Description of the cognitive process of doing Technological Conceptual Design, as applied to exotic space transportation system concepts. Includes brief history of doing this creating "Mooncable Project", "Energy/Transport", "Microelevator (GEO's Umbilical), and ends with a new conceptual teaser to enjoy.
Keywords: synthesis, mooncable,starbridge,launchloop,NCS,transport,design
88K19JEDCline Doing Technological Conceptual Synthesis On Exotic Space Transportation Systems
Technological Conceptual Synthesis is the designing of connectedness between composite ideas, to form a concept which has a functionality that none of the separate ideas have. It forms a pattern of connectiveness. Analogies and morphological similarities are itselements, so it constantly seeks out general patterns in one's incoming experience and attempts to evoke the leaping insights of seeing a wholeness with the missing parts experimentally filled-in. While at the same time, the left-brain is busy identifying specific significances of the same incoming experiencial data, analyzing and comparing with goals step by step.
The right hemisphere of the brain plays a dominant role in cognitive synthesis; contemporary Western education might well improve itsstrengthening of right-brain cognitive functions, so that we can more easily see the big-picture implications of what our linear thinking left hemisphere is planning. (A word of caution here: the right brain has a vulnerability to a form of invasiveness quite unknown by left brain experience; the myelin sheaths are different in the two hemispheres. Although in another sense, that which is "invasive" can become a form of connectiveness that has the satisfaction of belonginess to a largerwhole, also an arena quite unknown by strictly left-brain linear thinking.) Technological Conceptual Synthesis shapes a gameboard, a map's design, for R & D, Engineering, manufacuring, and application to play upon, so as to provide a new functional system available for achieving humanity's goals.
Acknowledging that Technological Conceptual Synthesis is a stage where easy mutability and smooth morphological change exists, it must be understood that it is not yet where careful engineering analysis has determined the size of its nuts and bolts, and is at risk of beinglabeled "Half-Baked Ideas" by the more pragmatic. Mistakes are not things to be avoided, for they are considered the valuable results of an experimental change, results to guide the shaping of the next experimental change toward greater pattern perfection. Patience is perhaps due here, for where there is greater wisdom in the conceptual synthesis, the greater the ease the resulting nuts and bolts will fit together ultimately. (And there may not be any nuts and bolts needed;the parts might be designed to snap together instead.)
With this in mind, and with the understanding that the following statements are but relatively crude "linear thinking language" approximations of the right-brain's nonverbal complex design synthesis activities in the land of visual/sensual imagery, I will recapitulate some of my precedent conceptual synthesis work, and then launch into guiding you into the shaping of another design. (It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I get a thousand words todescribe each picture, right? No?? And it might take a thousand pencil sketches to describe one full-sensory right-brain imagery design, too.) Yet I try.
My first effort at synthesizing a space transportation system turned out to be "re-inventing the wheel"...the Russians had already done it, I found out later:
The most urgent space transportation need was that of getting from Earth surface out into space, getting out of a deep gravitational well. Viewing the rotating Earth as being analogous to a person twirlingaround, completion of the pattern for something leaving the twirler not only could be a thrown rock, but also a long rope would hold itself outward due to centrifugal force. Extending back to the specific rotating Earth, this suggested that a long enough cable, fastened at the equator, would hold itself up by centrifugal force. But calculations showed that no real material was nearly strong enough to support this space elevator structure from the Earth. (I later learned that othershad thought of this many years before I did.)
At the time of the later Apollo lunar landings, the ability for mankind to really connect with Earth's moon felt very real, opening up the thoughts of how to use the lunar resources. The cost of chemical propulsion, demonstrated by Apollo, was prohibitive of the movement of the enormous payloads needed to build space colonies and Solar Power Satellites. The science-fiction concept of "hyperspace" lurked in the back of my mind, analogous to a tunnelling-through spatial barriers.Could a tunneling -through of an energy barrier work in the movement of lunar materials into space, even to Earth's surface markets?
In 1971-72 came the "Mooncable Project: Gravitational-Electric Siphon in Space" conceptual synthesis, a structure to create an energy tunnel from the lunar surface across througn the L-1 balance point, to a place dominated by Earth's gravitational field stronger than the lunar surface field. A tapered, constant-stress crossection fiberglass cablesupported a maglev track coupling ascending and decending payload masses from the Moon toward the Earth. Ref. Spaceport RT file #530.
