A list of things to do
Any large engineered system will have lots of things to do. The biggest problem with the Launch Loop is not that it is large, but that it may need multiple significant inventions to work, which is a formula for failure when constructing new technology. My former boss Wink Gross said "Too many things that oughta work is a not oughta work".
T.J. Rogers of Cypress Semiconductor tells us (I paraphrase) "Change only one thing, execute rapidly, observe carefully, and repeat often". If you try two innovations at once, and fail, you will have a hard time telling which of your innovations failed.
The fact that the Launch Loop may need multiple innovations at once is a weakness, not a strength, unless you are attempting to get a lot of unearned money to feed a lot of lazy researchers. With that said, here are some things that need innovating:
- A careful study of winds and weather on the equatorial ocean. Winds ultimately scale everything else.
- Better understanding of waves and storms in the equatorial Pacific ocean.
- Controllable actuators for the stabilization cables. A cheap way to lengthen or shorten these cables without burning static power.
- Lightning will induce large potentials in the sheath - these need to be transmitted to the rotor core without uncontrolled arc-overs.
- Accurate modeling of the control system. Maybe the existing systems at particle accelerators can help, as they face similar problems in controlling the beam.
A design for the linear induction generators that feed the track electronics.
- Better tensioners for the rotor.
- Low-cost low-weight laser measurement systems.
- Meteor bumpers for the sides of the launch loop.
- Accurate design of the vehicle magnet system.
- Accurate design of the passenger reentry system.
- Better study of very long marine anchor cables, and dynamic positioning.
- Reference design for a loop-style power storage system for electricity network load leveling - a near-term money-making application. How to drill the tunnels? Where is the best place to drill them? How deep do they need to be for safety?
- Plane changes. It may be cheapest to do an "atmospheric skip" one orbit later, trading velocity/drag for a polewards velocity change to move a vehicle into a non-equatorial orbit. Otherwise, rocket boosts at apogee will take less delta V than such changes at perigee. Otherwise, a Launch Loop may need to be oriented with inclination to reach similarly inclined orbits.
- A good method to start the launch loop. At low speeds, the rotor is unable to support the final structure. The loop will stay on the ground or on the water surface and will be vulnerable to waves and wind.
That was after thirty minutes of thought. This list is going to get much longer and more orderly. Off-the-shelf re-uses of existing technology is far more useful than new inventions, so please share news of successful technologies that can be adapted to launch loop.
What is NOT needed
- "Suggestions" without detailed analysis. 99.99% of all ideas are stupid, and if you don't have the technical capability - that is, the time and the fortitude to learn and analyze and do math and risk disappointment - then don't expect me or anyone else to provide it.
- Free computer time on your home computer (or your bosses computer). If you can write an accurate simulation, wonderful, we can probably find someplace to run it. Raw cpu cycles are far less useful than a good plan for using them.
- Money in small amounts. If you can locate enough money to keep a number of researchers busy for months or years, lets talk. If you want to send 20 bucks somewhere, buy a calculus book and learn how to help. Or give it to some educational charity and tell them it is from the space program - bolix up the folks that say "fix problems on Earth first".
- Praise. Accomplishment is its own reward. Don't let us rest at a halfway point on empty praise. Swollen egos have destroyed more projects than any hurdles mere nature can create.
- Demands for time and attention. What is sad about this is that the arrogant twits that think nothing of wasting hours of other's time will ignore this message and pester me, while the quiet thoughtful people with something useful to add will probably be scared off by this ranting. A useful yardstick might be - are you self-critical? Would you rather be anonymously right rather than be rich and famous? If your ego is small, and your capacity for self-examination is high, you may well have something to contribute.