Safe Space Elevator - An Expectation to be met Through a System Architecture Approach

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C. Swan; P. A. Swan (2006), JBIS, 59, 331-337

Refcode: 2006.59.331
Keywords: Space elevator, systems architecture, LEO, GEO, debris, ribbon design, safe, space policy, systems engineering, space systems survivability

The expectation by the public of the safety of an elevator is “no worries.” Everyone expects to arrive safely when riding an elevator... even a Space Elevator. As such, the survival of the Space Elevator must also have extremely high expectation levels. The Space Elevator is now a real engineering project and is indeed one of the latest projects being considered within NASA as a new technology path. It should also be considered across the international space infrastructure as a potential breakthrough. To enable this remarkable engineering feat, on a par with linking of Gibraltar to Morocco, an architectural approach must be used to ensure the safe operation of a Space Elevator. This paper discusses the various aspects of a Space Elevator's survival plan. Appropriate methodologies will be applied to the Space Elevator depending upon unique threat regions: Low Earth Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit, Geosynchronous Orbit, and Super Geo Orbits. Key to the acceptance of any Space Elevator concept will be a systems approach across the total architecture for identifying and reducing risks. Indeed, a systems approach to the Space Elevator survival problem will change the issue from one that seems overwhelming to a recognizable risk issue that is well within current technologies and operational approaches. The expectation of a safe elevator ride is a must!

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