Broadcast 1739 (Special Edition)

20 Mar 2012 Michael Laine
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Guest: Michael Laine. Topics: Lunar space elevator, general space elevator discussion. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. We welcomed Michael Laine for updates on his company LiftPort & their latest space elevator plans. Michael started the discussion with an overview of his involvement in the space elevator project, his company LiftPort up through its fiscal problems, the reestablishment of the company with intellectual property, & a lunar space elevator study from 2010-2011. He brought us current with LiftPort plans into 2012 plus what the company & his team have planned for the balance of the year. Michael talked about his team, issues relating to a lunar space elevator, how the Moon rotates/spins differently than the Earth, & how an elevator would be different than an Earth-based elevator which he said cannot be built at this time. He made the point that the lunar elevator could be built now, does not need a carbon nanotube ribbon & will likely go from Sinus Medii on the Moon to an orbiting spaceport at the Earth-Moon L1 point where there might be a Bigelow station with EELV or Falcon 9 flights coming up from Earth. He also said the early flights would be robotic but that both capability and capacity would expand to include humans. He was of the opinion that the basic lunar space elevator could be completed within a decade. Eric called in to challenge some of Michael's technical analysis. Michael offered to send the math analysis of the project to anyone requesting it. His email address can be found at the end of this summary. Later in this hour long segment, I asked Michael about business issues, the market, financing (public, private, both), ROIs, & more. As you will hear, this part of the LiftPort plan is unfinished. Michael's team has been confirming the math analysis for the project & has yet to refine their business plan/due diligence analysis. When pressed, he said the cost might be around $700-$800 million but they were increasing that to $1.5 billion to be a bit conservative. He also said this was for a small elevator with a payload capacity of 40-240 kg. In speaking about the commercial aspects of the project, he repeated many times throughout our discussion that they were focused on cash flows and the commercial aspects but first they needed certainty about reaching the technical "go" point. In our second segment, Michael continued his theme that they do not yet have the business plan components in place. I then asked if this was nothing more than a feasibility project? That seemed to summarize our discussion so far. Michael did point out that LiftPort already had two intellectual property (IP) assets so the company was positioned to make money even before the elevator project got going beyond the study phase. I pressed him for his public finance plans. His idea was based on the Railroad Acts which included bond sales guaranteed by the government with the government providing sufficient business revenues to support the bond guarantee. A listener brought up the issue of space debris & climbers. Michael pointed listeners to their YouTube channel to see their climber in action. Mars elevators were mentioned near the end of the program as well as LiftPort internships. We also talked about the recent Japanese company's announcement of their own elevator plans (Obayashi Corp.). Michael also suggested the space elevator conference (http://spaceelevatorconference.org). Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog URL above. You can email Michael Laine at laine@liftport.com).

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