New Space Elevator book on the way

While browsing through Amazon today, I came upon a new book (not yet released), Space Elevators and Space Tethers.  I am not familiar with the author, Michel Van Pelt, but I have emailed him to see if I can get any additional information I can give to my readers before the expected release date (March, 2009) of this book.

From the book’s Amazon page:

“This detailed account of the possibilities of tethers in space, from very practical applications to (near) science fiction, gives an overview of the past, present and future of space tether development and presents the various concepts, ranging from those feasible in the near future to extremely innovative and challenging ideas. It shows how space tethers have already been used to stabilize spacecraft using tidal forces and to generate artificial gravity using a spinning system with a spacecraft connected to a counterweight via a cable. Tethers can also generate electricity by dragging spacecraft through the Earth’s magnetosphere, as was attempted with partial success during two Space Shuttle missions. Using electrodynamic forces, conductive tethers can also accelerate or brake a spacecraft.

Probably the most exciting tether concept is the space elevator, consisting of an incredibly strong long cable that stretches from the Earth’s surface into space. Solar powered “climber” machines, which are already under development, could use such a cable to haul cargo into orbit. The author also describes how space tethers can change the orbit of satellites, by effectively moving their center of gravity through the deployment of long cables. Tethers rotating at high speed can be used to accelerate or slow down spacecraft that briefly latch to them. In principle, such “momentum exchange” tethers can be used to fly a space probe from low Earth orbit all the way into orbit around Mars, without the need for rocket propulsion. A tether can also provide scientific information on the magnetosphere of the planet it’s orbiting.

Michel van Pelt explains the principle of space tethers: what they are and how they can be used in space. He introduces non-technical space enthusiasts to the various possibilities of space tethers, the technological challenges, the potential benefits and their feasibility. He illustrates how, because of their inherent simplicity, space tethers have the potential to make space travel much cheaper, while ongoing advances in tether material technology may make even seemingly far-fetched ideas a reality in the not too distant future.”

It sounds very interesting and I look forward to hearing from Mr. Van Pelt and to the book’s release.  If I receive any additional pre-release information, I’ll be sure and let you all know.

(Picture of NASA’s TSS-1 tether mission from here – click on it for a larger version)

4 thoughts on “New Space Elevator book on the way

  1. FBuckley Lofton

    TSS The Tethered Satellite System (TSS) consists of a satellite, a conducting tether, and a tether deployment/retrieval system to be flown on the Space Shuttle. The objectives of the TSS-1 mission were to: (1) verify engineering performance of the Tethered Satellite System (TSS); (2) determine and understand the electro-magnetic interaction between the tether/satellite/orbiter system and the ambient space plasma; (3) investigate and understand the dynamical forces acting upon a tethered satellite; and, (4) develop the capability for future tether applications on the Shuttle and Space Station.

    The TSS released a satellite while remaining attached to a reel in the orbiter payload bay. This mission was intended to demonstrate control of the satellite during deployment, aerodynamic stability at flight altitude, and the ability of the system to collect meaningful scientific data and to return the data to the Orbiter, and then to the Payload Operations Control Center (POCC). The satellite was to be deployed 20 Km (12.5 miles) above the Orbiter. The deploying equipment consisted of a Spacelab pallet, a reel for tether deployment, an extendible/retractable boom for initial deployment and final retrieval of the satellite, an electrical power and distribution subsystem, a communications and data management subsystem, and a tether control capability. A separate support structure carried science instrumentation.

    The spherical satellite was 1.6 meters in diameter, with the upper hemisphere containing some of the scientific payload, and the lower hemisphere containing the support equipment. The satellite contained cold gas (nitrogen) thrusters used for deployment, retrieval, and attitude control. The 2.54 mm diameter conducting tether cowas constructed using Kevlar and Nomex with 10 strands of 34 AWG copper wire and a Teflon sheath.

    NASA was responsible for the TSS deployer and systems integration, and Italy for building the satellite. Five investigations from Italy and five from the USA were selected for the first mission. Because of a technical problem (a protruding bolt) the tether could only be released to about 840 feet. A reflight of the tether system (TSS-1R) happened in 1996.

    The TSS-1R mission is a reflight of the Tethered Satellite TSS-1 that had been flown on the Space Shuttle mission STS-46 in July of 1992. A protruding bolt had prevented full release of the tether during the TSS-1 mission. The TSS mission equipment consists of the deployer system, the Italian-build satellite, the electrically conductive tether (22km total length) and 6 science instruments. The TSS-1 is to be deployed from a reel in the orbiter payload bay upward (away from Earth) to up to 20 Km (12.5 miles) above the Orbiter. The objectives of this mission are: (1) to verify engineering performance of the Tethered Satellite System (TSS); (2) to determine and to understand the electro-magnetic interaction between the tether/satellite/orbiter system and the ambient space plasma; (3) to investigate and to understand the dynamical forces acting upon a tethered satellite; (4) to demonstrate electrical power generation; and, (5) to develop the capability for future tether applications on the Shuttle and Space Station. The deploying system consists of a motor driven tether storage reel and level wind system.

    Five hours after deployment began on February 25, 1996, with 19.7 km (of 20.7 planned) of tether released, the tether cable suddenly snapped near the top of the deployment boom. The TSS satellite shot away into a higher orbit. TSS instruments could be re-activated and produced science data for three days until battery power ran out.

    Mission: TSS-1R; USMP-3
    Space Shuttle: Columbia
    Launch Pad: 39B
    Launched: February 22, 1996, 3:18:00 p.m. EST
    Landing Site: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
    Landing: March 9, 1996, 8:58:21 a.m. EST
    Runway: 33
    Rollout Distance: 8,459 feet
    Rollout Time: 64 seconds
    Revolution: 252

    Mission Highlights

    Reflight of U.S./Italian Tethered Satellite System (TSS-1R) marred by loss of satellite on flight day three, although valuable scientific data was still gathered. Other primary payload, U.S. Micro-gravity Payload-3 (USMP-3), performed nominally. TSS considered primary payload at beginning of mission and USMP-3 primary following TSS operations.

