The Space Escalator Carousel's Unique Potentials

A technical paper by James E. D. Cline

BACKGROUND: This was one of three papers I presented at the Space Science and Exploration 2005 conference in Albuquerque, NM in 2005. I had submitted three papers in the hope that one might be accepted; all three were accepted so there is much redundancy among them. The complexities of intentions of those involved are mysterious but not entirely unguessable, suffice it to say that the subject was not actually welcome at the conference, being more focussed on the more conventional anchored tether space elevator. Nonetheless, here is another of my three papers I endured presenting there. They were all published, but the graphics were destroyed in the hardcopy. Here are the correct graphics, which supply essential understanding to the unconventional concept.

The Space Escalator Carousel's Unique Potentials


By J. E. D. Cline


P O Box 9243, Glendale, CA 91226-0243, USA



The Space Escalator can be designed to be scalable from micro scale to whatever great capacity is needed to do the tasks. Very different from the anchored tether Space Elevator, it would be independent of super strength to mass ratio tether material availability. Although stretched into a huge 131,300 Km perimeter loop around the Earth, approximating the shape of an Orbital Transfer Trajectory from the equatorial ground level up to Geostationary Earth Orbit above the opposite side of the planet, its basic conceptual complexity level is similar to the common CD drive with its data controlled combination of rotary and linear synchronous motor functions. The spacecraft would ride this space escalator from ground to GEO by electromagnetic drag against the rising sides of continuously flowing high velocity electric motor armature mass streams, which has its velocity set to be somewhat faster than that needed to provide the centrifugal force, above orbital transfer velocity, to produce the confined outward force that would just balance the force of gravity on the immense loop structure's mass with its loads. Electromagnetic synchronous mass accelerators at the ground terminal replenish the energy consumed by lifting payload and internal power usage by the inductive magnetic levitation track system the armatures slide along at high velocity, and for powering the position servo system. Contra-rotating armature mass streams flow in laterally coupled tracks to balance forces, along a cycloid path as the planet rotates.

1. Purpose


If there were a wise guide overseeing the development of civilization, it could well look as if civilization was rapidly both outgrowing its resource base and also has reached a technological capacity to extend civilization into the vast resources of the solar system, hopefully before the implosion of civilization cannot be halted. To that hypothetical wise guide, this paper offers a conceptual outline of a way to efficiently move materials and personnel between the earth surface and high earth orbit, continuously and at high volume, electrically powered, an optional alternative to anchored tether space elevators, thus embodying a different set of operating parameters. The GEO environment could be tamed and its unique qualities utilized to build a large extension of civilization there, given time; a high place from which to reach out with reaction engined vehicles to the Moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond; and perhaps the reaching down to repair a ravaged planetary ecosystem.

    This is a conceptual design for electrically powered transportation structures operating between the equatorial Earth surface and Geostationary Earth Orbit, a place chosen because things stay there when put there, no booster needed. And to provide alternative bridging structure concepts not requiring superstrength tether materials and the associated characteristics of anchored tether space elevators, yet having its own characteristic challenges.

      Not just for putting adequate Satellite Solar Power Stations (SSPS) into GEO before we have burned up our petrochemicals and poisoned the atmosphere too much in the process, to preserve an expanding thriving worldwide civilization; but also to enable solar powered mass-charge ratio separation solar powered total recycling plants built and used in GEO to deal with the problem of toxic industrial materials and spent high entropy products; to move reaction engine spaceports up to GEO which is 91% up out of earth's gravitational energy well; and even building a few Stanford Torus inspired passively shielded cities in space in GEO; all before major access to lunar and asteroidal materials become widely available there. Potential energy costs are in range of a few dollars per kg lifted from ground to GEO, key to the applications and expansion of civilization into high earth orbit, potentially within the relatively near future.

2. Coping With Incredulity


The idea that a railway-like device could exist as a huge hoop encircling the Earth could be incomprehensible, especially to a mind accustomed to reaction engined launch vehicle access to space, struggling to comprehend how a railway could go up all the way to GEO, being aware of the limits of existing tall buildings and towers. Common sense would indicate that limits on the compressional strength of materials, and the positional instability at the top of very tall thin compressional structures, appears to put a ceiling on how high one can build, and that limit is nowhere near "space", although compressional metal structures pressurized internally could conceivably go up tens of miles.

 circular to elliptical configuration


Figure 1.    Visualization of imaginary experiment illustrating the upward supportive force on a stationary ring by an orbital ring sliding along beneath it faster than it’s altitude’s orbital velocity; then transferring to an elliptical structure.


