The goal of the program was to design, build, and test virtual models and software libraries that model the technical development and surrounding economic environment of an Endogenously-Powered Space Elevator, which would utilize the energy generated by gravity using materials brought back to earth by space mining companies. This process would create an electrical loop, allowing satellites, scientific equipment, and other materials to be taken to space at near zero marginal cost. Split into two teams, the Technical Team and the Economics Team, the participants were to build mathematical models for an architecture capable of delivering these payloads into orbit.
Space mining companies will, in the near future, be delivering payloads from space back to earth, providing enormous quantities of potential “fuel” in the form of work done by the gravity of the falling payload. The thesis to be tested and developed by participants in Copernicus was that this energy can be harnessed using an electromagnetic drive to lift up payloads from earth.
The original concept for the Zero Energy Space Elevator actually comes to us from antiquity, when Roman scientists considered building an aqueduct harnessing the potential energy of falling rocks to move water upward. The Roman joke was that this “perpetual drive” will work until mountain ceases to be a mountain. Our objective was and still is, among others, to deliver a payload to space in an economically viable way in cooperation with a space mining company, catalyzing the space exploration revolution, which today is held back almost singularly by the cost of catapulting payloads out of earth’s atmosphere using expensive rocket fuel.
The current concept of the space elevator includes a tether stretching from the surface of the Earth to geostationary orbit. To keep the tether taut with gravitational and rotational forces, the center of mass of the space elevator has to be kept above this orbit. A climber is attached to the tether, which carries the payload up to the space station or to a satellite. The energy supply in our hypothesis would be derived from the falling mass using electromagnetics or other potential mechanisms, making our hypothetical model bi-directional instead of uni-directional, as are most existing models. As there are multiple possibilities for achieving this, part of the challenge presented to participants of Copernicus was to model each possibility and analyse both the technical and economic benefits and challenges of each.
At the end of the program the participants were supposed to attempt to integrate the physical and economic models of the EPSE into a dynamic mathematical model using mechatronics concepts. Building on the results of this work, participants aimed to write a final paper to be submitted to Open Access journals and scientific conferences.