Characteristics of Space Escalator Carousels vs. Space Elevators
A technical paper by James E. D. Cline
This was another of the 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.
Characteristics of Space Escalator Carousels vs. Space Elevators
By J. E. D. Cline
P O Box 9243, Glendale, CA 91226-0243, USA email@example.com
The common goal of providing efficient and economical means for electrically powered movement of high volumes of payload between the Earth’s surface and high earth orbit, in the relatively near future, would be achieved quite differently by the space escalator carousel as compared to the anchored tether space elevator. The near future achievement of that common goal could be of critical importance to the ongoing progress of civilization, thus both sets of technologies need to be developed. Both would utilize height reference structures all the way from the ground to high orbital altitudes, so as to overcome the gross inefficiencies of rocket movement of payload. The passive structural forms of anchored tether space elevators utilize extremely high strength to mass tether material, and support is counterweight centrifugally derived from the rotation of the planet; high power tracking laser beams deliver power to the elevator vehicles motors. In contrast, the dynamic structures of space escalator carousels would instead utilize the outward centrifugal force of high velocity mass endlessly circulating within an earth-encircling orbital transfer trajectory shaped structure to support the weight of that structure with its loads. This structure provides the hard vacuum for the circulating mass within the atmosphere, laterally coupled maglev tracked contra-rotating mass streams balance precession, electrodynamic differential braking provides servopositioning for wind type unbalanced loads, and spacecraft are directly lifted electrodynamically by tapping into the escalator carousel structure’s internal upward bound armature mass stream’s kinetic energy.
Adequately energy-efficient high volume continuous access to space could enable continuing the present rate expansion of civilization, without further severely damaging the world ecosystem upon which our life depends. Two such access mechanisms are in sight: the anchored tether space escalator, and the carousel space escalator. Both are concepts for structures connecting the earth surface with space including GEO, where delivered materials need no significant additional energy input to place them there, thus a likely beachhead for expansion of civilization into space on a very large scale. In contrast to the tether which requires extreme tensile strength to mass ratio, the carousel escalator structure would utilize kinetic energy stored within itself to provide most of the structural strength needed to extend from the Earth surface up to GEO.
The idea of building a structure so high as to reach space goes way back in time, even to the dawn of civilization, like the infamous Tower of Babel E-Temen-an-ki on the plain of Shinar intended to enable man to climb into Heaven; the children’s tale about a beanstalk to the sky, where treasure was; Artsutanov’s 1960 anchored tether Earth space elevator (reinvented by many other individuals later including this author in 1969); Cline’s 1972 anchored lunar tether space elevator extending through L-1 toward the Earth, using tapered cross-section, regenerative electromagnetic transportation and integrated with structural foam lifting body manufacturing at L-1, which text can be found online as 1990 GEnie file “ORIGINAL MOONCABLE”; in the 1980’s Moravec described several kinds of non-anchored Earth orbiting tether “Skyhook” structures; a “Two Body Orbiting Skyhook” is described in the 1989 “LONGTRANS 2”; and in 2002 published writings by Edwards, based upon the impending availability and high power tracking lasers..
Parallel transportation structure concept efforts involving strengthening and shaping by energy of movement stored within the structures were ongoing. Examples of such structures which are positioned, shaped and strengthened by internal energy include the inflated tires on one’s automobile, the Hula Hoop, the cowboy’s rope lasso whirling loop, and pressurized fuel tanks in conventional launch vehicles. In the 1980’s people were thinking of utilizing internally stored energy to build assists to space access, such as Lofstrom’s 1982 Launch Loop belt to lift rockets to above the atmosphere for launch from there; Hyde’s 1984 Starbridge vertical tower supported by a fountain of electromagnetically coupled energy within itself; and Smith’s iron belt whirling between Texas and GEO. In 1988 Cline uploaded the basics of what is now called the carousel space escalator to a GE network in a file called “ENERGY/TRANSPORT SYSTEM”, emplacement techniques for emplacement of seed structures in “Microelevator Vers. 1”; and by 1989 uploaded files such as “HWY TO EARTH GEO RING” describing expansion of that concept to even include expansion of civilization into space, infilling GEO with 1.5 million Stanford Torus technology space habitats, room for 15 billion people to live there in comfort with supporting agriculture and light industry included (a basic habitat design originally envisioned in 1976 by NASA for construction out of lunar materials launched to L-5); however, the kinetic energy supported transportation structure concept did not get formal publication until in ASCE’s 2000 space conference proceedings, then expanded in ASCE’s 2002 and 2004 proceedings. Yet it remains unsupported because it has little military application and is very vulnerable to attack; its equatorial plane structure competes for space with the high velocity satellites now utilizing that part of space; has no quick profit applications by corporations at present time; and it is far from the thoughts of everyday world of people who might be alarmed at the changes it could make in their lives, even for the better, if built.
