spinning ring


spinning ring

people say won't work but not why won't

spin faster goes to higher orbit

space access

a friend found an equation for tension


theoretical analysis

my 1985 testimony to commissioners

revived current discussion

horizontal all parts in orbit


Many years ago I thought of an idea that looked like it might have potential for easy space access. I called it the Spinning Ring. I also alluded to it being one of five interesting potential techniques for space access, during my testimony before the National Commission on Space (NCS) commissioners seeking public opinions on the American space program for the next 50 years, which I gave in the auditorium at the California Academy of Sciences building in Golden Gate State Park in San Francisco, California, I think was Nov. 14, 1985. I understand that since then the old museum building has been torn down and a new one built to take its place, so even the place no longer exists, unfortunately. Anyway, the idea, which I eventually wrote up a couple of times on the GEnie network files after I got computer network connection at long last, until ridiculed so much and anyway always seemed unlikely to me too, so I removed them from the library. However, memory of it all has been returning, which were actually heading toward "Solid KESTS" which is a quite very very different idea I have shown in some of my sci fi novels. The reasoning for the operation of a Spinning Ring goes as follows: imagine a circular orbit above the earth above the atmosphere. In that Great Circle orbit, place a small lump of mass in that orbit. Now create another orbit at same altitude but shifted over slightly and have the lump of mass in that orbit timed to almost intersect with the timing of the lump in the first orbit. Continue creating slightly offset orbits until at one instant all the lumps appear in their orbit such that for the instant they all form the shape of a ring. Now instantly glue them all together and you have a ring whose perimeter is spinning at the orbital velocity at that altitude above the earth. Would the ring stay there as if in orbit, or would it simply fall down to the ground? All parts of the ring are in orbit, each in its own Great Circle orbit. But common sense says that surely it would fall to the ground, since its center of rotation is not in orbit; although there is no mass in the center of its rotation, with which the earth to pull downward upon. But if it would stay there, then such a spinning ring, kept in a vacuum enclosure, could be made down on the earth's surface and float, if spinning with perimeter at orbital velocity at sea level. It would seem weightless. The interesting part comes when the ring is speeded up faster than orbital velocity at that altitude: it would go up. A low energy means of space access! There would be two powerful factors involved, one would be the enormous tensile stress on the material spinning that fast; and the other would be the gyroscopic force, tilting the spinning ring as the earth rotates, although at either of earth's poles that problem would vanish, although then the larger solar and galactic rotation forces eventually would take effect. But even anywhere on the ground on earth, short term it could be demonstrated. In fact, in my GEnie Space and Science Library files I suggested anyone with access to a precision weight scale and a high speed gyro, could weigh the gyro assembly both before and while it is spinning and look for miniscule changes in weight. That would show the principle, even though not anywhere near orbital speeds with associated strength of materials problems. So now, in 2008, at least 23 years after my testimony before the NCS in San Francisco in 1985, revived that old idea.   Even I assume it won't work, but as to why not, I have yet to figure out. Even after my 1997 KESTS to GEO conference presentation at the SSI Space Conference in Princeton in 1997, one of the participants (the craggy fellow who presented the "Slingatron" concept at that conference) baited me into talking about the old Spinning Ring thing then he loudly pronounced it would not work; listeners assumed he was talking about KESTS and eventually I was laughed out of the conference, my paper not published or even mentioned. What grief I have suffered thereby, in the conference trip and since then. Argh. Worse, my mother had loaned me $3,000 to create the camera-ready paper and do the conference and she suffered the sight of my humiliation and not long afterwards she sickened and died, hurried along by my stepfather JB who despised me and refused to acknowledge my 1995 paper on "Wet Launch of Prefab Habitat Modules" (Centristation concept) that I had presented at SSI space conference in Princeton and it was published. Looking back, I can see where I was a still-amateur-presenter who had gone to the space conference seeking help thinking they all would be excited about the possibilities of what I had shown possible; but in reality it was a conference full of people who were there to do their technological dog-&-pony-show and/or do their publish-or-perish thing, and probably saw the KESTS to GEO as having just made them all obsolete if accepted, not a nice thing for them to encounter and no wonder they deep-sixed me and the KESTS concept back then, Princeton Ivy League elite risking being "shown up" by this guy who did not even have a college degree. Lots of valence I have re this idea of the Spinning Ring even though my concepts since then involving space carousels, KESTS to GEO, surely do not suffer the possible weaknesses of the spinning ring concept. Now the idea has surfaced again, threatening to once again get mixed up with KESTS concepts, perhaps deliberately by rivals as was done re space elevators in 2002 (space elevators are anchored tether structures, linear structures supported by the centrifugal force on mass out beyond GEO, which would support elevators riding up and down them for space access.) The curious thing is that even now, I wonder if the "Spinning Ring" going faster than orbital velocity would rise up, in reality, if done properly. Lots of old emotional wounds and reputation wounds are opening up in me again over this. It is probably fueled by the automatic assumption of people that an old Asperger like me who is living in poverty could not possibly have come up with a revolutionary great idea to save the space program and earth's ecosystem, so I must be a crackpot or even idea thief; all that remains is for them to show why I am a crackpot and/or thief, then their world will be stable again with all social structure in rightful order. Yet, if something actually would have promise for easy space access, ought it not be available to people? And not all people have proven to be responsible enough to have technology in their hands; anything can be used harmfully, even a glass of clean water, depending on the person with it in their hand and situation ongoing. Even things originally intended to help people and civilization with, can be used wrongfully by assaultive people. Maybe overall it is an exercise in how I handle an idea I have for a step toward achieving the dream of adequate space access and the wonderful projects that could be then done ... done by responsible people, that is, if they can be found.

By James E D Cline on 20080228, 1345 hrs, in Ephrata, WA 98823-1713. Revised jedcline 20080321

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.