Elon Musk has indicated (ex.: Tweet) that he has little interest in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with respect to the concept of an orbital elevator, claiming in essence that the development is simply not far enough along or doesn't show enough promise.

And pls don't ask me about space elevators until someone at least builds a carbon nanotube structure longer than a footbridge

If this is the case, one option for a forward-thinking launch provider would be to fund some research with some of the money that's being used to fuel these other endeavors.

As CNT research is still in its infancy and companies like these tend to be short turnaround cycle mission driven, it may be more prudent to help fund one or more existing research efforts than to create one internally.

So have SpaceX, Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic, or any other similar companies funded any research efforts into carbon nanotube?

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    $\begingroup$ It is orders of magnitude easier to build a functional orbital rocket than a space elevator, and building rockets is still pretty hard. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Aug 23, 2021 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ @DJG I've made an edit to address some concerns in comments. As long as you stick to questions that can have fact-based answers rather than asking for what someone might think, I think your question will be fine. voting to leave open $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 23, 2021 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh solid edit there. It changes the question from bashing people into a factual question, without changing the underlying question. $\endgroup$ Aug 24, 2021 at 7:59
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    $\begingroup$ @DJG other way around...Starship could potentially get down into the double digit $/kg, potentially an order of magnitude cheaper than estimated for a space elevator. Without the throughput issues, limited orbits, long radiation belt transits, and other limitations of a space elevator. It doesn't even need any borderline physically possible supermaterials. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2021 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ If operated using synthetic propellants produced using non-fossil energy sources, Starship would be slightly carbon-negative. Even using fossil fuels, it's within the measurement error of global emissions. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2021 at 15:42

1 Answer 1


It is unlikely.

I don't know about the others (though they are likely similar) but SpaceX is in price competition with the big aerospace companies. Musk competes by implementing manufacturing improvements (easy when building from scratch, hard when infrastructure is already in place) and by using off the shelf technology. They use as many commodity products as they can.

It would go against their business model to fund research. If someone makes it, they will buy it. Otherwise, they would have to lose their price advantage that they have over the big aerospace companies.


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