Talk:Space elevator economics

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Oh this made me laugh:

Note that it seems to be true that governments are willing to pay the capital costs of a new launch system.

It is? Great!

Several cases have been presented (space shuttle, ariane, etc). No counterevidence has been presented to this,

Even better

and claims to the effect that governments charge more than the cost of the rockets, apart from

"apart from"- Wait a sec- no counterevidence has been presented! Apart from?

things like Russian space tourism, are thus irresponsible.

Um. So there are no exception, apart from the exceptions, and any other exceptions that may be found are irresponsible? That's clear! p.s. they're not irresponsible if they take responsibility; or irresponsibility implies negative consequences; namely?

One person cited [1], but ignored the fact that it was discussing private corporation development with government aid, not government development;

Yes, the Space Shuttle was built by the senators and the US government, by their own hands, and no contracts were given to corporations at all. Ummm... actually... come to think of it...

consequently, the evidence that governments repay rocket capital costs on their rocket projects remains at zero.

Apart from the Russians, and anyone irresponsible presumably. Which wasn't at all what the original unedited point was about anyway... If you don't understand something Rei you only have to ask.--Wolfkeeper 16:46, 28 May 2004 (UTC)

Are the Russians using the space tourism money to "repay capital costs"? Funny, I'd say that they were using them to fund the development of the ISS. I'll fix my wording, of course.  :)
As for contracts, the shuttle is owned by who? Oh yeah, that's right..... hence, it's governmental Rei 17:27, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Um, kinda sorta, probably. But a lot of the IP is owned by the corporations; so the government doesn't have the right to make more.
But the repay capital costs bit eventually comes down to the wording of the contract. I would expect in most cases that the government, being a provider of finance to a project would insist on either owning the launch vehicle or system outright, or taking a cut of the profits. In the latter case- it's clear that that capital costs are being repaid over time; whether they have in fact been totally repaid is a completely different question; many, many projects still owe the original investors money- the UK owes USA money from WWII for example; the channel tunnel owes the investors lots of money; etc. etc.
In the former case, the government owns the equipment, that has net worth, so there's nothing to repay; they paid for it, and it's theirs. But Governments don't actually make money in general; almost nothing a government does is profitable, they take the taxation money instead; so I don't really see why Ariane or the Shuttle as essentially governmental programs would be expected to be any different, it's not what governments are about; they don't expect to make money from their assets.
As I say, with the various incantations of Proton/Soyuz/Progress etc. I have no clue; it's likely they are making money on it; possibly a lot of money, they're almost certainly not losing money. And yes, some or all of that money counts towards the ISS project, which most certainly is a money pit that nobody expects to make any money at all. Again it comes down to the contracts.
Rockwell-Collins (a private company that worked on the shuttle that I can speak to) doesn't own a piece of the Space Shuttle. Now, if they were to make more shuttles, they'd certainly go back to Rockwell-Collins for parts, since they have the experience. But the IP is owned by NASA.
FYI: Rockwell International manufactured the Space Shuttle with Boeing; Rockwell Collins manufactured at best avionics...SalineBrain (talk) 20:26, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
Maybe, but there can be issues with tooling even then (as in, in practice only they can make it)
Contracts go in the first case you presented, not the second. NASA pays the costs outright. In fact, their contract awarding scheme is a bit weird (or at least was at the time), in that they had contracts that didn't have a cost cap. It was sort of a "spend whatever you need to spend to get this job done, because our main goal is a low reusable cost, not a low development cost" situation. Unfortunately, Rockwell abused that contract, and pretty badly - every contract that needed more hours got charged to the shuttle. The company got busted over it, and had some pretty hefty fines and harsh regulations for further contracts imposed.
it's not what governments are about; they don't expect to make money from their assets. - Bingo. Rei 18:18, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
PS - I think your current version is fair, since we've both had our say. I won't contest it.  :) Rei 18:20, 28 May 2004 (UTC)

Gary Hudson responds![edit]

I emailed Gary Hudson about this debate, and here's what he said (note: first part of the email is what I sent to him):

In a message dated 5/28/04 9:30:02 AM, writes:
I ran into a post of yours from, in which you discussed launch costs of Russian systems. You cited, for launch costs of a Soyuz:
  • 2.3 million dollars per flight for the launcher
  • 3 million dollars per flight for the soyuz
  • ? per flight for the booster
I was wondering where I could find an authoritative reference for these numbers, because all of the numbers listed on are an order of magnitude higher. I was also wondering which model soyuz you're talking about, and how much the booster costs.
The main reason I'm writing is I'm in a debate over on Wikipedia (a free user-created online encyclopedia) over whether national space programs generally repay their capital costs (or even try to) with their launch costs.
I am afraid that I'm probably the only authority; I received the information from a colleague who was negotiating with the Russians to purchase modern Soyuz spacecraft (T model or later) and launches.
There is a long standing debate about Russian (and Soviet) space costs. Many in the West will maintain that these sometimes quoted low costs are illusory, and the "real" cost is much higher. They point to sunk costs for tooling and very low wages. But other analysis shows that if you measure by labor hours (labor being the dominant cost for all space programs) the Russian hardware gets built for about ten times less man-hours than comparable Western vehicles. I am afraid the debate will never be resolved.
I can say that no national space program ever "repays" or even attempts to repay cost, nor would one ever succeed. Only private space activities will (and, by definition, must).

Do you consider Gary authoritative enough on the subject? If you agree, I would like to consider him the last word on the subject, unless someone can get in touch with Sean O'Keefe or someone like that  ;) Rei 19:39, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
The point I think you are trying to make is that rockets cannot repay their capital costs.
But you've just asked an expert on space whether a national program ever recoups their costs. That's not the same thing at all. Sure, if they ever do it's accidental, not intentional. Ask him again whether he thinks rocket launch programs in general can or have recovered their capital. Whatever he says, I agree with.
Actually, we already know that from the last sentence that he thinks they can.
For example is Sea Launch recouping R&D? It sure as hell better be for Boeing and co.'s sake. They wouldn't have gone into that venture unless they thought it would be profitable, covering all costs.

Elevator vs Rockets: The economics[edit]

I do not think the central issue is or is not whether current rocket programs have or have not repaid any capital costs. I was keen to explore the issue of historic costs and I am not sure that the above e-mail settles that issue finally one way or another. But, for the sake of argument, let me (temporarily) concede the point: Let's say that capital costs have not been repaid, let's even say they haven't been repaid one iota. This "fact" is used to "prove" that rocketry cannot repay capital costs in the future thus "justifying" the neglect of the capital cost of the space elevator in a debate over its economics.

