available for use. Then explore what could be done with it, that can’t be done otherwise.

What we are hopefully looking for, is plentiful clean energy to power civilization, ways to fully recycle all that we have finished with, create plentiful new space to comfortable live in, with comparable nutritional sources, and provide great economy for further large scale continuing resource outreach.

So lets first look at some simple mechanisms that have potential to reach beyond the conventional rocket or even tether elevator space access limitations.

An object that has been put in orbit around the planet, stays up there a long time, with no further energy addition to it. Consider a circular orbit, and instead of a single satellite in the orbit, lets have a rope that is so long as to entirely encircle the planet in that orbit. The rope does not have to be strong, or even continuous, to maintain that circular structure, at least short term.

But orbits rarely are circular, instead usually are elliptical, the orbiting object rising and falling as it rotates around the planet. Its velocity varies as it rises and falls along the ellipse, and thus our rope would stretch when it goes faster near the bottom of ellipse, and crinkle up when it goes slow up at the top of its climb. But that is only if it is a continuous rope loop.

Going beyond this form of analogy of a rope all around the Earth going at orbital velocity so as to stay there in place, we have to make it elliptical going between low and high, to be potentially useful as a lifting structure for space access. If we set the ellipse to have its high point at GEO (GeoStationary Earth Orbit), and its low point at the Earth’s equatorial surface, it is in a nice place for the desired transportation between ground and high earth orbit. This is a very primitive form, of course.

Lots of structural design details to be provided from there; but the point here is that this kind of structure could extend from the ground up to GEO, and be supported by its kinetic energy centrifugal force in itself, instead of its strength of component materials.

This is a key point needing comprehension. Again: it utilizes a kind of structure that is supported by its dynamics instead of by its strength of materials.

From there we can mechanize it, making that primitive “rope” into an armature of an electric motor. The “rope”, now an “electric motor armature”, can be made of many segments so as to cope with the varying velocity they take on as they rise and fall. And these armature segments need to go sufficiently faster than orbital velocity that they produce excess outward centrifugal force to press upward to balance the weight of the stationary stator part of the electric motor.

A very low frictional loss surface needs to be between those armatures and the stator, so it needs to be a form of magnetic levitation track surface, operating at extremely high relative velocities such as 30 kmps or more in places. That also means the stator has to enclose a hard vacuum in which those armature segments slide, protecting them, especially where it is in the atmosphere.

Other objects along the stator structure could selectively electrodynamically drag against the upward-moving armature segments, thus exerting an upward force on those objects, lifting them up from the ground. Those “objects” could be spacecraft carrying people and construction materials up from ground to GEO.

And thus this concept has reached the fulfillment of a way for an efficient and continuously operating way to access space from the ground, electrically powered, and not limited by strength of materials like an anchored tether elevator would be limited. A concept that frees us from the constraints of rocket launch technology, at least up to high earth orbit, from where it is much easier for rockets to travel far away and back. And civilization could expand greatly just mostly staying in GEO.

And thus it has potential to totally change civilization’s usage of space resources. From here we need to go both directions: deeper into the transportation structure’s electromagnetic mechanism details; and outward toward the applications the transportation could make finally possible, and then potential affects on civilization.

Sure, at this point, we need to observe it would be a huge perimeter structure, but also that it does not need to be made of unusually strong materials, since it would be supported by its dynamics, not by its strength of materials, nor limited by the rocket propulsion constraints that at the present time blocks our progress toward a civilization that has huge options for near-space resource access success in the relatively near future.

If this description has enabled you to start to "get it", and would like to explore it further with me, its further development is shown on

This option provides a new kind of way for reaching toward a great future for civilization in a near time frame. But what people do with this option, is quite a different story. Perhaps it is because that, after all, we are only human.


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