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"Conditions at the Interface Between the Space Elevator Tether and Its Climber"


  • The space elevator climber-tether interface determines the possibility of climbing.
  • Interface conditions set the requirements for tether and climber materials.
  • Graphene super-laminate is a good candidate for the space elevator tether material.
  • The friction and shear strength of graphene super-laminate must be increased.
  • A program of testing is proposed to provide currently unknown material parameters.

The “Climber/Tether Interface of the Space Elevator” was conducted by the International Space Elevator
Consortium (ISEC) during 2021-2022 by a group of experts and enthusiasts working to make the
space elevator a reality by conducting research, writing, and publishing the results of their research. The
study explores the challenges and solutions for designing and operating a robotic climber that can
ascend and descend a meter-wide Graphene Super-Laminate (GSL) tether that connects the Earth’s
surface to a geostationary orbit some 36,000 kilometers from the Earth. The study covers
climber dynamics, tether materials, power transmission, safety and reliability, and environmental
impacts. The study is intended to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of the art and
future directions for the space elevator climber/tether interface.

The conceptual design of the climber was conducted assuming that only present-day technology would
be used and showed that a system of five wheel pairs and ten high-torque electric motors could lift a
20-ton climber and still provide 9 tons of payload. The tether itself is to be constructed of mass-
produced single crystal graphene layered into a Graphene Super-Laminate (GSL) under development by
the University of Manchester in their Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC). These materials
have been found to have sufficient tensile and compressive strength to support themselves and multiple 20-ton climbers when cross-bonding of the graphene layers within GSL during production Is used to
increase shear strength.

Publisher: ScienceDirect

Authors: Dennis H. Wright a, Larry Bartoszek bA.J. Burke c, David Dotson d, Hassan El Chab e, John Knapman f, Martin Lades g, Adrian Nixon f, Paul W. Phister Jr. h, Peter Robinson f