If we take past experience as dictating future events then the same spurious argument can be used to simply deny the possibility of the SE: There hasn't been an example of rockets repaying capital, therefore there never will be is transformed into There hasn't been an example of a SE, therefore there never will be. Before anybody objects, this latter argument is not one I am trying to make! But I will not allow the former either.

Private enterprise is getting interested in rocketry. Rocket costs need not be as expensive in the future as they once were (Rei agrees this). Gary Hudson makes the obvious (to me, at least) point that private enterprise will insist on proper funding of the capital.

I have tentatively justified a figure of $3,500/kg lifted including cost of capital for the SE. The SE being speculative I wish to allow a similar (but not better) level of speculation in estimating a figure for rocketry 20+ years from now. Help!

Paul Beardsell 21:22, 28 May 2004 (UTC)

Lets look at it this way: Look at all the money that people invested in nuclear fission. Many people had doubts that a chain reaction could even work. Half a century was spent without any reward... any then? Nuclear bombs, the great terror and, at the same time, great forced peacemaker between superpowers due to MAD. Not long after, commercial nuclear power. Now much of what we learned is the cornerstone of nuclear physics.
Looking back further, look at all the research into electricity when it was merely a curious toy of European nobles with too much time on their hands. It was over two centuries from the first electrostatic generator before it was put to a major practical application.
More than anything else except for possibilty the military importance, this is why our government puts money into advancing rocketry year after year without hoping to repay its investment. Basic R&D is important for the future of humanity. It hasn't paid back its advancement - we could have stuck with the old Atlas and Titan series', and the Russians could have stuck with the early Protons. But we didn't. We're pushing forwards and advancing our technologies, in rocketry and elsewhere, to try and reach that critical level of technology where, like when we managed to get chain nuclear reactions, the technology takes off.
Capital cost issues are important for commercial enterprises - ultimately important. But if every tech was approached in history with the concept of immediate commercialization and immediately working toward capital cost repayment, we never would have advanced as a species. That's why there is government-sponsored R&D.
That said, there are some other issues that make the issue complex if we were to try and factor it in. What sort of repayment schedule does one choose? 10 year? 20 year? 100 year? How big of an elevator do you build before you start going commercial, and how many of them? (it makes a big difference). It's not simple; we could possibly build up an elaborate table, but short of that, I can't think of any good way to do it. Rei 21:44, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Yours is not really an economics argument. It is a military / strategy / adventure argument. Fair enough. Put that in a military / strategy / adventure section. We'll discuss it there - I'll argue we should help our disadvantaged brothers and sisters rather than indulge in this Boys' Own adventure. If you really do not want to document the economics please do not. If, on the other hand, you do, please do. Paul Beardsell 22:01, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Also, I am not attempting to do original research - Wikipedia is not the place for that - I am looking for references for what future rocketry will cost. Paul Beardsell 22:01, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Capital just needs to be financed - not repaid - if the maintenance really does maintain the cable.
Um, with attitude like that, remind me not to lend you any money :-)--Wolfkeeper 23:56, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
I see the smiley but seriously, there isn't a repayment issue. If it is shareholders' funds they will want dividends, not repayment. If it is bondholders' funds they want their interest payments, not repayment. If they want repayment they will sell their shares/bonds to others. If the shares/bonds are cheap then Space Elevator Inc (a member of the Edwards Group Bermuda Ltd) will redeem the bonds or buy their own shares back. Eurotunnel was funded by enthusuastic private investors, many of them French: I reckon the same could happen here, but not only the French! I will keep my money in index-linked government bonds, however. Paul Beardsell 05:53, 29 May 2004 (UTC)
The finance cost is the base interest rate plus the risk. I can see the need for a second elevator - to replace the first when the cable is severed - but not for a third. What's the project? A space hospital to do what? Mining? There is no real shortage of anything on earth which we can get from space. Paul Beardsell 22:16, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Untrue. There's no extended zero-g on Earth. People *like* space. That's a market right there.--Wolfkeeper 23:56, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Very, VERY untrue. Earth's population has, and is likely to continue growing. Current resources are already stretched to their limits, "rare earths" (minerals used in many advanced electronics) are extremely expensive. Conservative estimates for the ore contained in even small (1 km) asteroids are as high as the entire yearly production of Earth. A society should never wait until it is experiencing shortages to seek out new resources, by that time it may be far too late as the materials needed to seek out new resources will no longer be available. The same argument can be applied to oil depletion, if a society were to wait until oil is depleted to develop alternative energy sources, where would said society get the energy to develop alternate energy technologies? The basic economic argument for space travel is; if plentifal resources are available, why wait until your in dire need to go get them? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:07, 18 January 2011 (UTC)
How many kgs / person (body, water, food, oxygen, safety & rescue equipment)? Paul Beardsell 05:53, 29 May 2004 (UTC)
There's also the solar power satellites; solar power 24x365 with no weather restrictions. The elevator makes it cheap. Environmentally friendly power in infinite quantities.--Wolfkeeper 23:56, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Another self justification of the SE - we build the SE to allow us to create ways of powering the SE! "6 PM news: Today another equitorial village was burnt to a cinder by the malfunctioning orbiting solar array. Edwards Group shares tumbled on NASDAQ." Paul Beardsell 05:53, 29 May 2004 (UTC)
This is of course nonsense. The deliberately designed intensity of a solar power satellite beam is the same as that of a cell phone. You can stand, even live, right in the beam without any known ill effects. Experiments have been done raising multiple generations of birds in that kind of beam without ill effects. (They chose birds because they thought they were more likely to overheat.)
I wonder if once again I am suggesting we just scrap the section. But then I will insist that references to the comparitive cheapness of the SE must go! It depends, as you say, on how many you build and how much you lift. Nevertheless: The fully inclusive cost of the Edwards elevator - if there is only one - is $3,500/kg if the financing costs are included (and the kg includes the mass of the elevator and its shielding!). The SE is not cheap unless you have a lot to lift. Paul Beardsell 22:16, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
That's about what it is today though (~SpaceX, although it's 3x that to GEO currently), the price may very well go down further before an Elevator is built. And even though Rei has said that the price is flat, that's only partly true, there was some mass production back in 1960 which confuses the graph. The price appears to be coming down. Space seems to be privatising, and the lowest cost looks to me like it has been halving every 5 years since 1990 or so. The regulations changed a while back, and some slightly shady deals with the Russian and other launch providers came to an end around 2000. There's also the X prize going on, and a whole bunch of other stuff; it's suborbital right now, but suborbital leads to orbital, particularly when people work out how easy rocketry really is.--Wolfkeeper 23:56, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Yes! But we are not allowed to discuss that here. Paul Beardsell 05:53, 29 May 2004 (UTC)
Even then, I suspect it is not compellingly cheap in comparison to rocketry (if you want to include cost of capital). Are you not interested in exploring that question openly? Even if a govt funds the capital costs, it is OUR taxes that will be used. Paul Beardsell 22:16, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Well, the good thing is that the marginal cost is low. This means that the owner of the elevator is free to offer it at closer to the marginal cost to carefully chosen markets for a while to test out what happens; without losing much if any money. In other words, they can segment the market. It's kinda like a vertical railroad; and that's what they did on the railroads. If the market takes off significantly, then you can increase the volume for the elevator and make more/bigger elevators.--Wolfkeeper 23:56, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Yes, no one is denying that if the payload is high enough the SE will be cheaper. But just how many space tourists are there? Van Allan belt and all. Paul Beardsell 05:53, 29 May 2004 (UTC)
By comparison Rockets have more difficulty reducing their marginal cost; but they can do it. The market is actually THE big problem for rockets AND elevators. The reason that the capital costs haven't necessarily been paid back, apart from government funding issues, is the lack of clear, big, market. But it's clear now that markets like space tourism are real even at $15 million per flight. Imagine what they'd be like at $100,000 per flight; plenty of people can afford that.--Wolfkeeper 23:56, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
It is compelling cheap more easily than rockets, and it has properties that rockets don't have; although vice versa on the properties too. Ultimately, it's probably safer than rockets; but ultimately cost is much closer than it looks right now.--Wolfkeeper 23:56, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
If, on the other hand, you are not interested in the capital costs please leave the discussion alone. Paul Beardsell 22:16, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
Initial investment for a space elevator: $10 billion
Lift cost: $10/kg
Initial investment for the space shuttle program: $10.2 billion
Launch cost: $450 million
Total resources deliverable using space shuttle: 0.0 kg
Total resources deliverable using space elevator (and ships made possible through its use): >total output of Earth/year107.10.53.28 (talk) 06:17, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Economics of the S.E.[edit]