    TSS flew previously on Mission STS-46 in June 1992, but experiment operations curtailed due to jammed tether. TSS concept designed to study electrodynamics of a tether system in electrically charged portion of Earth’s atmosphere called the ionosphere. Satellite provided by Italy and tether/deployer assembly U.S.-built. Twelve investigations — six NASA, five Italian Space Agency (ASI) and one U.S. Air Force — planned. Deployment of TSS-1R on STS-75 delayed one day to allow troubleshooting of onboard TSS computers by flight crew. Excellent scientific data was being gathered when tether snapped on flight day three as satellite was just short of full deployment of about 12.8 miles (20.6 kilometers). Satellite immediately began speeding away from orbiter as a result of orbital forces and the crew was never in any danger. Reason for tether break not immediately clear and investigative board convened on ground to determine cause. Crew retracted deployer and remaining tether following day.

    Meanwhile, scientists did gather useful data from curtailed deployment. Currents measured during deployment phase were at least three times greater than predicted by analytical modeling, and amount of power generated was directly proportional to the current. Tether voltages of as high as 3,500 volts were developed across the tether, and current levels of about 480 milliamps were achieved. Researchers also able to study how gas from satellite’s thrusters interacts with ionosphere. Also collected first-time measurements of ionized shock wave around the TSS satellite, a phenomenon that cannot be studied in the laboratory and is difficult to mathematically model. Another first was collection of data on the plasma wakes created by moving body through electrically-charged ionosphere. Some experiments conducted using free- flying satellite and attached tether before it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and brokeup.

    USMP-3, flying on shuttle for third time, included U.S. and international experiments, all of which had flown at least once before: Advanced Automated Directional Solidification Furnace (AADSF), a crystal growth facility; Critical Fluid Light Scattering Experiment (Zeno), to study element Xenon at its critical point; Isothermal Dendritic Growth Experiment (IDGE), to study formation of dendrites, tree-shaped crystals that in metals manufacturing dictate final properties of material; and Materials for the Study of Interesting Phenomena of Solidification on Earth and in Orbit (MEPHISTO) to study how metals solidify in microgravity using a furnace.

    USMP-3 experiments conducted primarily through telescience, where principal investigators could control research from Marshall Space Flight Center’s Spacelab Mission Operations Control Center. In MEPHISTO investigation, changes in microgravity environment caused by orbiter thruster firings were correlated with fluid flows in crystal sample. Also able to monitor point at which crystal sample underwent critical change during solidification process. Sample used was a tin-bismuth mixture representative of alloys found in airplane turbine blades, electronic materials and many other products.

    In AADSF, three lead-tin-telluride crystals grown while orbiter flown at three different attitudes to determine effect on crystal growth. Also collected data on crystal’s freezing point. Lead-tin-telluride used in infrared detectors and lasers.

    IDGE experiment yielded twice expected amount of data. Best images ever transmitted of dendrites were gathered. This also was first shuttle experiment controlled by principal investigator at a remote non-NASA site, foreshadowing types of research which will be conducted on International Space Station, where researchers could be based at universities.

    Zeno allowed investigators to observe with unprecedented clarity behavior of xenon at critical point, when it exists as both gas and liquid. Such phase change phenomena common to many different materials and knowledge gained from Zeno could apply to such fields as liquid crystal growth and superconductor research.

    Space Acceleration Measurement Systems (SAMS) and Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment (OARE), both of which have flown previously, provided data about on-orbit environment. In middeck, crew worked with Middeck Glovebox Facility (MGBX) featuring three combustion experiments, all of which were successful. Glovebox and Forced Flow Flamespreading Test experiment, both slated to fly on Russian Space Station Mir later this year, and glovebox also will fly on International Space Station. Also flying in middeck was Commercial Protein Crystal Growth (CPCG-09) experiment to process nine proteins into crystals to better understand their molecular structure. Duration: 15 days, 17 hours, 41 minutes, 25 seconds
    Orbit Altitude: 160 nautical miles
    Orbit Inclination: 28.45 degrees
    Miles Traveled: 6.5 million

  2. FBuckley Lofton

    My TSS Summary indicates that with the right construction and fabrication techniques, the Elevator to Space Project is Self-Powered. Why the f___ is everyone working on the beamed
    power systems and a single line system? This is just bizarre.
    Nothing about what is being proposed has safety protocols of
    sufficient quality to take care of catastrophic failure. We have
    engineered something entirely new.

  3. Eric

    I’ve heard of conductors traveling through low earth orbit generating electricity much the same way a copper coil in a generator generates electricity when it rotates.

    Has it been explored and would it be possible/viable to use electromagnetic levitation and an array of conductors (especially because some earth elements would become super conducting at high altitudes due to temperatures) to put together a self powering (at least at higher altitudes) space ladder?

    An array of independent structures that relied on maglev with a small connection for power transfer and a slightly larger non load bearing (as far as structure and gravity are concerned) connection for vehicular ascension (Keeping in mind that power generation and the pull of gravity increase and decrease respectively over distance from the earth).

    I think the load would be disbursed over the vast amount of individual maglev modules and hope that by the time it reached the foundation wouldn’t be anywhere near the entire weight of the structure .

    The thought of this is boggling my mind. I’ve searched for someone that has explored this possibility to no avail. I’m no physicist. Just a tinkerer inspired by my grandfather but the thought of this being possible is driving me mad.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this.

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