The efforts to build transportation structures between ground and space, via anchored tether elevator and energy strengthened structures, have been parallel efforts to gain adequate access to space before resources become sufficiently limited to prevent further space access economically. Conventional launch vehicle access to high earth orbit is extraordinarily extravagantly wasteful of energy, a mere 15.7 KWh/Kg portion is all that is actually given to payload by putting it into GEO from the ground at the equator. This lack of transportation efficiency has blocked construction of SSPS in GEO since more energy would be put into the solar power plant’s construction materials’ mass lift to GEO than could be expected to get out of it in solar electric power during its service lifetime. Space elevator or space escalator carousel technology could change all that.
2. Overall comparisons between space escalator carousel vs elevator
Both the Space Elevator and the Space Escalator Carousel have the potential to bypass the extraordinary energy inefficiency of rocketry space access from the ground, in a time when energy is becoming very expensive, perhaps to crippling levels. Electrically lifting spacecraft's payloads to high earth orbit could finally enable the 1960's concept of SSPS to be built there in GEO, and similarly an incredible array of other things of great usefulness to civilization would become possible. Yet, the way the elevator and escalator would do it is very different; and thosedifferences control what can be effectively done with each. Their overall shape is very different, their means of structural support and required materials strength is very different, their means of lifting payload between ground and space is very different, their vehicular traffic flow potential is different, their control complexity and wind compensation is different. The elevator's shape is linear, to out beyond GEO for counterweight balance, GEO connection is above ground terminal site; whereas the escalator's shape is elliptical, encircling the planet, its GEO connection is above the opposite part of planet relative to ground terminal point. Their means to support their huge structure's weight is totally different, in that the space elevator utilizes the centrifugal force on counterweight mass out beyond GEO to exert upward pull to balance the weight of anchored tether below GEO, thus extreme tensile strength to mass ratio tether material is needed; whereas the space escalator's weight is centrifugally supported by stored kinetic energy within the planet-encircling structure, thus requires only conventional strength materials. The escalator's shape being approximately that of an orbital transfer trajectory between earth equatorial surface, looping around the planet elliptically to reach GEO above the opposite side of the earth; the armature mass streams travel on inductive maglev tracks sufficiently faster than orbital velocity as to create outward centrifugal force somewhat greater than that needed to counterbalance the weight of the stationary part of the structure with its loads. Laterally-coupled tracks carry sets of counter-rotating armature mass streams, both to provide upward-bound kinetic energy on both sides of the planet, and to balance gyroscopic precession forces. It's basic conceptual complexity is similar to the common CD drive in one's computer, with its combination of rotary and linear synchronous electric motor functions. Perhaps most significantly, they are very different in the way they lift payload from ground to space; the elevator's vehicles need carry an energy source to climb up and down tether, or need to receive tracking laser beam energy from ground or GEO laser sites; upper tether end interference with tracking lasers limits number of vehicles at any given time, as well as counterbalance overload limit; whereas in the escalator carousel, vehicles inductively tap into momentum of high velocity mass stream energy continuously flowing within structure all the way between ground and GEO to lift spacecraft with their payloads; servo loops include specific increase in input energy, at the ground site accelerator, needed to lift each vehicle added, thus hundreds of vehicles can be lifted at any given time. Much of the returning vehicle’s energy is reclaimed by the carousel.
he carousel space escalator to GEO is a dynamic transportation structure, in that the continuous flow of kinetic energy within the structure is integral to the structure as the materials with which it is made. Like the air pressurizing one’s car’s tires, or the whirl of a lasso; The continuous stored energy is a requirement of structural formation. Perhaps we are accustomed to only thoughts of movement as a means of something going from one place to another. Having movement stored within a structure may be a sufficiently unusual, thought, as to invite a bit of examination, if not yet comfortable with it.
