Interests related to the Space Elevator: Failsafe System, Radiation Protection
I propose the investigation of a failsafe emergency system for space elevator that would protect crew, climbers and potentially the SE ribbon itself in the event of a severing of the ribbon at LEO. This would be achieved through the use of a ribbon deployable reflector mechanism and collections of ground based lasers to support the hardware in the event of a catastrophic sever. Given the relatively narrow range (300 - 4000km) of a likely ribbon sever, a limited number of deployable reflectors could effect a SE ribbon failsafe system. The reflectors could either make use of (1)laser ablative material or (2)multiple-bounce laser photonic pressure to achieve the lift to ensure the safety of crew and assets. The key issue would be the development of a long lasting laser ablative with sufficient thrust capability to achieve the objective. Alternately, the photon pressure could be employed when the price-performance of megawatt lasers drops below a tipping point to enable the economic feasibility of such an undertaking.
Optimally, the lower ribbon could be suspended for a long enough duration to be re-attached with the upper ribbon portion and normal operations to resume. The upper portion of the ribbon could be held in place by a similar system only inverted to deploy the beams down from GEO to a reflector above the sever point. The propulsion beams could be controled to create an intercept and eventual fusion of the ribbon segments. The deployment of megawatt lasers in space might not be workable as they could be construed as a space based weapon and banned by international law.
This investigation would be advisable in light of the extreme cost of SE assets and the integral need for safety and sustainability in space elevator operations. Even if normal operation of SE poses little threat of ribbon sever, unexpected events such as a coronal mass ejection intercept with the earth's magnetosphere could make a sever much more likely due to attendant variations of trajectories of LEO objects. The additional costs of such a system would be more lasers of the kind to be developed in any event for the power beaming app.
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