“Technically it’s feasible,” said Robert Cassanova, director of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. “There’s nothing wrong with the physics.”
NIAC has given more than $500,000 to Seattle-based HighLift Systems to develop the concept under the leadership of the company’s chief technology officer, Bradley Edwards.
The key to the concept’s feasibility lies in the material that will be used to construct the ribbon between the Earth and outer space. Nanotubes are essentially sheets of graphite — a lattice of carbon — seamlessly rolled into long tubes that are mere nanometers in diameter. These are 100 times as strong as steel, but much lighter.
“Carbon nanotubes are rapidly developing,” Cassanova said. “They are not long enough to stretch from Earth’s surface to 62,000 miles, but there are a number of organizations working on that now.”