3. Comparison of Means of Structural Support and Shape
The shape of one is linear, the other is a loop. The site of connection with GEO is roughly directly above the anchor point of the tether elevator; the connection point is above the opposite side of the planet, for the carousel escalator.
Figure 1 shows this basic shape difference.elevator vs. escalator
Figure 1. Comparison of structural overall shapes of anchored tether space elevator vs space escalator carousel.
4. Purposes and Major Commonalities
Both the Space Elevator and Space Escalator would be electrically powered space access systems, enabling lift of construction materials to GEO for building Satellite Solar Power Stations there, which could thereafter power the space access system largely independent of worldwide energy struggles already in process, thus enabling large scale space access continuance even after adequately clean abundant inexpensive fossil fuels have become exhausted. Paired anchored tether space elevators could provide continuous simultaneous up and down transportation, as the space escalator would do inherently. Both could be built by first emplacing a seed structure, then using that seed structure to scale up to operational size. Both could be used to lift dedicated cargo/passenger attached vehicles, as well as “tugs” lifting reaction engine propelled spacecraft up to GEO for launch from there, already 91% up out of Earth’s gravitational energy well.
# Table of Contents
# 5. Differences In Means of Structural Support
# The Anchored Tether Space Elevator would be supported by the action of the Earth’s rotation, with the sum centrifugal force on the counterweight mass beyond GEO set to slightly exceed the sum force on the portion below GEO, with its loads; the excess upward pull provides a tensile stress to prevent collapse and to stiffen the structure.
Major technologies needing early development for it include creation of manufacturable and maintainable tether material with adequate strength to mass ratio to be adequate for the task, for which carbon nanotube matrix technology is approaching that ability. Techniques for emplacing the seed structure, then for scaling it up to operational capacity size need to be developed, dependent on the working strength to mass ratio of tether material as to whether the structure is built up by climbers tacking on ever larger sections of tether material, or by spooling and looping an inverse taper tether to increase to operational girth.
In contrast the Space Escalator Carousel form of transportation structure would also utilize centrifugal force as its primary means of structural support, except that in this case the centrifugal force is that generated by a mass stream in continuous circulation around the planet, constrained to a quasi-Orbital Transfer Trajectory track’s path, and the mass stream’s velocity above orbital velocity appears as outward, upward relative to the planet it circulates around, centrifugal force against the track structure; velocity would thus be set to provide outward force slightly in excess of that required to balance the force of gravity on the earth-stationary portion of the transportation structure, preventing collapse and providing some stiffening of the overall structure, much as the tether’s upward bias does.
The escalator would also utilize a secondary support principle, that of servo positioning modulated electrodynamic drag of the structure against the upward sides of the circulating mass stream, and laterally displaced tracks’ differential drag would provide some lateral servo positioning to compensate for wind and other live load time variations.
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.
6. Differences in Means of Lifting Vehicles
# The means of delivering power to lift vehicles along the tether elevator are explored more thoroughly elsewhere; but external power, such as by tracking laser beams, needs to be sent to the climber vehicles continuously and without shadowing each other nor damaging the tether material; and energy being released during decent of vehicles is not recoverable, lowering efficiency too. There are conceivable configurations which would recover vehicular decent energy, however, given constant cross-section tether materials strength.
The means of delivering power to lift vehicles along the space escalator carousel transportation structure are quite different. Vehicles inductively extract energy from the armature mass stream circulating throughout the structure, thus need carry no energy source nor depend on receiving energy beamed from elsewhere. And much of their descending energy can be returned to the transportation structure’s system, also increasing efficiency; for example, descending braking along the curved structure downward has an outward vector component, lifting the structure’s mass thus putting energy back into the system.
