Buckminster Fuller was a scientist and engineer who developed
tensegrity space frame structures. These are used to build things
like geodesic domes, and the C60 molecule is called fullerene in his
honor. One of the things he noted in building very large domes like
the astrodome in Texas, was how the weight of the dome scaled with
size. Dome weight is a function of area and area goes up with the
square of the size. The volume of air - and so the weight of the air
- goes up with the cube of the size. When you got aluminum and glass
spheres more than 500 meters across the weight of the air vastly
exceeds the weight of the sphere enclosing it. So, by heating the air
slightly, the sphere can carry substantial weight. The weight of a
small city. This was the basis of the Cloud Nine Tensigrity City.
These can be tethered to the Earth, or better yet, free-floating!
Using the jet-stream to navigate around the planet.
To me these always seems a starting point to building cities in
To this end I've looked at my larger concentrating balloons that I'm
building for my solar concentrators. These 40 meter diameter balloons
contains 33,510.3 cubic meters of air. The air weighs 42.7 metric
tons! The sphere itself is made of 5,026.5 square meters of tough
transparent PET plastic film - similar to that used in sail boat sail
cloth. One kilogram of this stuff - infused with kevlar fiber -
covers 17.6 square meters. The stuff is tough enough to take 500 mph
wind loads! It weighs only 285.6 kilograms 0.3 metric tons. By
heating the air slightly a NET lift of 8.25 metric tons is produced.
This is the weight of a fully equipped motor home!
By capturing half the solar energy falling on the sphere - and using
it to electricity at 60% efficiency - 377 kW is produced when the sun
shines. Averaged over the day - 100 kW is possible.
An Enstrom 480B helicopter masses only 825 kg empty and carries no
more than 535 kg. The Rolls Royce turbine engine that powers the
helicopter generates 420 shp or 314 kW.
An electric version of this system, using fuel cells and electric
motors is possible.
Making hydrogen and oxygen from water and sunlight is what I do.
So, a 40 meter diameter transparent sphere supporting a tracking
concentrator - that powers a multi-junction photovoltaic system that
operates high temperature electrolysis at the focal point during
daylight hours to flash water into hydrogen and oxygen at very high
efficiencies - and store the hydrogen on board - while capturing the
heat to maintain a large temperature difference between the outside
air and air within the sphere - should be possible. The sphere
supports not only the power system, but also a mobile home arrangement
along with a docking system for two Enstrom 480B helicopters adapted
to run on a hydrogen fuel cell - with hydrogen obtained from the solar
power setup aboard the 'floating home'
The docking system would adapt the hook and trapeze system developed
for parasite fighters and used on bombers like the B36 in the 1950s
and 60s dirigibles like the Akron 30 years before that.
This aerial yacht would float at 2,000 meters (6,500 ft) when it
wanted to visit a place - and use the helicopters to shuttle between
the surface and the home. In transit the home would rise to 30,000 ft
(the habitat has a turbine to maintain air pressure just like any
pressurized aircraft) and ride the 100 mph+ jet stream winds.
Doppler radar aboard and satellite communications allow for detailed
planning of riding the natural waves of air circulating around our
The volume of the system and area is rather large. This suggest that
perhaps plants might be grown around the base of the sphere -
surrounding the pressurized cabin - using a form of aeroponics
Yields from enclosed aeroponic systems are such that all fruits and
vegetables for a family of four is easily obtained from such a system
aboard the home. It also adds a touch of green around the aerial
Ocean going yachts go for between $2 million and $200 million.
Private jets run in the same price range. An aerial solar powered
yacht nearly independent of the Earth below, should be worth as much
as these, and give engineers the opportunity to begin building systems
that will one day be useful in making cities in the sky, and
eventually cities and colonies in space.
A dozen test systems would prove out the various concepts, and once
proven successful, safe and reliable, homes might be offered a few
years after testing was started. Half the homes - outfit to the
highest standards by interior design specialists - would then be sold
at market rates (~$50 million each) or leased at this rate ($100,000
per week) with experienced crew - trained on board - to earn half a
billion dollars to expand on this program and begin building larger
systems - Cloud Nine Cities - of 1,000 or more - where each home there
is $2 m+ (or $4,000 per week). A city of 1,250 would generate $2.5
billion - which builds an even larger city. A city of 10,000 at
$500,000 each generates $5 billion in sales.
Within 10 years we could be selling
100 aerial yachts per year earning $5 billion.
2 cities of 1,250 each per year earning $5 billion
1 city of 10,000 each per year earning $5 billion
This income exceeds NASA's budget, and is about half that generated by
companies like Boeing or Lockheed.
Building a heavy lift launcher along with solar power satellites while
including space colonies and space homes would be a logical
progression along this development arc.
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