Thien The Thang Máy

People have been talking about building space elevators (or, if you prefer the tepid name, a “tethered satellite”) since the late 1800s. In Progenitor, it’s designed in 1979 and completed by 1982 on Halmahera Island. It is the brain child of Nguyet Cam, whose access to celestial real estate soon causes tremendous alarm throughout the rest of the world. Rightfully so: Orbital kinetic energy weapons are some of the earliest projects the space elevator (official name: Thien The Thang Máy) puts in place.

The satellite at the end of the ribbon is 600 tons and 62,000 miles from Halmahera. The lifting car from earth to sky travels about 100 mph and can lift five tons. It takes almost a month to get to the very top at that speed, but trips to the last stop are rare at first. More common are trips 300-400 miles up to put objects in asynchronous orbit, or up to the geosynchronous strip at about 22,200 miles (a nine-day trip each way). That’s where Vietnam starts a space station called Tham Vong in early 1983 (though it’s not completed until 1992).

After a certain point (15,500 miles up) mass no longer has to be lifted along the ribbon. If you can get it that high, centrifugal force pulls it to the end and, if it isn’t braked and stopped, it catapults into space like a ball from a jai-alai stick. By 1995, there’s more than one elevator running up and down Thien The Thang Máy. The base elevator shuttles from the ground to either the asynchronous orbit level (a six-hour round trip) or it takes the 222 hour trip to Tham Vong and unloads tons of material. Two smaller elevators at Tham Vong go either up or down, carrying material on to the top of Thien The Thang Máy or down to asynchronous height.

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