PROJECT: Space elevator
HEIGHT: 20 kilometers ( 12. 4 miles)
TIMELINE: A demonstration tower is slated
to be built by 2020.
PROJECTED COST: Between US$5 billion and
“The center of the [project] is how to control
Thoth Technology Inc. has high ambitions. The Canadian space and defense organization wants to build a 20-kilometer ( 12.4-mile) tall, freestanding elevator to serve
as a launch pad for rockets and satellites. Launches from the very tall tower would
require 30 percent less fuel than ground take-offs, because there’s less gravity and
atmospheric pressure at higher altitudes.
Keeping a tower that tall upright against wind and gravity poses major design
challenges, of course. But after eight years of work, the project team of about a
dozen people received a U.S. patent in July 2015 for the system that solves the
problem: The team designed a pneumatic pressure system that creates a foundation capable of supporting the tower and counterbalancing external forces. Tower
operators could control the structure’s center of gravity to keep it upright in the
face of strong winds.
Next, the project team will build a shorter, 1.5-kilometer (0.93-mile) tall demonstration version of the tower to test the launch system. Construction could get
underway in 2017.
such a huge and slender structure.”
—Brendan Quine, PhD and inventor, to The Globe and Mail