Launch Loop Recent Progress
I last presented the launch loop at ISDC in Chicago at 2010, and other venues such as the Space Elevator Conference. Although my main effort lately has been server sky, that has resulted in useful improvements to launch loop as well.
Space Elevator Reference Design First Stage
Launch Loop is still the best way to launch megatons of payload into space per month, but a simpler, lower speed launch loop style structure is being considered for a "first stage" of the space elevator reference design. Working with Dr. John Knapman of Chandler's Ford, UK, we have a design that eliminates icing, wind, lightning, and other severe problems that make the space elevator incompatable with the dense atmosphere. The high platform supports payload logistics, radars for collision avoidance, and UV lasers for better focusing and high climber efficiency.
The Capture Rail is a "vestigial" space elevator for apogee circularization. This structure captures vehicles launched by the launch loop, decelerating them vertically on their way towards MEO and higher orbits. Since capture rails orbit and hang a relatively small distance into the gravity well, they can be built with available engineering materials.
Remote Laser Ablation Thrusters for launch loop vehicles
The simplest possible launch loop vehicle will be entirely passive, with no more than a transponder to help with location. It may need a few meters per second of delta V applied to precisely line it up with a capture rail, compensating for lunar and solar tides and launch errors. Small thrusts can be generated by bolting a few panels of carbon-impregnated polyoxmethylene plastic on the side, and pulse-ablating the panels with distant lasers, either on loop platforms from the earth's surface, or orbiting and solar powered. With milligee thrusts, velocities can be changed many meters per second over a multi-hour transfer orbit, and the position by kilometers. One steerable laser platform can serve hundreds of vehicles at once.
Kalam Kinetic Battery
The Kalam Kinetic Battery was inspired by an offhand remark by Dr. Kalam at the 2010 ISDC. By cycling a stream of ton-weight masses through mass drivers in high orbit and on launch-loop platforms high above earth, we can move terawatts of energy without focusing microwave beams. This is more speculative - it may prove impossible to blance all the velocities and angular momenta.
I've also added material on:
Zero To Eighty, Edwin Fitch Northrup's 1937 book on electromagnetic mass drivers ... including photographs of actual machines that sent much larger payloads to higher speeds than the 1970's Holm & O'Neill desktop experiments.
I was also approached to advise on a Hollywood "science special" on launch loop. Since I would rather work with people who don't waste time watching TV, and don't want to waste any more of the time of the people who do watch TV, I refused. See my essay Death By TV for an extended rant, then please find something important to do with your precious and unique life and mind.
As always, look at http://launchloop.com/RecentChanges for more updates.