7. Differences in Operational Characteristics and Applications
Unlike the fairly passive structure of the anchored tether space elevator, the escalator carousel structure is more like an aircraft in that it takes a fairly continuous energy input to stay aloft. The circulating armature mass streams within the carousel store a huge amount of energy, yet any that is surplus to provide the tensile structural upward bias and to provide energy to coast along during temporary power input outages, has to be taken up by strength of materials of the stationary part of the structure with its maglev tracks. This creates a finite limit to how long the structure can stay in place if a major surface electromagnetic driver cessation occurs.
# So 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; one of the components of the space escalator carousel concept, or KESTS to GEO, comes from the writings of Earl Smith’s Texas and Universe Railroad article, whereby the stretchable iron belt would be emplaced by an earth-encircling fleet of balloons, then speeded up until raised.
# The logistics of interconnecting the earth surface transportation systems to the lifting structures is different. Ocean going freighters could bring cargo to and from ports around the world to the ocean-anchored tether elevator site. However, the non-mirrored, simple, version of the carousel escalator would need to be built in a high mountain tunnel such as the Ecuadorian Andes mountains on the equator, and so the logistics of moving to that formidable location from various parts of the earth would likely involve roadways, conventional railroads, and possibly some airlifting to the structure’s ground acceleration site terminal, for embarkation to and from GEO.
Operational characteristics of the escalator carousel would involve complex interrelated servopositioning systems embedded within the system, in constant activity to control positions of the structure’s perimeter, armature segments, and vehicles along the structure’s exterior, analogous to a mixture of flying a huge airplane and running a nationwide railway system, integrated continuously, and mostly automated.
Both kinds of transportation structures could have the ability to build the SSPS power plants in GEO that would ensure their transportation energy supply and also to beam-deliver clean, CO2-free electrical power to sites around the world; to build giant mass-spectrometer-like solar powered total recycling systems for high materials entropy items like discarded computers, as well as radioactive and highly toxic materials produced by industrial processes, brought up to GEO for processing and returned to earth surface for reuse of the highly purified resultant totally recycled materials, a good start for not burying civilization in its own mess that nature can’t recycle; also to provide high spaceports in GEO for more conventional traffic to the rest of the solar system’s objects; and provide a place to build cities in space in high earth orbit with direct continuous commute to the ground, for example, cities designed like the passively shielded 10,000-person-each Stanford Torus design and others envisioned for construction at L-5 in the 1970’s.
8. Simultaneous Use of both Kinds of Structures
There may be potential for building both the carousel and tether structures, interconnecting them where they cross in space in the equatorial plane. This could enable multiple embarkation points with their options for connecting to conventional ground transportation systems, utilizing the best characteristics of each system to advantage. A combined structure, where the carousel does not go to GEO, nor does the tether go to the ground, but instead the top of the carousel escalator far below GEO, would anchor to the bottom end of a tether which goes beyond GEO for counterbalance, would enable use of existing conventional tether materials such as vacuum-fabricated fiberglass, while still enabling access to high earth orbit for emplacing construction materials for SSPS and other applications. The dynamic complexity of such an overall transportation structure seems a bit challenging, however.
9. Notes on Anchored Tether Space Elevators
The configurations of potential anchored tether space elevators are strongly influenced by the ratio of strength to mass ratio of the tether material. Since initially it was found that no existing material was nearly adequate to the task, the concept of a tapered cross-section of the tether enabled it to be made of weaker materials than a constant cross-section can be, such as proposed in my 1972 Mooncable concept which would have used a tapered space-rated fiberglass cable which enabled a 20 cm diameter at L-1 with a lift capacity sum of 10,000 Kg. And such a technique has been applied to the space elevator presented at 2002 ASCE conference. However, if the produced tether material is adequately strong for its mass, somewhat under 81 KPa or greater, a tether of constant cross-section is possible. Given that, it seems possible to use ancient pulley techniques, where pulleys at each end, or a pulley at GEO with an attached fixed counterweight beyond GEO, could have one side of the ribbon lift payload, while the downside of the tether ribbon returns efficiently to earth minus payload, or eventually could take down lunar and asteroidal payload as full counterbalance, making the energy of the process highly efficient. A stiff pendulum at the GEO pulley site could provide the offset torque needed to balance the effect when lifted payload exceeds lowered payload.
