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Real ‘stairway to heaven’ allows for fast space travel

26 January 2017

For his final year design project, Tom Phillips explores the idea of a ‘space elevator’ to allow fast travel into space, without the need of a spaceship.

Space elevator concept (Credit: Tom Phillips/YouTube)

Tom, who lives in Woolwich and is originally from High Wycombe, says: "The space elevator will bring science fiction to life by allowing fast, almost free space travel.

"For years people have had an idea of some sort of ladder, or a beanstalk. This makes it a real concept. From a base in the Thames Estuary, the elevator would be constructed from carbon nanotubes, which are like rope but stronger than diamond. They are already strong enough to create the space elevator, it is just a case of making it stronger and stronger so less material is required in construction."

"From the geostationary orbital platform 36,000km above Earth, a simple push in zero gravity will get you to outer space. This kind of propulsion would save billions, as so much of the money spent on space exploration goes on getting the astronauts off the planet. The exploration, colonisation and tourism of space will become real and this excites me beyond belief.

"Trips would probably be to the International Space Station, but you can't do much there except look at very specific research. Also you can only get three or four people in there at once."

Phillips also mentions that as passengers travel up, they will experience a large force of gravitational pull. About a quarter of the way up this eases and it will be like a long-haul flight. People could travel in style, no space suits are necessary and it would take approximately 15-20 hours. 

Phillips is already in discussion with private companies who will help develop this project further. He estimates that construction could begin in 20-25 years. 

This project took Phillips five months to complete. He is currently completing his part three program at the University of Greenwich where he hopes to graduate a fully-qualified architect. 

A shortened version of the portfolio is here and the accompanying thesis is here.

Video courtesy of Tom Phillips. 

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