So, perhaps a loop railway-like device can be initially comprehended by imagining an equatorial plane Earth orbital altitude being completely occupied by a rope, or even a thin stream of nonvolatile liquid, which is rotating around the planet at orbital velocity; then shift it from a circular to an elliptical orbit, compensating for the changes needed, until the elliptical orbit grazes the earth's equatorial surface and cycloidialy swings around synchronous with the Earth's daily rotation, thus forming the basic structure from ground to high in space, even up to GEO. Those "compensations", such as for the meteoric velocity as it streams through the Earth's atmospheric part of the path, and for the differences in velocity along the elliptical orbital path, are what some specific technological coherent configuration provides. Figure 1 illustrates the next step from there, that of bearing loads.

3. A Basic Technical Consideration

It may be useful here to examine some basic positional change forces in such a dynamic system. The moving mass of an armature segment exerts a force on the track when the track deflects its path, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2:

Forces on track by bending trajectory


Figure 2.    The moving mass of an armature segment exerts a force on the track when the track deflects its path.

4. Basic Complexity and Functionality of the Space Escalator Carousel

Very unconventional to today's Aerospace and even to anchored tether space elevators, the Space Escalator Carousel would have a conceptual complexity level very similar to the common CD drives found in today's computers, with its data-driven synchronous linear and rotary electric motor functions. Although few of us fully comprehend every part of that common CD drive in our computer or car, it is clear that they can be made and sold in large quantities: they work. The much larger perimeter of the Carousel, however, would resemble the 131,300 Km loop of an Orbital Transfer Trajectory between equator and GEO; and the axle bearing function would be provided by armature segments sliding along magnetic levitation tracks throughout the structure’s extent.

    The servoed linear synchronous motor function would be utilized by the mass stream electrodynamic  inductive drag lifting of the spacecraft up along the carousel structure from the ground up to GEO, and gently return back to the ground while reclaiming much of the spacecraft mass energy. It would also be used for fine-tuning the position of the structure, by differential drag across the girth of the structure.

     An electric motor has electrical energy input, and outputs mechanical energy, the movement of mass, as its output: just what is needed for access to high places, including space. An electric motor takes its input electrical power, converts the power into currents, electric and magnetic static and dynamic fields, interacting with preexisting magnetic fields within itself, becoming momentum and centrifugal forces within itself, store energy within its electromagnetic fields and kinetic energy centrifugally outward, and lifts spacecraft by upward inductive drag of relatively moving parts, and can output both kinetic and electrical energy distributed around itself. These are all useful principles when one considers the basic functions of moving mass between the earth and space. The outward-from-center centrifugal force created within the rotation of an electric motor, projected upon an electric motor perimeter encircling the planet, utilizes the outward-from-planet centrifugal force to oppose the force of gravity on the components of the electric motor perimeter. The velocities involved need to be hyper orbital transfer trajectory, the excess velocity appearing as outward centrifugal force and chosen to slightly exceed the force necessary to balance the force of gravity on the stationary parts of the structure with its loads, including the mass of the spacecraft moving along the structure.

    Those hyper-orbital-velocity motor moving parts are conventionally called the motor’s rotor or armature. Since there is exchange of kinetic energy with potential energy as the armature mass rises and falls in its circulation around the planet circulating between ground level and high earth orbital level, the armature’s density within the structure must vary correspondingly. This would be accomplished in this configuration by making the armature into a large number of discrete chunks of mass with embedded permanent magnets and their portion of magnetic levitation sliding surfaces; and the synchronous nature of the electric motor provides the separation between the armature segments, each of their positions in constant definition within a certain range that is less than their minimum separation as they flow as mass streams within the structure around the planet.

    Those armature mass streams flow around the planet along magnetic levitation tracks which are part of the stationary part of the perimeter electric motor, which would be somewhat shaped like an Orbital Transfer Trajectory which has its perigee at the radius of the earth’s equatorial surface, and apogee at the altitude of Geostationary Earth Orbit, as the whole structure also rotates with the planet. The stationary part of the track structure encloses a hard vacuum environment for the movement of the high velocity armature segments while traveling within the earth’s atmospheric portion of the path. Again, their outward centrifugal force against the structure is what supports that stationary part of the structure with its loads.

# Figure 3a

# elliptical Carousel KESTS shape


Figure 3a.    A Space Escalator Carousel around the Earth up to GEO, showing armature mass stream segments and captive spacecraft.