The pulley could be in the form of a long drum, with two sets of tether bands on the same long pulley, coupled with common bearing shaft, and rapid counterbalance if one of the sets of tether ribbons breaks. The diameter of this pulley needs to be greater than the tether oscillation limits plus elevator car widths; the spacing between adjacent sets of tether ribbons needs to be wide enough to prevent a collapsing flailing tether to intersect any other ribbon set.
10. Notes On Space Escalator Carousel Construction Techniques
The “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 tubetrackway 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 approximates 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.
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. A mostly empty tubetrack stator 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.
Morphing the variations in construction techniques and their parameter amplitude ranges, at some early point would start benefitting by some academic computer facility and staff assistance for modeling, kept on track by continuous whole picture envisioning of effects of variations explored.
11. Social impacts and issues
Increasingly, it becomes evident that mankind needs to apply more wisdom to technologies applications, lest we destroy our lives directly or by destroying our natural environmental support base. Wisdom might be increased by focussing widely, in addition to the narrow focus of intense linear thought toward scientific achievement. The carousel space escalator access concept has been integrated with wide aspects of civilization from its beginning files in 1988 using coherent integration of technology with the flow of civilization.
Integrating a concept which does not start paying profits for one or two decades, with a social system which increasingly depends on private corporation’s R&D decisions which are in turn dependent on showing quick bottom line profits, means it won’t be done, and even the basic technology development won’t be there for corporations suddenly having to produce in that direction in the relatively near future. Government and private grants so far have not been supportive, probably because of lack of academic support.
Both the anchored tether based space elevator and the space escalator carousel, in their basic forms, would occupy the earth’s equatorial plane at least out to GEO, and that space currently is the territory of many objects including satellites belonging to many nations serving different purposes. Even one of them traveling at their orbital velocity colliding with either kind of transportation structure in the equatorial plane, would be catastrophic for both satellite and structure. Increasingly, surface applications are integrating the positional signals from GPS satellites in LEO; although navigational signals could even better be provided from stationary sources in GEO, an increasingly widespread instrumental system would need to be replaced as part of the changeover. It is easy to consider these as being disruptive to the ongoing plans of individuals and corporations alike, perhaps even to some of the countries who see their near future economic and political power dependent on continued demand for their oil resource. Solid proof needs to be given to get people to tighten their belts now so that there may be more abundance in their future.
Given wholesome adequate means for coping with stress of change, during the development, construction and application of a space escalator carousel project with its enabled applications, surely could provide wholesome new direction to the vigorous drama of people in the flow of civilization to increase the survivability of all, in the race for completion and application before exhaustion of the abundant inexpensive petrochemical energy supplies that has brought our energy intensive civilization into robust being, and enabled the launches of large conventional vehicles to space.
Both the Space Elevator and the Space Escalator Carousel have the potential to bypass the extraordinary energy inefficiency of rocketry space access from the ground, in a time when energy is becoming very expensive, perhaps to the limit of space access in the near future. In their individually unique ways, each kind of structure could bridge the distance from the earth surface to GEO. Like any bridge, their presence unifies where chasm previously made separate. Yet both structures would compete with existing satellites, below GEO, for occupancy of the earth’s equatorial plane at least out to GEO; there is increasing usage of that space, such as GPS navigation, by conventional surface systems. Given economical access, all those functions could be done better from GEO, but not directly compatible with existing instruments which are rapidly multiplying, tending to lock in technology’s options to provide growing room for civilization. Early preparation of the basic design options for both elevator and escalator carousel, and their corresponding sets of technologies would give the future more options for comfortable growth, or maybe even survival of a large portion of civilization’s people. Elevators need development of high power efficient laser systems and tether materials; Escalator Carousels need development of sliding armature energy-momentum transfer technology.
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