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The 4th (and final) in a series of excerpts of my article in;

Liftport: The Space Elevator: Opening Space To Everyone
edited by Michael J Laine, Tom Nugent, Bill Fawcett
Published 2006 - 308 pages

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- Table of Contents - About this book

[Links to previous/following excerpts are at the bottom of this post]

Solar power isn’t the only industry that would be transformed by inexpensive space platforms hoisted into orbit on the SE.

Delbert E. Day, the Curators' Professor of Ceramic Engineering and Senior Research Investigator at the Graduate Center for Materials Research, University of Missouri-Rolla knows who will be happiest when the SE comes on line.

“In the ceramics field it would be those people who are making objects that are difficult to nearly impossible to make on earth,” says Professor Day. “In other words, people in the electronics and optical communications fields who know that there are materials out there, which, if they could be made, would find some immediate application.”

Ceramics and glasses are made by high-temperature melting of raw materials taken directly from the earth (clay, sand, etc.) and processed materials into inorganic, nonmetallic solids. They are made into everything from spark plugs, glass, electronic components and nuclear materials to abrasives, rocket components, and tableware.

Making any kind of glass means cooling the melted raw material with minimal crystal formation.

“There’s been lots and lots of research that hasn’t gone anywhere because many of the compositions that have desirable properties tend to crystallize,” says Professor Day.

“There are fluoride glasses people know have very good optical transmission qualities which are very difficult, in fact almost impossible, to make here on earth.”

An optical fiber made from fluoride glass transmits light over far greater distances than convention optical fiber without the degradation of the light signal found in silicon-based optical fibers. This could have the practical effect of reducing or even eliminating the installation and maintenance of expensive networking hardware enroute.

“One of the advantages of space is, at least from the very limited experiments we‘ve done, everybody’s reported that the crystallization tendencies of a melt are lower,” says Professor Day. “[If it did’t crystallize] that would be a major stride forward.

“Part of the problem is that we have done so few experiments because of the high cost [of going into space] and limited time available [once there]. I’m confident that if the SE was operational and [transport] cost a hundred dollars per pound, people would do experiments and we would find things we can’t even dream of [today].”

Permanently extending Earth’s economy into space in an economically and environmentally sustainable way is inspired by dreams but it will have to be achieved by political, business and technical realities that are harsher, colder and as unforgiving as space itself.

The ROI is out there if we can master and marshal our own mental and emotional universes so as to find the courage to change our ways and not simply repeat the mistakes of the past that have cost so much to learn.


Space Elevator (Excerpt I)

Space Elevator (Excerpt II)

Space Elevator (Excerpt III)

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