As of this writing, if you type “inflatable space elevator” into Google, you are presented with nearly 3 million results in less than half of a second. That is amazing for several reasons, but the one that stands out to me is that the word “inflatable” is in there.
In case you have not heard yet, the Canadian company Thoth Technologies has been awarded a US patent for an inflatable space elevator. How crazy is this?! (Just when you have an idea, some big tech company comes along and gets the credit, am I right?!)
Here’s a rendering of what it would look like:
If you’re a regular here at Elevator World Unplugged, you’ll know I’ve mentioned the Space (or Lunar) Elevator before.
Although this one is not as high (and is far from geostationary orbit), it is still fascinating.
It would reach nearly 12.5 miles (20km) into the sky (technically the Stratosphere, not ‘space’) – 20 times higher than the Burj Khalifa!
So what is the ‘inflatable’ part? Gas pressure. The structure would be several Kevlar rings stitched together then inflated with either Helium or Hydrogen at an enormous pressure to keep the entire structure together and rigid.
As far as the elevator cars themselves, the question is to have them ride on the inside or outside. Each has its pros and cons and is still being decided among the creators.
Thoth says within the next 5 years, it hopes to have a scaled down model for testing, which would be 1 mile (1.6 km) high.
The full version could be a possibility in next 10 years for approximately US$5 billion.
According to its inventor Dr. Brenden Quine, “Astronauts would ascend to 20 km by electrical elevator. From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refueling and reflight.”
Thoth’s President and CEO says she believe the space tower, couples with self landing rocket technologies being developed by others, will herald a new era of space transportation.
So again, here’s to hoping this one gets built!
Thanks for reading,