    Counter-rotating sets of mass streams would provide balance to their gyroscopic precession, and provide for upward-moving mass streams in all parts of the quasi-elliptical structure, available for some positional control of the structure to compensate for wind loads and differential spacecraft loads.

    The sets of mass streams would have their paths defined by a track structure, necessarily of a magnetic levitation type that inductively functions at velocities up to 40 Km/s. A sliding armature energy-momentum transfer technology needs to be developed for servo-modulated exchanges of kinetic energy with positional change forces and electrical energy throughout the extent of the transportation structure, operating in a vacuum at high velocities.

# Figure 3

# space escalator carousel with enabled apps


Electromagnetically coupling also exchanges momentum along the structure, as the spacecraft moving along the outside of the stationary structure couple into the momentum of the rising sides of the sets of counter-rotating armature mass streams flowing within the structure, lifting them from ground to GEO where they deposit their payload of people and materials for construction in GEO, such as Satellite Solar Power Stations; then gently returning those spacecraft back to the ground with fresh payload from space processing and eventually items made from lunar and asteroidal resources, brought back by reaction engine powered spacecraft utilizing spaceports built in GEO.

    Note that the armatures, constrained to the shape of the structural track shape for their path, are not in a free orbital motion, not at all in free fall, although a component of their rising and falling motion is so. And that the armatures travel along tracks within paired opposite directions, so as to have rising tracks everywhere along the structure for lifting payload and servo positioning fine tuning of the structure’s position, and their lateral coupling via the stator structure balances gyroscopic precession.

    Looking at any small section of the motor structure, it looks and acts like a synchronous linear motor; yet looking at the structure as a whole, it is a synchronous rotary electric motor, without an axle, of course.

    The overall escalator motor system has electrical energy delivered to it at the earth’s surface terminal via synchronous electromagnetic drivers, has the energy stored as kinetic energy of the armature mass streams, which is delivered to the lifting of spacecraft and their payload along the structure from ground to GEO, along with energy consumed by the fine tuning of the structure’s position in space and within the high velocity inductive magnetic levitation track system. The contra-rotating mass stream sets flow in laterally coupled tracks to balance gyroscopic precession forces, and the armature segments travel in a cycloid path as they flow around the rotating planet.

    There also is potential for direct solar-electric power input along the structure, by solar power plants balancing their weight below GEO, alongside the motor structure, by thrusting against the downward moving armature mass streams, analogous to a rocket hanging motionless above the earth, its weight supported by thrust on reaction mass, which is the armature mass streams in this case. There could be a vector component which is not downward, but provide a lateral push to the structure, useful for position refining of the structure, and eventually for providing energy from the structure to replace orbital decay energy of structures in GEO, especially if eventually GEO becomes completely infilled with linked cities in space, each built such as like the passively shielded Stanford Torus design of the 1970’s, for example.

    Although the initial Space escalator Carousel structure is likely to be built using an east-west tunnel through the Ecuadorian Andes mountains as its ground terminal site, there is potential for building paired Space Escalators from land sites mirrored across the equatorial plane, pressing against each other where they meet in GEO, enabling space access from non-equatorial sites, for example, USA’s Maine at one site, and Argentina’s Comoros at the other ground site. This would ease the logistics of interconnecting GEO with higher latitude nations’ ground transportation systems. Clearly, these need to be ultra-reliable structures by that point, and equatorial non-mirrored Space Escalators would be the surface connection points to develop from, to simplify variables during early developmental stages of large scale coupling of civilization into the vast resources of space, its endless solar energy, materials obtainable from lunar and asteroidal sites, and vast room to build and grow.

    Major technologies needing development for the space escalator are the sliding armature energy-momentum transfer technology, including the magnetic track technology for sliding the armatures traveling within a hard vacuum environment at up to possibly 40 km/s; and the electromagnetic coupling systems that synchronously input energy at the earth surface terminal site, and extract electrical energy and couple momentum all along the structure as needed.

    The design needs to provide for bootstrap scaling of the structure up to full capacity girth, starting from the millimeter-girth needed for relatively low cost and risk during emplacement tries of the "seed" structure, and for the eventual orderly dismantlement and component recycling of the original structure; for the ground-coupled push on a full ring of GEO space habitats to prevent orbital decay collapse.

5.    Seed structure emplacement

he “seed” micro cross-section structure will probably take many tries before ready for scaling. Designing it for a primary loop with two contra rotating mass streams to each side, is minimum seed structure, so that equal mass counter-rotating mass streams exist and laterally balanced for precession control. It could be all the way to GEO; or with an accordioning technique useful for bringing it down deliberately, and re-raising it from ground site stacked sections, and could be to Low Earth Orbit or even stay in atmosphere, flotation supported.