This can be done with a bit of math and a few assumptions: Supposing that the first SE lifting cost will be around 500$/kg and price for rockets will be around 10,000$/kg, we can suppose that the first cargo will be offered for a price of 5.500$/kg, with a net margin of 5.000$/kg for the first times (before other SE enter in the market - around 3-5 years). This imply that for repay the startup capital (10 billions $) we need to lift around 2.000.000 kg. This is around 18 or 24 months of cargos going up at full capacity (20 or 30.000 kg) every 4 days, or around 70 to 100 cargos. Now, the average number of launches every year is around 80-100, so the lifting capabilities is not enought to lift all the needed cargo. Also, the request will be stronger because the lower costs, the lower physical requirements of the payloads (less launch stress) and the request to lift the elements for build other SEs. This imply that for the first years the first SE will be able to work full time, be competitive, profitable and able to repay the startup capital. Even if the cargos capacity is selled with a lower margin, the time needed to repay the costs will be short - not 2 but 4 or 6 years are not a big problem, compared to the periods needed to repay other big infrastructure projects.


The problem is that you only get an elevator after ~14 years of R&D. What do you live on till then? The only good thing I see here is that you don't buy the physical, expensive cable till near the end; but you're still going to have a big debt, plus interest.--Wolfkeeper 00:09, 29 May 2004 (UTC)

On the other hand: Controversially some claim that $5000 or less might be achievable for rockets and, some say, a contract to lift a substantial mass (e.g. 2,000,000 kg) might be enough to allow for the cost reduction. To use the above assumption of undercutting rockets by almost half reduces revenue accordingly. The Edwards' figure for cost is $40bn, not $10bn: A cheaper elevator might not be able to lift 20,000 kg at a time. So perhaps it would take 8 times as long to pay off the capital - 32 or 48 years. Paul Beardsell 15:07, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

But this neglects financing charges: If commercial standards for costings were used (which would be unusual for space projects) then the capital is also accumulating interest and this should be included. Benchmark government bonds are around 5%, so that is another $2bn a year to find. Or at 100 lifts/year, $20million/lift; at 20,000kg/lift this is another $1000/kg. The problem with using the govt bond benchmark is that the project is high risk in comparison to other govt ventures: The risk of failure would have to be assumed by the govt rather than the purchasers of 5% bonds. This risk of failure is the government's subsidy to the project. I.e. the taxpayers' subsidy. Paul Beardsell 15:07, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

Capital need not be paid off at all if the interest is bearable. Let's try and keep the government and the tax payer out of this for a while. A commercial organisation would not be able to borrow at 5% on such a risky venture, more like 15% or $3,000/kg. That makes the total cost including cost of capital $3,500/kg. Now that makes life a little harder for the rockets. All we need now is the project and the customer(s) for the project. Oh, and the krytonite thread from Alpha Centauri. Paul Beardsell 15:07, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

There is a whole lot of diversionary, err, chat below. I wish to proceed. It seems I have derived an all-in (i.e. capital costs included) figure for the SE. Rei's objection arises when I try and assert that it might be possible to derive an all-in figure for rocketry so I will leave that aside but only for the time being. In the interim what objections are there to me saying in the article that the all-in cost of the first Edward's SE lifting 2m kg p.a. is $3500/kg. Where is my reasoning incorrect? Paul Beardsell 15:07, 21 May 2004 (UTC)

Economics: Where did these numbers come from?[edit]

(moved from Talk:space elevator)

The article currently says

"Costs to geostationary orbit are from between $10,000 and $40,000 per kg today. This ... For a space elevator, using the equivalent accounting, the cost ... using the design specs developed by Dr. Bradley Edwards, the cost would be approximately $142/kg"

I would like to document where those numbers came from -- any hints ?

The numbers look identical to the ISR numbers

"The first space elevator would reduce lift costs immediately to $100 per pound, as compared to current launch costs, which are $10,000-$40,000 per pound, depending upon destination and choice of rocket launch system."

(the [2] referenced link in the article), but ISR says "per pound", the article says "per kg".

Would it be OK to use the ISR "estimates" in the article -- at least until better estimates become available ? (perhaps converted to metric like this:

"The first space elevator would reduce lift costs immediately to $220 per kg, as compared to current launch costs, which are $20,000-$90,000 per kg."

) ?

-- DavidCary

The $90,000/kg figure is the highest I have seen quoted in the article or here so far. Maybe that is a Shuttle figure!

