Space Tethers

The pride of New Mombasa and all Tether cities on all planets. Under their incredible shadow, economy explodes, space transportation prices drop significantly, and a prosperous city may grow around them. Not to mention that they’re fun targets for aliens.

While their destruction is some pretty great scenery, and their destruction is featured quite prominently throughout a few games, thats not why we’re here. The Space Tether appears shrouded in 2500 Science-Fiction technology, just a dream to our largest structures and imaginations… but it’s not.

I unfortunately can’t go the route of Mombasa and say that they exist, and explore Google Earth for Tether Cities. However, the concept of these enormous towers connected to a station or counterweight in orbit is not foreign or the product only of sci-fi sets. Known as “Space Elevators”, there are numerous concepts, drawings, and predictions regarding these colossal structures today.

The first concepts of a space elevator appeared, amazingly, in 1895. Since then, scientists and physicists and engineers have all contributed to trying to make the space elevator a feasible construction.

As of now, designs of space elevators have been made and are being made.
At first glance, an observer would find it impossible. The weight would be far too great. To help counter this and keep the elevator’s cables taut, it will extend beyond geostationary orbit. This way, the force of gravity pulling down on the elevator would be met with centrifugal force pulling it up, as well as allowing it to maintain a steady rotation with the Earth.

This still has a problem of weight, however. The general materials used for construction today (steel, concrete, etc) would be too heavy, and would break too easily. There needs to be a material that is lighter, but also stronger than those… … …
Aha!

Carbon Nanotubes were first discovered in 1952, but their existence and potential application is often credited to 1991. This material is very light and strong, exactly what an elevator like this needs. We just need a lot of it.

Space elevators are often shown anchored to mobile platforms at sea. This allows for staying away from storms and high winds, but also dodging space debris in orbit. Land based anchors do have advantages as well, such as better access and being away from sea level, lowering gravitational forces.


 

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To transport material and possibly personnel up and down elevators, vehicles will ride along the cable, accelerating into orbit to be received by a station or platform in orbit. Powering these vehicles has been a concern, but it has been noted that carbon nanotubes can conduct electricity well. An energy transfer system can be used to keep the cable car moving.

So, how does this all compare to Halo’s interpretation of the concept?

Quite well, and it goes even further.

The first Space Elevator on Earth, the Mombasa Tether, was built in 2302. They’ve obviously had a lot more time to perfect the design. And it was apparently so effective that there are numerous tethers on several planets.

The structure of 2500 Tethers are very similar to concepts described above. Those seen so far have ground anchors, not mobile ones. This could mean that an efficient space-debris protection system was created, and that the anchor materials are strong enough to withstand storms.


 

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Something that Mombasa took heavy note of, is safety. In the event of a collapse, there will undoubtedly be major property damage and a high death toll. To minimize the death toll and other catastrophic effects, New Mombasa was compartmentalized into several sections.

While damage was minimized in the city, the tether was cut in such a way that the massive support rings were thrown all across the Sahara Desert.

The desert can’t be compartmentalized.

So… enough of the physics and structure and destruction of Elevators.

How about their effect on economy and space programs?

With the construction of the Mombasa Tether, New Mombasa exploded. It prospered and continued to maintain a massive influence in the centuries afterwords. How realistic is that?

Very.
Today, sending material into orbit can cost several thousands of dollars. It is estimated that with a space elevator, it could cost as little as $100/kg. A significant difference.
Some experts have even said that whoever builds the first elevator has as much as a 95% cost advantage, and may control all space-related activities.
Yeah. Significantly significant.

No wonder New Mombasa became so huge, becoming the first Earth city with a Space Elevator. Space Elevators are not only a major engineering and structural accomplishment that is possible today, but they are a major economic achievement as well.
It will be interesting to see how the UNSC deals with the losses of such structures. They’ll be seeing this for quite some time.

“Space Elevators will be built 50 years after everyone stops laughing.”

That concludes The Reality of Halo, for now. We’ve got plans in motion for future content, so be sure to check back.
Cognitive Bias out.

By the way, Offensive said the original header image for this article was too small. Think this is big enough?
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