In 1960 he wrote an article "V Kosmos na Electrovoze (en. Into space with the help of an electric locomotive)", where he discussed the concept of the space elevator as an economic, safe and convenient way to access orbit and facilitate space exploration.
Artsutanov developed the idea from works of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who in 1895 proposed an idea of building an orbital tower. Artsutanov's concept was based on the linking of geosynchronous satellites to the ground with a cable. He suggested using the satellite as the base from which to construct the tower since a geosynchronous satellite will remain over a fixed point on the equator. By using a counterweight, a cable would be lowered from the geosynchronous orbit to the surface of Earth while the counterweight was extended from the satellite away from Earth, keeping the center of mass of the cable at the same height above the Earth. The ideas of Tsiolkovsky's compression-structure concept and Artsutanov's tension-structure concept differ in that a compression structure is well outside conceivable future capabilities, while the tension-structure is much easier to build and maintain, and is considered possible with near-future technologies.