Rotating Space Elevator

A Rotating Space Elevator concept has been suggested by theoretical physicist Leonardo Golubović and his graduate student Steven Knudsen at West Virginia University.

Rotating Space Elevator (RSE), a rotating system of a floppy string that forms an ellipse-like shape. Unlike the traditional Linear Space Elevator (LSE) made of a single straight cable at rest, the RSE rotates in a quasi-periodic state. As the scientists explain, RSE motion is nearly a geometrical superposition of two components: its geosynchronous rotation around Earth (which has a one-day period), and the internal rotation of the string system that goes on around the axis perpendicular to the Earth (about a 10-minute period). This internal rotation of the string is especially important, as it provides a mechanism for objects to freely slide along the string, and also provides the dynamical stability to maintain the elevator shape.

“The idea came by itself,” Golubović told PhysOrg.com. “I was thinking how to make things move easily and quickly up the traditional Tsiolkovsky-type space elevators. In my kitchen, I was mixing coffee in my cup too vigorously and the centrifugal force on the rotating coffee won over gravity to make some of the coffee lift and splash out the cup. This was my ‘eureka’ that lead to adding a similar conceptual feature to the old space elevator idea, the internal rotation. Indeed, much like the coffee would lift and splash out the cup if rotated fast enough, the climbers on our Rotating Space Elevator will be lifted up by the centrifugal force winning over gravity.”

A similar idea was suggested by Frederik Pohl in his 1985 novel Heechee Rendezvous. I think it was called the "Lofstrum loop" in the novel. Robert Forward also used the idea of a "launch loop" in his novel Dragon's Egg. I don't have quotes for either one - readers?

Read lots more at Physorg; thanks to an anonymous reader for the tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/26/2009)

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