(This was followed by an extended time period experimenting with the "better-mousetrap beating a path to your door" effect, resulting in the empirical data that what really happens is the world takes your wife, your house, your job, and leaves you to nearly starve to death...in many ways...lots of despair...and be grateful for a small room to live in, inothers' apartments, mateless. So don't expect to make a living at this! But you might make the conceptual breakthroughs that put us in space for real.)
The next decade or so was mainly concerned with sheer survival, "living on the edge", it is said. Attempts were made to get others interested in Mooncable, though as the potentially available moon launch vehicles, Saturn V's, slowly dwindled to zero, the urgency faded. The L-5 News would not publish my Mooncable Project concept unless I had previously presented it formally before a professional aerospace society (I was terrified of getting up before an audience...and I feared that aggressive left-brained academia driven by instincts of rivalry instead of co-constructivity would easily discredit my concept in the eyes of others...so that requirement by Carol Henson dropped that option out.) I didn't get a manuscript finished for Ben Bova as Analog's editor of the time before the despair of matelessness sunk me again; but eventually I rewrote it and got a "soft-rejection" from Stanley Schmidt when hebecame editor of Analog...he recommended I try teaming up with Donald Kingsbury to describe it in a science fiction adventure story built around it.
Time went on and creativity persists despite the world's deprivation. I thought of combining the electrical power delivery capability implied by the solar Power Satellite concept with the need for the Space Shuttle Main Engine's need for oxygen and hydrogen fuel: an SPS could be dedicated to the task of electrolyzing seawater to make the shuttle'sfuel, closing the energy cycle for the shuttle, the main engines, anyway. And the microwave beam would be there for experimental microwave-powered spacecraft, perhaps using the air being passed through as reaction mass for space vehicles.
Carol Henson of the L-5 Society had put me in touch with Hans Moravec who was working on his "Skyhook" concept in the early '80's. The Skyhook conceptualized a long space tether which would spin as it orbited around a planetary body, grabbing up payload as one of its endsgrazed the planetary surface, then haul the payload up as it spun around. Hans kindly supplied me with background published info on related concepts by Artsutanov, Isaacs, Pearson, and his own Skyhook general concept.
Another concept began forming in the back of mind, which I will begin describing as the finishing subject of this document. I secretively called it "tight-orbiting at sea level", in an attempt to get some inquiries, as people still didn't seem to know I existed as a technological conceptual synthesizer. I was a physics major college dropout trying to horn into an arena dominated by Ph. D's, or so it seemed. No one asked about it.
The thought came to me that a Moravec-Skyhook might be used to transport payload from the moon, using the greater gravitational field of the nearby Earth as an energy pump to sustain the process. A long spinning Skyhook would orbit past the moon, grabbing awaiting payload as it's end briefly touched on the farside of the moon; then the combined whirling masses would continue on past the Moon in an orbit that passed near the Earth. At the precise instant that the whirling tethered mass pair had the payload decending the fastest in the varying earth gravitation field, the payload would be released, restoring the kinetic energy that was lost when the pickup was made off of the moon; the skyhook would continue back to pick up another payload off of the moon.
My moment of opportunity came when I heard Bill Dale mention at an L-5 meeting that there were opportunities for anyone to testify before the upcoming National Commission on Space hearings, and where to write if one wanted to do so. My moment of truth came as I quaked before the National Commission on Space's panel and the audience, wearing my interviewing suit acquired for my year-long interview stint trying to get out of unemployment then ongoing (living too much in the future can make daily survival tough). I read my 10 minutes' worth from my prepared speech about the need for international cooperation in space,the need for use of the right-brain in planning and operating complex future space missions, and 5 space transportation concepts: the Mooncable, the SPS-seawater microwave lift synthesis, the whirling kinetitic transfer lunar-Earth Skyhook-like lift, the "tight orbiting at sea level" tidbit, and on Hyde's "Starbridge" dynamic Earth tower concept. For this I was rewarded by great applause, being asked for a copy of my speech by Dr. Paul Coleman on the NCS panel there, and being asked by people in the audience for copies of my speech, as I wobbly made my way to my seat in the back of the auditorium. A fellow L-5er (nicknamed "Tee" for short) sitting in front of me with his wife and baby, commented to me that I was a "master of the understatement". And to round it out, in the hallway next to where the NCS testimonies were being given, the humorous science-fiction movie "Howard the Duck" was being filmed during the proceedings. At last, some interesting drama as a reward for my efforts! (This speech can be found in the Congressional Record and in GEnie Spaceport library file #475, called "Space Inspiration").
