The Science of TerraGenesis: Space Elevator

Space Elevators: Going Up?

View from a planet - space elevators

What if strapping yourself to a massive rocket, starting a huge explosion and hoping for the best wasn’t the only way of getting into space? What if you were able to use a device that essentially resembled an elevator and caught that into space instead? Seems a whole lot more convenient and safe? Meet Space elevators!

Space elevators in TerraGenesis enable travel to and from the surface of the planet that your faction is terraforming with ease. 

What Are Space Elevators?

They are essentially exactly what they say they are. They’re elevators that take people and cargo to and from space. The general idea is that they have an orbital station port that is a semi-permanent structure in space and a long, traversable cable that allows you to travel up and down aligned at the equator of the planet. 

This piece of technology, whilst astronomically expensive to initially build, will create a far more cost efficient and environmentally sound method of traveling to space. The initial cost comes from the huge scale of the device. When created, the space elevator will be the largest structure that humans have ever created. It’ll need to be able to reach geostationary orbit, or 35,786km in altitude. That’s a lot of cable.

This isn’t a new concept either. In fact, the idea was first hypothesised back in 1895 by Tsiolkovsky. He proposed the idea that this structure would be built under compression, meaning it supports its weight from below.

Since around 1959, ideas began to spring forward using the concept of tensile structures and centrifugal forces that work together to keep the structure in tension thanks to a counter weight deep in orbit and an anchor on the surface. Whilst this is, thanks to the high gravity levels, is problematic on Earth, on bodies with lower gravitational forces the idea has more potential.

Space Elevator: A Physics Problem

Thanks to the gigantic size of the space elevator there are a few physics issues, that we won’t dive deep into, that need to be overcome. These include:

  • Ensuring that, what for all intents and purposes is, a massive stick tethered to the surface doesn’t collide with anything.
  • The cable is able to maintain straightness
  • The cable is able to hold it’s own weight
  • The cargo is able to sustain the immense G forces it would undertake whilst moving both vertically and horizontally under differing gravitational forces.

These issues are still theoretical in concept in the 21st century, but scientists are investing time, money and effort into finding a solution to these issues. Thankfully, in TerraGenesis, the factions have overcome these problems and have successfully created space elevators to aid and enable further colonization and terraforming of future, distant worlds.