There was once a version of the Economics section which made it plain that the costs quoted for the elevator were marginal lifting costs - i.e. the figures make no attempt to recover initial capital expenditure. I have been unable to work out from the Edwards figures whether the "operating costs" figure includes the cost of electricity. As many aspects of operating costs would not be related to the actual tonnage lifted I would have expected two figures in the Edwards paper - fixed and variable. At least one person here thinks the operating costs figure includes electricity but this assertion was not backed up with a quote or reference.

Also, seeing that we are talking about a speculative project which, should it be built, will not to be built for decades, it seems to me that to compare the speculative costs of the elevator with the current costs of rocketry is not the best comparison to be made. The consensus seems to be that there is a potential to reduce rocketry costs to perhaps 25% of today's costs. Some private companies are getting involved and they are presumably hoping to make a profit out of their rocketry offerings so it is rational to assume capital financing costs must be factored in to their figures. Even if this potential to reduce rocketry costs is speculative, even if it takes decades to realise it seems fairer to compare the speculative costs of the future elevator with the speculative costs of future rocketry.

The marginal costs of the elevator will be lower than rocketry and there are significant impacts on the cost depending upon the direction and type of the cargo. But(!) there is a significant startup capital cost to the elevator. The question as to economic viability can be reduced to one of where the break even point is: How many tonnes do we need to move to justify an elevator?

These are issues which need to be reflected in the Economics section.

Paul Beardsell 10:58, 12 May 2004 (UTC)

20,000-90,000$/kg is just flat incorrect (they almost always cost over 10,000$/kg, although 40,000$/kg seems a bit high, and 90,000$/kg is right-out); rockets do not cost that much (BTW, the shuttle isn't one of the most expensive rockets, although it's not cheap either. . It often gets a lot of blame because it was hyped so much and we spent so much developing it, but it's not an incredibly bad craft persay; just a craft not worth the investment we put into it). The 142$/kg is what you get when you run the numbers for Dr. Edwards' model for a first-generation elevator, as was stated. If you want to include the numbers for other models, be my guest.  :) The baseline is important to include because, as power transmission technology advances in later generation elevators, the efficiency of the elevator is relative to the transmission efficiency. Rei 16:05, 12 May 2004 (UTC)

Good changes on the article, Psb. I think that's a fair assessment. Rei 16:48, 14 May 2004 (UTC)

Factual dispute[edit]

Could you please list, in detail, exactly what you're disputing in that economics section now Paul? I've been very unimpressed with your complaints previously, so I'm not inclined to leave that dispute message in there without some sort of explanation. Bryan 00:43, 15 May 2004 (UTC)

Read NPOV. The economics section of the article to be taken seriously as being a definitive encyclopedic article it must be fair and free of bias. We were getting there, slowly, but now we have just taken a backward step. The most recent edit of the section has changed several of the "could"s into "can"s. It goes onto imply that the $1.74 so-called limit can be approached much more closely than it can in reality. The article states: "Only with the advent of high-coherence diode laser arrays or similar technology could a space elevator near its baseline lift cost." (my emphasis). The implication is that $1.74 is a limit which can be approched as if it were an aymptote. But thermodynamics tells us that the conversion from electricity to light has an absolute efficiency limit which is a fraction of 100%, not approaching 100%; the atmospheric losses will never be better than a fraction of 100%, not approaching 100%; the conversion back to electricity has a maximum efficiency of a fraction of 100%, not approaching 100%; the conversion of the electricity to mechanical energy has a maximum efficiency of a fraction of 100%, not approaching 100%. Thermodynamics tells us that none of these conversions are 100% and that technological changes will never allow to approach 100% efficiency in any of the steps: We can improve but 100% is not a limit we can approach asympoticially. The efficiencies are multiplicative - not additive. If any of the conversions is max 10% efficient then the whole set of conversions considered as a whole can never be better 10%. Multiplying out the best possible efficiencies for each of the step: 40% * 10% * 30% * 50% (or whatever the numbers are) is 0.6%. $1.74*1000/6 = $290. $1.74 is not approachable. Paul Beardsell 01:46, 15 May 2004 (UTC)

I just fixed all of the things you complained about above. Anything else? Bryan 02:03, 15 May 2004 (UTC)
That's a big improvement and I have made a small but important change myself. The general principle is that the authors of the article are required to make it NPOV. That you saw fit to make the change you did so quickly means that you must agree that it was not right. Why, therefore, did you (and the other authors of the article) let it stand? It still reads in places as if $1.74 is an achievable limit. If heating of the atmosphere is always going to mean 10% transmission efficiency then the limit is 10*$1.74 = $17.40: Even if everything else is 100% (which it is not). To imply otherwise is not factually accurate, nevermind NPOV. Paul Beardsell 02:21, 15 May 2004 (UTC)
The reason the change was so easy to make was that, IMO, it was utterly trivial. If this was really the only problem you had with the section as it stood, why didn't you just do this yourself instead of hauling out a dispute header? Bryan 02:25, 15 May 2004 (UTC)
You cannot have less of a problem with the factual accuracy than the dispute header? The problem isn't solved, just improved. There is some room for other further improvement and some of those are obvious. I'll make them. On Sunday Paul Beardsell 02:35, 15 May 2004 (UTC)

The article said "using the design specs developed by Dr. Bradley Edwards, the marginal cost per kilogram lifted would be approximately $142". I added to a link to the ISR page that quotes a price (where Dr. Bradley Edwards is the director), then changed this to $220/kg because that page says $100/lb.

That page says "Additional ... elevators, built utilizing the first one, would ... reduce lift costs even further".

That seems to be implying that the $220/kg *is* paying off capital costs, since the marginal costs for each elevator should be about the same, but the capital cost of the second elevator would be less. But it's a little too vague.

The article says "Costs to geostationary orbit are from between $10,000 and $40,000 per kg today. ...Development costs might be roughly equivalent, in modern dollars, to the cost of developing the shuttle system". I'd like to add a footnote to this noting where those numbers came from -- an external website or, preferably, a link to another article -- perhaps Rocket.

I've been told the InternationalSpaceStation ISS has an estimated total cost of about $100 billion; would that be a relevant comparison ?

