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Space elevator edges up

19/02/2006. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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LiftPort Group, the space elevator companies, has announced that it has successfully completed its second round of preliminary tests of its high altitude platform and robotic lifters.

The tests, which were conducted under a waiver to use airspace granted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), used prototypes of proprietary technology the company is developing for use in the LiftPort Space Elevator, the company's revolutionary way to ferry cargo into space.

In this phase of testing, conducted earlier this month in Arizona, LiftPort successfully launched an observation and communication platform a full mile in the air and maintained it in a stationary position for more than six hours while robotic lifters climbed up and down a ribbon attached to the platform. The platform, a proprietary system that the company has named "HALE" (High Altitude Long Endurance), was secured in place by an arrangement of high altitude balloons, which were also used to launch it. The robotic lifters measured five feet, six inches and climbed to a height of more than 1500 feet, surpassing its last test record by more than 500 feet.

"We're pleased at the success of this round of testing," said Michael Laine, president of LiftPort. "Testing our technology in real world settings is critical to the ultimate success of our space elevator, and we appreciate the FAA's willingness to work with us on this."

In addition to the LiftPort Space Elevator, the LiftPort HALE system has other near term commercial applications that the company plans to develop and market. These include security, high altitude observation cameras, acting as a relay station for radio, cellular or Internet access during natural disasters, or for real time surveillance over the damaged region.

A revolutionary way to send cargo into space, the LiftPort Space Elevator will consist of a carbon nanotube composite ribbon eventually stretching some 62,000 miles from earth to space. The LiftPort Space Elevator will be anchored to an offshore sea platform near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, and to a small man-made counterweight in space. Mechanical lifters are expected to move up and down the ribbon, carrying such items as people, satellites and solar power systems into space.

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