I had fortuitiously attended a lecture given at an L-5 Society meeting in Silicon Valley by Ron Hyde,in 1984 or 85, where I learned about Hyde's concept he called "Starbridge". This was an Earth-surface-to-space elevator, supported dynamically by the flow of high speed mass ...billions of berylium disks with magnets... flowing up and down an evacuated tube; the energy of the stream provided the energy to support the tube. Elevator cars traveled up and down the tube, powered also from the flow within the tube. Hyde envisioned one such structure, consuming the electrical power of a large city, could lift payload mass equal to the combined mass of every human being on Earth, into space during a two week operating period! This looked like the first real chance to get enough people off-planet fast enough to get the terrible ecological load we now put on Mother Earth.
I had also read an article called "Texas and Universe Railroad" by Earle Smith in the L-5 News. I saved this magazine and lost it several times during my many moves from rented room to rented room in my struggle to survive physically, and again found it when feeling like getting serious about GEnie's potentials. This Texas Universe Railroad article also described a large-scale surface-to-geosynchronous orbit transportation system, derived from Keith Lofstrom's Launch Loop concepts referred to in the article.
I decided that I would try to stir up some interest in this general class of transportation systems, due to their fantastic potential for solving some of mankind's upcoming problems...much more humanely than the other options I see...(if earth has 4 billion people now, but can only support only about 100,000 people in a total recycle closed ecology aborigine lifestyle indefinitely...high-tech civilization makes non-recyclable garbage which ultimately chokes off or runs out of something essential...that means only one person out of every 40,000 people gets to stay on Earth in the long run...I feel more comfortable with the option of them living in space in an advancing civilization, as compared to the other obvious answer in which Zero Population Growth doesn't even begin to solve the problem, not at all.) So I would put my two cents' worth into attracting attention to the Starbridge/LaunchLoop potentials. Unfortunately, my efforts to contact Hyde in the past hadn't gotten any reply, and a letter sent to the address mentioned in the Texas Railroad article came back as addresse eunknown. I felt on shaky technological ground, but I was determined to do what I could.
So I started to try doing re-synthesis of their concepts. A basic principle of Starbridge and LaunchLoop (Texas Universe RR version) seemed to boil down to a stream of mass moving slightly above orbital velocity through an evacuated tube. Some of the energy of the high velocity mass stream was tapped off along the way to support the tube it was passing through. Both concepts had the returning part of the stream electromagnetically re-accellerated where it connected with Earth surface. Starbridge had the stream go essentially straight upward and back down the same way; TxURR went in a quasi-elliptical orbit touching geosynchronous orbit above the far side of Earth from where it contacted Earth surface, so the geometry was quite different between the two. Both consumed enormous amounts of electrical power derived from nuclear or fossil fuel resources on Earth.Focusing on the morphological essense of an orbital velocity mass stream flowing through an evacuated tube which the stream supported, the thought occured to me that it could be used to transmit power for other purposes than just holding itself up and running an elevator along it. Thus it could be powered from anywhere an accellerator could be built along its length. How about powering it from a Solar Powered Satellite at its GEO terminal? That sounded great, because it would take the entire energy load off of Earth's dwindiling resources, and even surplus SPS power could be sent down to Earth to be tapped off by electromagnetic drag coils and fed into the Public Utility power grid, and make money. That electrical power source, without the original SPS concept's environmentally objectionable huge microwave beams to Earth rectennas, seemed more likely to catch public attention than space colonization was currently doing. Non-polluting electrical power for Public Utilities, and a space transportation system as a freebie...even the pieces for building the SPS could be hauled up the space elevator. Being election time, I tried to get as an election issue, and sent letters to both Bush and Dukakkis. I quickly wrote up the conceptual synthesis and uploaded it to GEnie (Spaceport files #553 and #563) and started talking it up on the Spaceport roundtable ongoing). But this "half-baked pie-in-the-sky" idea wasn't getting the interest I thought it deserved.