I replaced "The lower limit on the cost of payload transfer, given the current power grid rate, and the admittedly unrealistic assumption of no conversion and transmission losses, is around $1.74 per kg." with "The electricity cost, given the current power grid rate and current laser and solar cell efficiency ( 1% ) is $32 per kilogram"

which I get from this calculation (please tell me if this is incorrect): "it takes 57e6 N*m = 16 KWh of energy, per kilogram, to move any mass from the ground to geosynchronous orbit (allow me to call this "orbit energy"). It seems that the Space Elevator would be at least 1% efficient at converting wall plug electricity to "orbit energy". My last electric bill gives a "fuel rate" of less than $0.02 per KWh. This gives $0.02/KWh * 100 * 16 KWh per kilogram = $32 per kilogram = $15 per pound. (Imagine if we could bump that to 2% efficient !)." (-- )

That still doesn't seem right -- if $1.74/kg was the price at 100% efficiency, I expected to see $174/kg at 1% efficiency.

Well, at least I showed where the numbers came from, so it should be easy to fix if I'm made a math-o somewhere.

-- DavidCary

Kinetic energy of 1kg at geostationary orbit
E = mv^2/2
  = 1kg x (11000m/s)^2 / 2
  = 1*11000*11000/2 = 60MJ
1kWhr = 3.6MJ : 10c
61MJ : US$1.70

Gravitational potential energy of 1kg at geostationary orbit
Energy = Impulse = force x distance
F = -GMm/r^2 = -GM/r^2 (m=1)
E=Integral[r=6*10^6,(6+36)*10^6]{-GM/r^2}dr (Joules)
=GM(1/6*10^6 - 1/42*10^6)
=6*10^(-11) * 6*10^24 * (1/6*10^6 - 1/42*10^6)
=6*10^7 * (1 - 1/7)
=5*10^7 J
=50MJ           <==== close to DavidCary's figure.
=US$1.40 (at 10c/KWh)   <==== Different price to DavidCary.

But that was digging deep into what I thought were long lost skills and so might be wrong. It also depends on the price of the electricity. I think $0.02 / KWh is not right. At 10c the $1.74 doesn't seem to be way out. But that, as we all acknowledge, is the energy taken by the mass - not energy sent to the mass! Orbit energy must include the kinetic energy? But, amazingly (to me!), we get that for free (well, transferred from the Earth for free).

Edwards says overall system efficiency is 2%. So: $1.74 * 50 = $87. But that is energy cost only and does not include operational costs nor does it include capital costs. Having another look at Edwards it seems he has electricity included with the other operational costs. The total cost, capital, operational, electricity all included is $40bn. That makes all of these calcs moot: Just divide $40bn by the lifted kgs (although last time I proposed this there were one or two voices of protest). Now I cannot find out how many kg's he (or anyone) is proposing to lift (for whatever purpose other). Anybody?

Paul Beardsell 03:32, 16 May 2004 (UTC)

Yep, I fumbled this -- read the wrong line from my electricity bill. Rounding to $0.10 is fine. [[2]] -- DavidCary 10:22, 27 May 2004 (UTC)

There are two issues to address here. The first one is the energy issue. The kinetic energy is imparted by the elevator itself. You *do* get it for free. The second issue is Edwards efficiency. The reason he and I have different numbers here (he uses 2%, I use 0.5%) is that Edwards goes on speculative tech (his speculation is quite realistic for his timeframe given what techs are currently in the lab, but it is not current commercially-available tech); I go by current tech. Lastly, since rockets do not repay capital costs as I already demonstrated
I'm sorry, but you've only demonstrated that for the Space Shuttle and Ariane. For all the other launchers you have not provided evidence, and chances are the launch providers wouldn't tell you. I happen to know that the unit cost of Proton has been as low as $6 million, but the list price is $80 million- the cost price of the Soyuz is $5 million and yet the list price is much more than that. The Russians have been making a consistent profit on these vehicles; you do not know whether they have or have not been effectively repaying capital. Do you have an external reference for this claim? --Wolfkeeper 22:17, 27 May 2004 (UTC)
For God's sake, please either learn what you're talking about or don't comment.
Love you too.
No Proton rocket costs 6 million dollars.
Do you have a source for that contention- what the costs to the manufacturer actually are? Didn't think so.
Perhaps the 8K82K (without any 4th stage) was 6 million dollars in 1964, but no Proton rocket costs that much in modern dollars - READ [].
Um wrong: [3] (and Gary Hudson should know, he's a professional rocket engineer who worked on the cheap Atlas launch vehicle, teaches at universities, headed up Rotary Rocket etc. etc.) Don't forget the order of magnitude lower wage packet in Russian block countries; and they've implemented the most significant mass production techniques in any launch vehicle production environment. These guys are good.
And when you say "Proton", for God's sake, state which Proton rocket you're referring to. It would be like me saying "the Saturn rocket costs N dollars....".
These are paranoid Rei 'last years money is worthless' dollars naturally. Let me guess, you don't have training in accountancy?

You happen to know - where is your reference, Mr. Reference? Soyuz costs 5 million? For God's sake, the Kurs system alone on the Soyuz TM costs 5m$ [4] Who do you think you are, claiming this sort of nonsense without a reference? Rei 22:42, 27 May 2004 (UTC)
Yes, and it was reused multiple times, and hence is a one off or few off cost. Which bit didn't you understand in the article? You can see why they're upset about it; it costs them as much as the Soyuz to leave it up there.
Wow, you actually provided a reference! One, and it was from an online chat group, but that's far better than you normally do  ;) Of course, you stupidly added together the cost of the launcher he cited and the soyuz cost and ignored the fact that Soyuz is the spacecraft portion, and it doesn't go anywhere unless strapped to a booster. So, let me get this straight: you're trying to claim that the Kurs system costs twice as much as the craft itself? Oh, that is so rich, I don't know where to start. Please explain that, with all of the complex equipment in and raw bulk of the Soyuz, that a navigation system costs twice as much as all of it combined (since half your number comes from the launcher). I'll be quite amused to hear this. Rei 16:31, 28 May 2004 (UTC)
with the shuttle and you never constested, it is utterly unfair to make the elevator do so in its calculation. Sorry for the boldface, but you're ticking me off by refusing to address that while still trying to make the elevator repay capital costs. I refuse to allow such an unfair comparison - one repaying capital costs, with the other not doing so - into the article, and I will contest it to the end.
On your recent changes: The baseline cost MUST stay in the article. It is the basis for all calculations, and allows people to determine how, as techs change, the cost changes. However, this time I put in the middle of a calculations paragraph; hopefully, that will finally convince you that there is no sort of evil motive to try and make people think that space elevators are going to cost 1.74$/kg any time soon (which there NEVER WAS, and if you weren't so insistant on trying to read some sort of advocacy mal-intent into this article, you would have realized that long ago). The other change you made simply added inaccuracy. Adaptive optics already exist. Therefore, it is not "could" - it is "can". Adaptive optics exist, and work. And, selecting a wavelength that minimizes atmospheric loss is a given. It's not "could" - in fact, it *will* happen should an elevator be built.
How dare you try and talk about trying to make this "NPOV advocacy"? You've done little but try and add insinuation and false statements to try and make it look unrealistic. All you have done is advocate against the space elevator, and have done so by trying to omit numbers that you don't like, trying to put in unbalanced comparisons (such as capital costs repaid vs no capital costs repaid), putting in false adjectives ("could" instead of "can", etc). Sorry for going off on you against this, but I'm getting tired of it. Rei 16:05, 17 May 2004 (UTC)
Rei, you put words in my mouth again. You continue to unfairly characterise what I have said. And what you have said! Some of the edits you criticise me for were not made by me. You are rude and offensive. And you cannot multiply. Paul Beardsell 21:40, 17 May 2004 (UTC)
Actually, Paul, I think Rei's been extremely patient with you so far; she's been spending a heck of a lot of time and effort to address the issues you've been raising, whereas it often appears to me that you aren't putting in much thought or effort of your own on the subject but instead simply flooding the talk: page with sheer volume. Your bias is also quite obvious, IMO, and objections like "The station will drag and the cable (being made of kryptonite using nanotechnology imported from Alpha Centauri) will drag the station into collision with your favorite holiday destination" don't speak very well of the level of discourse you're willing to engage in. Before you start accusing Rei of getting confrontational and being unable to perform basic arithmatic, consider how this discussion has looked from the other side. Bryan 00:13, 18 May 2004 (UTC)

