Next-gen space travel is here, or at least according to Thoth Technology it is. The Canadian space firm has been granted a patent in the U.S. for a freestanding space tower that could change the way astronauts launch rockets into space.
Space elevators aren’t exactly a new concept—the idea dates back to the 20th century. The problem is, engineers have struggled to develop a working design since there is no known material capable of supporting the entire weight of a freestanding building at such heights.
Thoth claims they’ve found a solution to this design challenge: Build the space tower only 12.4 miles high so that it sits in the stratosphere rather than going all the way out into geostationary orbit, where satellites fly, which is around 22,000 miles up.
The ‘ThothX Tower’ would be inflatable, made with reinforced segments and topped with a runway from which satellite payloads could be launched. It would stay upright using a complex arrangements of fly-wheels to compensate for the tower bending.
So how would this thing work? Astronauts would board an electrical elevator, which would take them 12 miles above sea level. Once passengers reach the top of the tower, they would then board a space plane that takes them the rest of the way into space. The building wouldn’t actually be a true geostationary space elevator, since 12 miles isn’t even a quarter of the way into space. Instead, it would function more like a very high launching pad for space exploration.
According to its patent, pressurized cars would either run in the core of the structure, or they could climb up the outside like a funicular railway, with each car able to carry around 10 tons of cargo. Apparently they’d also be used for communications, scientific studies and power generation using wind turbines.
If we were to ever see one of these things come to life, a space elevator could be a potential alternative to costly, energy eating rockets that burn most of their fuel supply trying to fight against the atmosphere. That all sounds great, but I still think there are more design challenges than Thoth is leading on. What do you think the biggest challenges launching a space elevator will be?