Monday, 08 Jun, 2009 Technology
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Inflatable Tower to Help Tourists Reach Space without Rocket

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In their work, entitled Acta Astronautica, Brendan Quine, Raj Seth and George Zhu at York University in Toronto, Canada, write about a giant inflatable tower that people could use to climb up to the edge of space.

The project can be completed much quicker than the cable-based space elevator. Such tower would eliminate the need of using a rocket for those who want to simply visit the outer space. It is worth mentioning that some spacecrafts feature inflatable pneumatic modules, which can be used to assemble a tower that would be 15 kilometers high. In case the tower is constructed on a sustainable mountain top, it could reach an altitude of 20 kilometers, which would open new possibilities for tourism, spacecraft launches, telecoms, as well as allow scientists to carry out researches on atmosphere, reports New Scientist.

Researchers consider constructing the tower using a series of modules built from Kevlar-polyethylene composite tubes. They made a model of a 15-kilometre tower composed of 100 modules, each module being 150 meters tall and 230 meters in diameter. The modules are built from inflatable tubes 2 meters across. Brendan Quine calculated that the real tower would weight around 800,000 tons after it is pressurized

"Twenty kilometers up is about as dark as outer space. You can see about 600 kilometers in any direction," Quine says. With a tower like that, tourists will have the ability to see the surrounding space almost like astronauts see it from the ISS. In addition, they will not have to cope with the problem of zero gravity. Quine estimated that the construction could be extended up to planet's low orbit at 200km.

The tower has a couple of big advantages over the space elevator. It will consist of an already existing material, while the space elevator would require superstrong nanotubes, which are not yet available. Besides, in case something goes wrong with the construction, a few damaged modules will not lead to a total collapse of the tower.

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