Brian, when I have been wrong I have admitted so. The specific example you quote is a case in point. Do I need to go trawl through the history to find my admission and your response at the time? Rei does continue to put words in my mouth, she does continue to misrepresent what I said. She is continuingly rude and personal with it. What I am "guilty" of is attempting to bring some balance to an article robustly but sometimes wrongly defended by enthusiasts. The bias may be unconscious but I note the flawed arguments presented by Rei (e.g. that there is no scope for rocketry cost reductions and anyone who thinks so is either a fool or calling NASA and half the world's scientists stupid (and I have toned that down considerably)) are not contradicted by you. The recent changes which have been done to the article most of which in one way or another I instigated are positive ones. Even changes which I did early on to the article itself are now in the article, even if under a different form of words. But there is some way to go yet. Paul Beardsell 01:22, 18 May 2004 (UTC)

It's not what you said that I'm pointing out in that particular case, but the way you said it. Your claim that you're trying to bring balance to the article is weakened by the appearance of bias, such as in the old comment I quoted above. I agree that Rei's wording in the comment you refer to was also somewhat harsh, and I've also succumbed to frustration once or twice too, but I also happen to agree with the basic point she was making there; you were insisting that rockets could be made dramatically cheaper than they are today but at the same time being far less willing to consider technology advances making the elevator cheaper too. By all means ask questions and point out what you believe might be mistakes, but don't make such a show of trying to "win the argument" against space elevators. It's not like we're trying to decide whether Wikipedia is actually going to build one. Bryan 04:55, 18 May 2004 (UTC)
Admittedly I have a robust style but it seems I am trumped in that department by someone of whom you are uncritical. It is bias against which I am reacting. How the article has changed since I started annoying you and Rei is the point. Indeed, we are not deciding to (not) build the thing: We should be documenting the concept (which is well done - hence the recent featured article status) and the economic case for and against. The Economics section still does not do so correctly. Or, if that is not what we are supposed to be doing, we should scrap the Economics section. Paul Beardsell 13:18, 18 May 2004 (UTC)
I must admit that even though your approach here on this talk page has seemed POV to me the results that have been going into the article itself have been quite good overall. I apologize for writing at such length about what I think about the goings-on on this talk page instead of focusing on discussing the article as I should, I let myself get carried away. Looking over the recent edits to the article suggests that we're back in the groove again, everything looks good to me, so hopefully the remaining problems can be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Bryan 00:34, 19 May 2004 (UTC)

My most recent edit to the article, which points out the incontrovertible fact that only the non-wasted energy, and only a part of that, can be recovered is a good example. When I made it on this Talk page there were paragraphs of vitriol from Rei in response. Let's see if it is now allowed to stand. Paul Beardsell 01:38, 18 May 2004 (UTC)

I made some minor changes to create more links to other articles, clarify acronyms, and I think even cleaned up grammar in one or two places. I now leave you to continue the dispute :-) --Ilya 05:55, 30 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I have doubts about the economic benefits of a space elevator. A quick mental calculation gives me a weight for the space tether of at least 1,000 tons (probably much more). This weight, plus any payload carried up the tether would still require adding energy to the orbiting station. I find it hard to believe that there would be any economic gain even if a suitably reliable tether material were found. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Samuel Cerebus (talkcontribs) 10:02, 20 November 2008 (UTC)

Still in dispute?[edit]

This article's had a factual accuracy dispute tag for two months now with no edits to either the article itself or the talk: page. Is the dispute still ongoing, or should I remove the tag and archive this talk now? Bryan 18:30, 25 Sep 2004 (UTC)

There's been no response to my question for another two months. I'm removing the dispute tag now. Bryan 02:02, 22 Nov 2004 (UTC)

This article is riddled with excessive citation neededs, whens, factual disputes and other stuff. Seems like someone went crazy and tagged every other word. Time to clean up some of these superfluous notations! User:Vsevolod4 25 Aug 2009 —Preceding undated comment added 04:57, 25 August 2009 (UTC).

Birds, cellphones and the space elevator[edit]

Copied from above:

Another self justification of the SE - we build the SE to allow us to create ways of powering the SE! "6 PM news: Today another equitorial village was burnt to a cinder by the malfunctioning orbiting solar array. Edwards Group shares tumbled on NASDAQ." Paul Beardsell 05:53, 29 May 2004 (UTC)
This is of course nonsense. The deliberately designed intensity of a solar power satellite beam is the same as that of a cell phone. You can stand, even live, right in the beam without any known ill effects. Experiments have been done raising multiple generations of birds in that kind of beam without ill effects. (They chose birds because they thought they were more likely to overheat.) [wolfkeeper, in recent hours]

