New Space Race May Be Taking Shape

Who will be first to build a space elevator?

A colossal elevator to space could be a reality sooner rather than later.

China and a construction firm in Japan have both said they can build a so-called ‘space elevator’ able to transport people and payloads into orbit without the use of rockets.

Japan says it could build one by 2050; China is aiming for 2045.

A 35-thousand kilometre long tether would use magnetic linear motors to power a pod up and down from a spaceport at the equator to a space station in geosynchronous orbit overhead.

It could carry people and payloads to space for about $25 per pound, compared to the rocket rate of $3500 per pound.

Scientists have identified a couple of potential problems:

  • finding a suitable tether (graphene might’s an ultra-strong carbon-based material)
  • space debris from other rockets that orbit the earth and could damage or destroy the elevator

An experiment will be conducted soon using a 10-metre tether in a weightless environemnt to see how feasible it is.

banner image via NASA