Study: Wobbling a Major Problem for Space Elevators

A controversial new study suggests that building reliable space elevators could be a lot more difficult than advocates believe due to severe tether wobbling, according to New Scientist.

Lubos Perek, of the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Astronomical Institute in Prague, said current space elevator designs are probably not stable enough. Thrusters would need to be attached to the tether to control wobbling, making the project more expensive and complicated.

A space elevator consists of a tether anchored to Earth that extends into space. Centrifugal forces from the Earth’s spin will theoretically keep the cable taut. Vehicles would climb along the tether without the need for expensive propulsion systems, making space access cheap and reliable.

Other experts quoted in the New Scientist article do not believe that wobbling will be a major problem. Perek thinks that despite the challenges, the idea is worth pursuing because of the advantages space elevators would offer.