This is always a fun session. People can suggest not-fully-thought-out ideas (another way of saying “half-baked”?) to the crowd and use them as an initial ‘sounding board’ to see if it has merit or not. Over the years, we’ve heard some good ideas in this session and, frankly, some really wacky ones, too, but as I started out saying, they’re always a lot fun. Great to see people challenging assumptions and thinking outside of that box…
There were six speakers:
David Schilling proposed covering satellites with an aerogel, several inches (a foot?) thick. He reasoned that this cover could act as a barrier to space debris/dust that would hit the satellite and, if the debris was big enough to penetrate the aerogel, the aerogel would act to keep the satellite in, more or less, one piece, thus minimizing space debris, and all with only a minimal addition of weight to the satellite.
Keith Loftstrom suggested keeping emotions out of reactions to someone else’s idea. And a reminder, be your own skeptic first. Run the numbers on a proposal before you bother bringing it to anyone elese.
Charles Gorlinski suggested we pay more attention to building in some redundancy into a space elevator system and proposed, for example, using multiple tethers, all heading to the same Apex Anchor (counterweight) separated by some sort of spacing ring. If one tether breaks, the system does not disintegrate.
Dr. Bryan Laubscher asked all attendees to network, network, network, looking for people / corporations / government agencies, etc. with money and, if/when found, to direct them Peter Swan (for space elevator interest) or to himself (Bryan) for carbon nanotube development interest.
Michael Laine briefly talked about LiftPort’s Lunar Elevator project and showed an animation of creating the Lunar Space Elevator. He thinks it is possible to do this “within the current decade” at a cost of ~USD 800 million.
Finally, Phil Richter gave us some thoughts from his perspective as a structural engineer. He proposed a much wider tether, perhaps 10m or 100m wide, for several reasons; 1) redundancy/stronger/safety/stability 2) changing the structure’s aspect ratio – something that structural engineers know is important 3) Logistics – easier to work with 4) Economy of scale and 5) better from a budgeting estimate viewpoint.
I really like the aerogel-cushioned satellite idea – it makes so much sense that there has to be something wrong with it…