So how else to get public attention to the basic concepts of Starbridge and Launch Loop? A physical demonstration, a functional model, to show to reporters, getting the media to help gain the necessary public support. What kind of demonstration?
How tiny could it be made? I had just gotten Eric Drxler's "Engines of Creation" but had only time to read a few facinating pages, but I could think real small by then. How about a tube say 20 mils in diameter? (It could become a nanomachine, in truer Engines of Creation fashion, consisting of of a tube made of a interlinked helical coil excluding air molecules and providing a tubing-like sheath for a stream of molecules within it; it would be invisible to the eye, but uncoiled from where it would sit in the palm of one's hand, it could reach all the way up to GEO, and modulate the stream of molecules within it to communicate to a switchboard in a GEO satellite...). Quick calculation showed it would fit in a volume of a cube 50 feet on a side, could fit on somebody's ranch out in the desert away from air traffic routes. Going to morphological essences, it seemed that the enclosed mass stream could use electrostatic repulsion to keep the tube walls away from contact with the stream, and use iron inclusions periodically along its length for use in electromagnetically accellerating the stream. Tagging it Microelevator", I decided to try to get support for it by making it a group creativity project, using GEnie's Spaceport Roundtable to co-ordinate it. That is ongoing as Bulletin Board Catagory 3, Topic 7, for interested participants. GEnie files on it so far are #578 "Microelevator Vers.1", #581 "Microelevator Vers. 2", #592 "Microelevator Import", and #629 "GEO's Umbilical".
The last conceptual synthesis I have to show here and now, is the promised "tight orbiting at sea level" concept. Let me lead you through this one. An orbiting satellite stays up in orbit because its tangential velocity (the urge to continue moving in a straight line off at a tangent from a circle) is exactly balanced by the gravitational pull toward the center of the circle. An object could orbit the Earth at sea level if there were not things to run into at the necessary 18,000 mph, such as mountains and air molecules. But if one were to build a tube that bored through the mountains and kept the air out, an object could orbit the Earth at sea level. Each such orbit would be on what is known as a "great circle", a circle that has its center as the center of the Earth. Actually circling the Earth with such a tube seems pointless, of course. But looking for a moment at just one small section of that tube, say a centimeter long: instantaneously the stream moving within it at 18,000 mph is in orbit there. If one were to consider a ring spinning horizontally at sea level, with its circumference moving at 18,000 mph, each point along its circumference would be in orbit on a great circle about the center of the Earth. This would seem to indicate that the spinning ring would consider itself in orbit, and float appearantly weightless. If it spun faster, it would try to go to a higher orbit, farther from Earth's center, and thus could lift payload with it. But could such a ring be made strong enough? Would it explode from the centrifugal force on its rim? How small could it be made...if dozens of feet in diameter, starts to look suspiciously like a flying saucer...? Except at the North or South Pole, coroilis force as the Earth turns would cause it to precess powerfully...could this be balanced by coupling a pair of spinning rings each spinning inopposite directions? More basically, is there something wrong with the reasoning that each point on a horizontally spinning ring can be considered as being truely on a great circle? Will it go up, really?
My cherished hobby of doing "Technological Conceptual Synthesis" has not been a profitable one, although some part of me believes they perhaps can provide key "maps" to solve some of mankind's urgent problems. I suspect that Conceptual Synthesis will become an essential management and scientific cognitive tool. Would you like to try doing it? Remember, here mistakes are just data for continuing to evolve the concept toward greater pattern unity with the ideal. I hope you have enjoyed, and gained some wisdom, from this disclosure. by James Edward David Cline Nov. 20, 1988
Ref: GEnie Space and Science Library file number 634: Name: CONCEPTUAL SYNTHESIS Address: J.E.D.CLINE1 Date: 881120, Approximate # of bytes: 21420