Dec 062012

In the age of Google, the human memory doesn’t need to be what humans once needed it to be. So when Google fails… that’s a problem. My problem: I suddenly remembered reading an online discussion, some years back (anywhere from maybe 7 to maybe 19 years back), of the tallest building possible. The context was the nutty idea of using it as a launch pad for a space rocket, and someone mentioned that the USAF (?) had asked an aerospace company (General Dynamics?) to do a study just to see if it was possible. My *vague* memory has it that the answer came in the form of a lightweight carbon fiber structure shaped like a pyramid, something on the order of 10 kilometers tall. But buggered if I can find a single reference to this idea. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

 Posted by at 11:53 pm
  • Michael the Somewhat Civilized

    Mountain launch system patent:
    There’s more. I’m looking.

  • Ed

    You cou ask try asking Henry Spencer…

  • publiusr

    This one is a real hoot.

    HLLVs? Nah! Too expensive, ponderous!
    10km artificial mountains and 20,000+ mi tall space elevators? Please tell me more!


  • Peter Hanely

    Several years back I considered something similar. By using an exponential taper, where the cross section is proportionate to the weight above, heights greatly exceeding the characteristic length of the material are possible. This doesn’t account for the foundation that might be needed for a compression structure, which would likely be the real world limiting factor. Once the tower gets large enough the planetary crust starts buckling.

    • Peter Hanely

      with some idea of the engineering, I was able to find
      Google really works a lot better is you already know some key details of what you’re looking for.

      • Anonymous

        Wow, a Usenet discussion thread that’s not a simian crap-hurling extravaganza!

  • Anonymous

    Using carbon fiber in compression?

    • Anonymous

      That’s my recollection. Diamond would be better, of course… but if you’re building mountains out of diamond girders, I’d think space launch would be pretty trivial.