Unites States Patents Office grants Space Elevator Patent To A Canadian Company
A Canadian company has been granted a patent for their 12.4 mile-high space elevator design, that could launch astronauts and tourists into orbit.
Supported by a series of gas-pressurized cells, the free-standing tower would stand 20 times the height of current tall structures and can be used for wind-energy generation and as a docking platform for space planes that could launch cargo, tourists and satellites directly into lower orbit.
Speaking to CNBC, the Ontario-based company, Thoth Technology which is behind the invention said that the elevator could transport 10 tons of cargo at approximately seven miles per hour, while the passengers could be able to reach the top of the tower in about 60 minutes. Passengers could then board a spaceplane that could reach lower orbit without the need for a costly rocket launch.
Dr. Brendan Quine, an engineering professor at York University in Toronto and co-founder of Thoth Technology describes it thus: “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.”
“Once the 20 km (a little over 12 miles), inflatable structure is built, an estimated 30% could be saved from fuel costs alone compared to conventional rockets.”
He said that the team behind the elevator worked on the concept for eight years before securing the U.S. patent in July. Thoth Technology sees this as a transformational moment for space travel, with the space tower set to reap the benefits of advances in self-landing rocket technologies.
The space elevator is expected to cost about $5 billion to build. Thoth Technology said that once built, it will reduce the cost of reaching low Earth orbit by 30 percent as compared to conventional rockets. While the traditional rocket launches can cost upwards of $250 million, the cheaper commercial offerings like those offered by Elon Musk founded SpaceX who lists the launch price of its Falcon 9 rocket at $61.2 million and it’s Falcon Heavy model at $90 million.
Caroline Roberts, Thoth CEO and President is expected to be enthusiastic. “Landing on a barge at sea level is a great demonstration,” she says, taking a not-so-subtle dig at competitor SpaceX, “but landing at 12 miles above sea level will make space flight more like taking a passenger jet.”
However, before building the full 12.4 mile-high tower, the next step for Thoth is to build a 0.9-mile-tall demonstration elevator. According to Quine, even the demonstration tower would be the world’s largest structure.
He said that there was very less to hold back development, since all of the technology required to build the elevator was easily available. He further added that a demonstration elevator could be built within three years, and a full version within five years.