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Space Elevators: Building a Permanent Bridge for Space Exploration and Economic DevelopmentA space elevator is a physical connection from the surface of the Earth to a geo-stationary orbit above the Earth approximately 35,786 km in altitude. Its center of mass is at the geo-stationary point such that it has a 24-hour orbit, and stays over the same point above the equator as the Earth rotates on its axis. The structure is utilized as a transportation and utility system for moving payloads, power, and gases between the surface of the Earth and space. It makes the physical connection from Earth to space in the same way a bridge connects two cities across a body of' water. The space elevator may be an important concept for the future development of space in the latter part of the 21th century. It has the potential to provide mass-transportation to space in the same way highways, railroads, power lines, and pipelines provide mass-transportation across the Earth's surface. The low energy requirements for moving payloads up and down the elevator make it one of only a few concepts that has the potential of lowering the cost to orbit to less than $10 per kilogram. This paper will summarize the findings from a 1999 NASA workshop on Space Elevators held at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). The workshop was sponsored by the Advanced Projects Office in the Flight Projects Directorate at MSFC, and was organized in cooperation with the Advanced Space Transportation Program at MSFC and the Advanced Concepts Office in the Office of Space Flight at NASA Headquarters. New concepts will be examined for space elevator construction and a number of issues will be discussed that has helped to bring the space elevator concept out of the realm of science fiction and into the realm of possibility. In conclusion, it appears that the space elevator concept may well he possible in the latter part of the 21st century if proper planning and technology development is emphasized to resolve key issues in the development of this advanced space infrastructure concept.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Marshall Space Flight Center
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Smitherman, David V., Jr.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Howell, Joe T.
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2000
Publication Information
Publisher: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Subject Category
Space Transportation And Safety
Report/Patent Number
AIAA Paper 2000-5294
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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