Were I able to build a space elevator (ignoring for the moment that I can't due to current material science etc), what issues would there be relating to atmospheric conditions? Presumably it would be a very good lightning conductor. Would this be an issue? Could it actually be used for the capture of energy? My thoughts are that it might prevent the occurrence of lightning as any electrical buildup in its vicinity would be dissipated to earth by the conductor itself.

Also, it would provide a direct conductor from the solar wind down to the earth, so would there be a way of collecting energy from this? Could it be protected from this with a self-generated magnetic field?

  • $\begingroup$ It is an interesting question, but where does the space elevator bring us? $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Oct 22, 2017 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew To GEO. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Oct 22, 2017 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew See here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_elevator $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2017 at 12:44

2 Answers 2


According to "Space Elevator Technology and Research", John Knapman, International space Elevator Consortium, JBIS Vol 69 issue 6/7 pp.211-219; the major issues are ice, wind pressure (particularly in the troposphere where it can exceed 1kPascal) with electrical storms only being mentioned in respect of protecting payload and the climber solar panels. (This paper strongly references "Space Elevators: An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward", Peter Swan et al; which may be a better source of information, but I don't have access to it)

Tether material is presumably NOT a good conductor, as beamed power is the "usual" method of powering the climbers - although a carbon nanotube cable to supply a self climbing fairing for the first 40km is considered.

IAC-13-D4.3.7 "How do Intense Magnetic Storms affect a Space Elevator" A.M. Jorgsen and S.E. Patmia may also be of interest


I have done some internet research on this before out of interest. I'll list the things I found or thought of that could effect a space tether bellow. Hopefully some one else with some real knowledge on the subject can give you an answer, I would also like to know what outside effects would affect a space tether.

  • Condensation: this could add a lot of extra weight, and cause a lot of water to run down the tether.
  • Earths magnetic field: if it is conductive and if you run power through it. It would generate electricity or force moving through the earths magnetic field
  • Lightning/electrostatic:
  • temperature: cable could expand and contract in different places at different speeds
  • Moon/tide: gravitation effect on the cable would change for different heights at different times of the day.
  • radio waves: If conductive I assume would act as a big antenna
  • wind, rain, ice: all your normal weather activity as well.

What I think would also be interesting with some of the effects on a space tether would be how you would stop small effects from building up and destroying the tether like happened in the Tacoma Bridge.

For example if the tether got a wave traveling up the tether created by tidal forces could if have harmonic build up? Would you need to add dampener like they do with tall buildings?


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