The BABEL Tower: A Super-Tall Structure with a Sub-Orbital Elevator

The BABEL Tower: A Super-Tall Structure with a Sub-Orbital Elevator

André Caminoa
DOI: 10.4018/ijstmi.2013010103
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The idea of reaching the heavens has captivated humans throughout the ages. Rockets have proved extremely inefficient in overcoming this challenge and constructing a “Centrifugally Extended Carbon Nano-Tube Tether Space Elevator” (CECNTTSE) presents unsolved technological challenges. The authors conclude that to efficiently achieve the goal of unrestricted movement away from Earth’s gravitational pull; both the current state of the art and the proposed method for a Space Elevator should be reinvented. Therefore, the authors propose the “Buoyant Advanced Building Elevator Lightweight” (BABEL) Tower, a new concept of “a floating tower” capable of reaching up to the Karman Line and beyond. While providing the structural support to a sub-orbital elevator and offering a better launching platform for space vehicles, with built-in rocket engines, directed specifically to LEO but also beyond. Using a (hybrid) LTA and electromagnetically driven elevator car, this super-tall tower could lift tremendous amounts of cargo (and passengers) while avoiding problems associated with space elevators, and could be more feasible in a shorter time. This concept combines characteristics of the Skylon Tower (of London) and the Burj Khalifa (of Dubai) into a flared tensegrity structure with buoyant platforms, “linked” every 2.5 km and tethered to the ground. This anchor-mooring system will support a beam-stalk like buoyant shaft. The estimated aspect ratio (2.5:100) for each wing of its “Y-shaped footprint” will be 2500 meters wide at sea level. The platforms and the shaft “must be built” following a modular principle. Its buoyancy will be generated using a perfect vacuum inside its cells, thus becoming; lighter than air, free from the scarce availability of helium, and safe from hydrogen’s reactiveness. Because its foundations would have to resist the up-thrusting forces that the buoyant structure will produce (instead of the compressive forces caused by weight), the engineering of this buoyant tower is structurally comparable to a maritime spar platform for deep-water oil-extraction. This concept will have a high potential efficiency in reducing the cost per kilogram to be in transit to orbital insertion. In providing an infrastructure of planetary scale, this tower could provide the requisite platforms for other uses such as astronomical observation, clean solar energy distribution (by laser beaming), space tourism, telecommunications, research laboratories, aerosols dispersion, carbon and methane sequestration, airship hub terminals, etc.
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2. Background

The study “The space elevator: Thought experiment; or key to the universe” (Clarke, 2003) indicates that, “Space elevators (SE) have also sometimes been referred to as beanstalks, space bridges, space lifts, space ladders, skyhooks, orbital towers, or orbital elevators”.

In an article named”Challenges in building space elevators” (Kaushal & Arora, 1964), they described that the concept of an orbital tower was primarily suggested in the XIX Century:

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