Space Elevators

A very nice presentation of space elevators.

Certainly, there are a ton of good story ideas to be used here, and not just if the cable snaps! Even the fight to bring the cost of graphene or carbon cables down is worth a story, as well as all the knock-on effects this would bring.

In a Traveller universe without artigrav, I can definitely see every Imperial Starport of 100 million or more sophonts have at least one of these up and running. Indeed, this would be the primary image of the Imperium to most of her inhabitants: beanstalks to the stars, to wealth, to new worlds, to awesome cities in space.

A rather a glorious and inspiring image, which – if corruption and injustice is kept limited — can inspire both loyalty and creativity for generations.

(The other archetypal image of the Imperium – the Imperial Navy raining death from on high – is best kept in the background. Only her enemies need to remember it in their nightmares.)


In a no-artigrav universe, I’d classify system ports as:

Class A: major orbital and facilities, as well as 2+ space elevator ports on the mainworld. Beanstalks on several minor worlds, too: the rating would assume a system-wide production network. Probably some spaceborne cities, standalone, in orbit of a major body, or eating an asteroid/minor moon from the inside. “What a major civilized system should be!”

Class B: A strong, healthy world, with 2+ space elevators on the mainworld: but things are non-existent or thin on the ground outside the orbit of the mainworld. “Just a few research stations, maybe just half-a-dozen mining settlements.” Still, a good orbital economy, and established settlements/economies on any mainworld moons.

Class C: An “OK” world, with a single space elevator. Just a few token space stations, or none at all. Any natural satellites are either just ignored or have a mere token settlement. These are likely to be monocrop worlds, be it agricultural, chemical, or other local specialty. Still, there’s enough local value, to be worth building a ~100 million dollar Imperial Starport. (Maybe 20 million credits, in Traveller-value currency?)

Class D: No space elevator, although one may be in the works or being assembled. Off-world commerce is handled by on-the-ground/water docking, repair, and refueling facilities, geared to shuttles and multiuse rockets/balloons interfacing with visiting starships in orbit. Without a space elevator (or equivalent mechanism) , it’s very expensive to ship anything off-world, if the world is of Earth-size. (Things are easier in more shallow gravity wells, like Mars or the Moon.)

If Class C Starports mark the limit of integration into the Imperial Economy, Class D is where ‘primitive impoverished ignorant locals’ status begins. Very few visitors and off-world products and materials ever set foot on these worlds. These Starports – unlike the space elevators – are typically based far from population centres, although there is good integration via rail/road, if the traffic warrants. “Not much traffic, but it’s very high-value when it arrives!”

Note that the planet may well still have billions of highly-educated sophonts, and may well still have a decent impact on the Imperial economy and society if they focus on information, not material products. “You need beanstalks to move atoms, but it’s far cheaper to move electrons about.” Still, they remain physically isolated from the Imperial mainstream, for the most part.

Class E: Still a piece of flat land, with a paved surface, a radio control tower, hangars, a hotel and nearby hospital/clinic (able to treat aliens/off-baseline humans/cyborgs/etc.) and a few warehouses. Without artigrav, these tend to be runways when possible, balloon-docking facilities if there isn’t enough hard, stable surface area for a shuttle landing. Visitors are rare, typically less than once a week, often once a quarter or longer.

I’d envision the Class A ports being the classic high-pop/high-tech backbone of the Imperium, with “high-pop” meaning at least 100 billion, with at least 1/4 of that population off the homeworld and spread out throughout the system.

About Alvin Plummer

I enjoy playing in the huge sandbox that Classic Traveller represents. Come along for the ride!
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2 Responses to Space Elevators

  1. Chris Malek says:

    A new patent I just read about, will allow space elevators to be built with current materials.
    It has multiple tethers at its center ( for greatest strength ) and fewer tethers
    as you move away from centerĀ  ( for lesser amounts of mass ).
    Liftport has plans to build a Lunar elevator from current material.
    Using that same material for an Earth based elevator would reach the lunar gravity center
    (about 9,000 km AGL) approx. 1/6 G. Add this new concept and you could reach Earth’s surface.
    We can do this now. Let’s get started. What do you think?

  2. Alvin Plummer says:

    I like the idea! But it takes a lot of work, to get from the drawing board to reality…

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