Reference please. Divide the watts received by the area of the collector. Telecomms is very different to power transmission. Paul Beardsell 10:09, 26 Sep 2004 (UTC)
23 mW/cm^2 compared to 140mw/cm^2 of sunlight.
Also, read "The High Frontier" by Gerard O'Neill.
Not to mention that the use of a retrodirective phased array for transmitting the power beam would make it physically impossible to focus the microwave beam anywhere except right on the reciever itself, as detailed in Solar power satellite#Safety. Bryan 07:14, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Not physically impossible. You can always program a phase offset to shift it. It would however be extremely unlikely to accidentally miss. Also, the physical size of the array and the solar panels limit the focusing of the beam at the ground, so even if you could shift it, nobody dies. -WolfKeeper
It was my impression that each element of the satellite's emitter would have a firmware control circuit for this, requiring one to physically access a geosynchronous satellite and replace thousands of control circuits throughout the emitter in order to override the "safe" behavior. Physically possible, but not very practical even for the legitimate owners of the facility. Bryan 02:19, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)

From PNA/Aerospace[edit]

Space Elevator costs (IEEE article)[edit]

A recent IEEE Spectrum article ( the following stats: current cost: $20,000 per kilogram, After one space elevator: $200 per kilogram, After multiple space elevators: $10 per kilogram. I suppose the the total cost reduction is open to debate but a space elevator will reduce the cost by a few orders of magnitude (from thousands to hundreds of dollars per kilogram)

The time and money cost in USD were, Estimated cost for first Space Elevator: 15 billion USD to construct Estimated cost for second space elevator: 3 billion USD to construct. This reduction is cost is due to the fact that the R&D and other costs would be already completed for the first space elevator which should reduce the price of subsequent space elevators.

Economic Evaluation on main article talk page[edit]

Please see a large economic evaluation on the main Space elevator article talk page that has been moved there from the main article. It may have some good points, but needs a lot of work before it can be article material, since much of it is written in first person with reference to second person viewpoint, both of which violate Wikipedia style. Hu 09:43, 26 December 2005 (UTC)

Factual accuracy[edit]

Some systems under development, such as new members of the Long March CZ-2E, offer rates as low as $5,000/kg, but (currently) have high failure rates (30% in the case of the 2E).

Long March rocket claims there have been no failures since 1996, but I'd rather have someone knowledgable about this stuff double check it than make the changes myself. Taw 00:22, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

SE Economics[edit]

Dr. Edwards wrote an article for IEEE ( in which he cited a figure for the achievable reduction in orbital payload costs ($/kg).

The relevant paragraph states, "It all boils down to dollars and cents, of course. It now costs about US $20 000 per kilogram to put objects into orbit. Contrast that rate with the results of a study I recently performed for NASA, which concluded that a single space elevator could reduce the cost of orbiting payloads to a remarkably low $200 a kilogram and that multiple elevators could ultimately push costs down below $10 a kilogram. With space elevators we could eventually make putting people and cargo into space as cheap, kilogram for kilogram, as airlifting them across the Pacific."

The Wiki[edia articles ( specifies that "Skylon would be suitable to launch cargo and particularly people to low/medium Earth orbit. The space elevator can move only cargo...." This is false. Much of Edwards' book discusses moving humans to orbit via the SE. Satellites can be hoisted by a SE to orbits lower than GSO but would require onboard rockets to adjust their elliptical trajectories into roughly circular orbits.

I was under the impression that a space elevator could place objects in orbits to the Moon and beyond simply by making the cable longer thereby going past GSO. That seems to be what the article ( under the section "Launching into outer space" is proposing. If the cargo was released directly into GSO than it would simply stay there and only need rockets to move away from the elevator itself. Is this incorrect or am I misunderstanding your statement? Colincbn 07:21, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Why not humans?[edit]

In this article you state "Skylon would be suitable to launch cargo and particularly people to low/medium Earth orbit. The space elevator can move only cargo although it can do so to a much wider range of destinations.[6]". Why do you claim that a space elevator can only move cargo? I have never seen this statement made anywhere else. Do you have a citation? The citation "6" only refers to the space elevator having the ability to reach a wide range of orbits.Colincbn

In a lecture given last Tuesday, Tom Nugent of Liftport said that "it would be a long time" before the space elevator could carry humans, because it would be a long time before the car that can protect humans from radiation sufficiently well can be designed and built, and a long time before the cable will be sufficiently strong to lift it. siafu 18:45, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Ok, thank you, but "a long time" & "not able" are not quite the same thing, especially when we are talking about a project that as of yet has no real expected completion date. I am not in any way saying that the elevator, if built, will be able to do this or not be able do that. I am just curious as to why the wording of this article seems to imply that moving people would be impossible for an elevator as apposed to the Skylon space plane. If I am misunderstanding the statement then please forgive me, but if the contention is that it will take a lot of work and/or research then it is my opinion that the above statement is a bit too strong. The fact is that any space elevator at all will likely take a very large amount of time and research to complete, and during that processes I would imagine that a lot of energy would be put into the task of making the possibility of human transport with the elevator viable. Of course I am in no way an expert in any of these fields and therefore cannot contribute any real relevant data. However after reading the Edwards proposal and other recourses regarding the space elevator concept, it seems to me (a layman in this field) that the general consensus is that the elevator would be used for all types of cargo, including human transport. Therefore if this article is contesting that point I feel it would be appropriate to reference outside sources so that individuals like myself with no real background in this field would be able to understand the reasons for the contention. Again I am not trying to argue for or against any points made in this article, I am simply asking for clarification.Colincbn 06:46, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
The statement probably is a bit too strong. But I didn't write it, I was just pointing out what the difficulty is in transporting people on the space elevator, permanent or not. The problem is simply that the space elevator will be much slower than any other transportation to orbit, and thus will spend more time in the Van Allen belts, exposed to massive amounts of radiation. It's an engineering problem, not a fundamental physical one, and the goal of course is to transport human cargo. As for the "expected completion date", liftport actually did the numbers and put together a timetable that can be shifted to the start date of construction: [5]. siafu 12:56, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Moving cable economics[edit]

I came at this problem from a different direction, namely building solar power satellites at a high enough rate to make a big difference in the carbon and energy problems. After getting a 2000 ton per day rate, I looked into the problems of scaling up space elevators. The big problem was power. 2000 tons a day needs most of a GW at 100% efficient for the lift to GEO. That's not so hard, but apply a 1% efficiency to it and you are up to 100 GW, which is one heck of a lot of power, 1/3 of all the coal fired plants in the US.

After people realized that taper was most likely required for real materials (even nanotubes) they gave up on moving the cables like an elevator. Now there are some really nice things about mechanical power, like very high efficiency, typically electric motors to mechanical power conversion is better than 90%.

So I got to thinking about a step taper design where the number of strands changes at "pulley stations."

