Challenges for a Space Elevator

We previously unpacked the desire for a ‘Space Elevator’ during our subdomain discussion.

Before we explore potential breakthroughs in the next phase of the discussion, we would like to unpack what challenges prevent us from realizing a future where a Space Elevator exists - is it a problem of policy or technology? What about the ROI or financing of a Space Elevator - could an innovative economic model address these issues? What do you think are the greatest challenges that need to be addressed?

This is an exciting concept for an XPRIZE.

If the technical challenges can be overcome, and a robust space elevator is built, then the return on investment might be significant and relatively quick. (Assuming maintenance requirements are low - e.g. meteor impacts and other environmental factors are insignificant.)

A small capacity elevator would be able to quickly deploy small satellites (e.g. cube-sats and larger versions), materials and components for the [robotic] in-space assembly of larger satellites, space stations, and other space based infrastructure. It might also include the assembly of space based solar panels to power the elevator with renewable energy.

(The traditional geostationary concept probably means that elevators would be built along the equator (only).)

@TerryMulligan -
I think one of the main challenges is that there’s no space (pardon the pun) for experimentation and failure when it comes to space elevators. The field would benefit greatly if it were possible for innovators and entrepreneurs to come up with ideas and test very small and limited versions of them.

Hi @Basia,
Welcome to XPRIZE community and Global Visioneering Program!
As you have expertise in space tech, we would love to hear your thoughts on challenges preventing us from realizing a future where a Space Elevator exists - is it a problem of policy or technology?

Breakthroughs - International Space Elevator (ISE)

  • Policy:
    As per the Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty established by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) on international responsibility: “The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty”. (Reference: Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, UNCOPUOS - United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, 1966-1967).

With reference to the International Space Station (ISS), the “international space elevator” (ISE) can involve different space programs at the intergovernmental or non-governmental level. It is important to establish an Intergovernmental Space Elevator Agreement for international cooperation, ranging from jurisdictional issues, regulations, and other policies including code of conduct for the potential users of the International Space Elevator.

  • Technology, Funding, Economic model approach and Return on investment:
    As per the Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty established by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA): “A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment.” (Reference: Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, UNCOPUOS - United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, 1966-1967).

An “international space elevator” (ISE) involving different space programs at intergovernmental or non-governmental level, will ensure the development of advanced technologies, the establishment of sustainable financing, and economic budgets. Building a space elevator will facilitate space tourism. It will reduce the cost of orbital, suborbital, and lunar space tourism, allowing more space tourists. This will lead to the industrialization of space tourism e.g space hospitality, space theater, space music concerts, etc; which in the long-term can generate a huge return on investment.

Thanks to Mr. @TerryMulligan for the topic. @Shashi @NickOttens @DavidPoli

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