Envisioned erection techniques, at this point, for initial structure include the ground terminal site, such as in an east to west tunnel through the Andes mountains on the equator, de-spooling of a millimeter-diameter tubetrack carrying above orbital velocity micro-armatures within in one direction, which flow through the tube trackway along its curve providing support of the trackway’s weight, then when striking the end of the rising structure, is bounced mostly backward such that it provides a forward thrust to the top end of the tubeway, servo directed to guide it into the approximate final Orbital Transfer Trajectory shape until encircling the planet back to ground terminal site where it must somehow quickly be locked into the start of itself; or instead to meet with a version of itself having gone the opposite direction around the planet, and sliding linked together for the remainder of the journey around the planet back to the ground terminal site. Clearly, this would take multiple tries until one time works. Another way is to take inspiration from Smith’s Texas railway technique, to use air floatation to support a seed structure around the planet; once the stator has been so emplaced, armatures could be fed into it at high velocity from the ground terminal’s mass drivers to enable the structure support itself dynamically; then within the east-west equatorial tunnel ground terminal site, evacuated facilities underground there to add sections of tubeways and incrementally increase structure perimeter until reaching Geostationary Earth Orbit access size. This latter technique provides insight for a full scale structure’s gradual pull down from GEO into LEO or even atmosphere, then incrementally restored by adding full scale sections within the construction hard vacuum tunnel site.

6.    Construction to scale to operational girth

# Recalling that the upward force of the armature mass streams supports a static mass equal to the mass of the armature aggregate mass for each multiple of orbital transfer velocity minus one, therefore if the static mass is equal to that of the armature mass (easy to think about) then increasing to four times OTV it can support the static load of a non-running static tube and track equal to double the original static load mass, enabling exponential scaling construction doubling girth every layer added. Each tube track layer completed then gets armature mass stream injected into it and when one circuit time is completed it too then can support next layer of construction load. The optimum ratio between armature mass stream aggregate mass and static tubetrack mass remains to be determined, of course. Once scaled to an operational capacity, even a temporary one, the armature mass stream would need to be dropped to its normal operating velocity, say, twice Orbital Transfer Velocity. There could be steps in scaling its girth, to allow for use for initial construction materials lift to GEO for initial proto solar power plants and total recyclers, and initial passively shielded habitat facilities in GEO. Then scaling up construction could be resumed.

7.    Designing for maintenance and repair in space

    A mostly empty tubetrack stator cross-sectional form would both enable more efficient differential lateral force servopositioning by differential mass stream drag, as well as disintegration higher in atmosphere in case of total catastrophic collapse of the structure. Maintenance and repair mechanisms and facilities need to be integrated into the system right from the beginning, such as the ability to pull out all the armatures from any given group of mass streams upon signal that a breach in some of the tubes has occurred, then “handcar trucks” to go out and splice new stator tubetrack sections into the damaged areas, then return the armatures back into the repaired stator tubetrackways. Such maintenance & repair facilities need to be tied into an intense information system linked into every part of the transportation structure, and human interface designed so as to be easily comprehensible for pattern variations.

8.    Providing for orderly lowering of the structure

    Perhaps it is possible to design the structure so as to be able to dynamically rack up sections of the stationary structure within the earth surface terminal, coherently shrinking the perimeter of the carousel so as to maintain overall tensile outward bias while all vehicles are offloaded at the ground terminal during the power emergency; when power input is restored, the unracking of structural sections would be begun until it is back up to GEO-reaching size again. If the effective structural density is less than that of high altitude air at this point, and air-excluding tubing continues to surround the maglev tracks, the structure could float in the atmosphere until the emergency is resolved, then the unracking of sections would begin. In fact, this scenario hints at other possible ways for emplacing such a structure.

9.    Conclusion

    Hopefully approaching the 15.7 KWh/Kg energy efficiency of the actual energy supplied to payload during the lift, intent is to solve many upcoming crises by providing opportunity in clean abundant electrical energy, reducing greenhouse gas, total recycling of toxic and high entropy industrial materials, sustainable economical space resource access, and new room for civilization to grow. The Space Escalator Carousel form of space elevator could provide wholesome new direction to the vigorous drama of people in the flow of civilization.


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Copyright © 2008 James E. D. Cline. Permission granted to reproduce providing inclusion of a link back to this site and acknowledgment of the author and concept designer James E. D. Cline.