The faster you go, the more throughput for a given mass of elevator. So I set the speed as fast as I thought you could get away with in the atmosphere, 1000 mph. That reduces the transit time to GEO to one day and *might* be fast enough for human travel (radiation).

I stole Brad Edwards' "build it up from bottom starting with a thread" idea and got Keith Lofstrom's help to solve the problem of how one grabs on to a 1000 mph cable. (Smart guy Lofstrom.)

At 2kg/kW and $0.10/ kWh, a 1000 kg of SPS parts delivered to GEO will return about $440 a year in electricity sales. So if you are going to build SPS and sell the power for less than the current prices, the installed cost (including the rectenna) has to be below $880 a ton for a sub two year payback.

An interesting metric here is that it takes about 5 GW days to lift a 10,000 ton, 5GW power sat. So when the power sat comes on line it pays back the energy needed to lift it to GEO in one day.

If someone wants to work some of this into the article, be my guest. Here is the ref.

A 2000 tonne per day Space Elevator ESA Conference presentation Feb 2007 Keith Henson 16:46, 17 October 2007 (UTC)

Nice presentation. Slide 6 made me laugh though. I'm pretty sure that's not how looped elevators work- the way you've done it is you're carrying the entire weight of the elevator on pulleys. You could do it that way, if you're insane ;-). What you do is install pulleys on a fixed, tapered elevator cable and just run the *payloads weight* on the loops and pulleys. Total mass doesn't go up much if you do it that way (with care); the way you've done it the mass of the elevator goes up by a massive amount - the weight of the pulleys changes the strength/weight ratio in a major way.WolfKeeper 17:30, 17 October 2007 (UTC)
Your jumping beyond the buildup stage. You are correct, that's the way it would be done in a very mature system. But there is no reason for the pulleys to be a big part of the mass of the system. We are talking about a 100,000 tons of cable, and a few tons of pulleys. The reason for the cardboard tubes and rope was just to see if the *geometry* could be worked out. The idea is that the strand on the left goes all the way up being supported at the pulley stations by the other strands. Which means the elevator cars have to have a way to clamp to the cable on the other side of the pulley when they encounter one.
The reason for this approach is that the cable is one loop. So you can start with the minimum cable and as it goes around, keep adding thicker and thicker cables. Keith Henson 18:43, 20 October 2007 (UTC)


Much of this article relies on speculation, unpublished synthesis and is bordering on original research. This is totally unencyclopedic. (talk) 08:39, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

The links to chapters are dead but they were available on the Internet Archive. This appears to be self-published, hence is not a reliable source. (talk) 12:40, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

It wasn't self-published. They were copies of the NIAC papers, which were published by NASA, and ISR were a reliable source anyway.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 16:04, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

The sheer quantity of tags in this article render it completely unreadable. Either the tags should be removed, or the information should be removed and only added back when it actually has citations and is cleaned up. (talk) 15:39, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

Agreed with on this ... tags should be removed, or at least the bulk of them; keep a few general tags for the sections. Someone went overboard with tagging. (User talk:vsevolod) 25 August 2009. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Vsevolod4 (talkcontribs) 05:00, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

Most of the tagged claims turn out to be in the referenced material; but weren't very carefully matched. Let's get digging and fix this. -- (talk) 05:32, 8 December 2009 (UTC)

Costs of current systems (rockets)[edit]

Pegasus cost per launch= US$11 million (1994); payload-to-LEO= 443 kg[6];

  • cost per kg = 11e6/443=$24,830.70 x (convert 1994 to 2004 dollars, assuming 4.9% inflation) = $40063

-- (talk) 04:10, 7 December 2009 (UTC)

here's a link to good supporting material on economics of space flight[7] -- (talk) 15:05, 8 December 2009 (UTC)

good table over at Non-rocket_launch[edit]

Non-rocket_launch#Comparison David Woodward (talk) 14:55, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

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OK, I am going to be bold and delete the tags that in my opinion don't fit. If anyone objects, please revert and we can start discussing it here. Guy Macon (talk) 16:29, 9 March 2011 (UTC)

unnecessary / redundant section[edit]

Why is the "launch loop cost estimates" section even in this article? A launch loop is a theoretical method of Non-rocket spacelaunch, but it is not a space elevator, and its cost estimates are therefore irrelevant to space elevator economics. I'm going to remove this section, as it is copied verbatim from the Launch loop article anyway. Wingman4l7 (talk) 01:00, 21 March 2011 (UTC)

Cost of building it[edit]

While everyone was arguing about the launch costs, did anyone notice the part where they claim the elevator itself can be built for ~8x less than the International Space Station cost? Does anyone have a reference for a slightly more realistic estimate? I'm having trouble finding one.

The Edwards study proposes building a 36,000+ km long, 750 ton object for $20 billion, when the 500 ton ISS in low earth orbit cost $150 billion. And Edwards assumes a nanotube cost that proved to be complete BS (A 2003 promise from the Mitsui company for $100/kg that never materialized). Not to mention the cost of cleaning up all space debris. Edwards is certainly a significant citation to include, and it provides rationales for these points, but it's obviously extremely naive. Surely there's some other, more realistic evaluation of the situation we can include as a counterpoint?

Qwerty0 (talk) 06:18, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

P.S. At the moment, this is the best I have: Elon Musk in print and video laughing at the idea and pointing out some problems with it (i.e. a bridge from LA to Tokyo would be easier, to put it in perspective).
Qwerty0 (talk) 02:04, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

NPoV Violation[edit]

The article should really be labelled as violating NPoV, in that it consists of nothing but uncritically repeating the claims of a single space elevator advocate, Brad Edwards. After the introductory citations to the cost of rockets, every reference is to Edwards. (talk) 22:52, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

"a much wider range of destinations" ?[edit]

The article says "Early space elevator designs move only cargo, although to a much wider range of destinations", did it mean to a much ***narrower*** range of destinations? I would imagine that the Skylon could go anywhere right? It would help if that were explained a bit better. Fresheneesz (talk) 23:39, 11 December 2015 (UTC)

No sense in comparison[edit]

For comparison, in potentially the same time frame as the elevator, the Skylon, a 12,000 kg cargo capacity single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane (not a conventional rocket) is estimated to have an R&D and production cost of about $15 billion.[12] The vehicle has about the same $3,000/kg price tag.

So first, what is similar about 3,000/kg and 220/kg pricetag? Why is chosen this concept (considering it's hardly the cheapest availible, nor current)? If the capacity of the spaceplane is mentioned in comparison, why can't I find the capacity of the space elevator in the article? --HaruMatsuPi (talk) 08:19, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

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