It is … balloon!
Thoth Technology, a Canadian engineering design firm, has received a patent in the United States for an inflatable tower capable of reaching a 20-kilometer (12 mile) height, suitable to be a launching platform for space-bound vehicles and/or for tourists who would like one heck of a view. Composed of Kevlar cells inflated with hydrogen or helium, the tower would also feature gyroscope stabilizers to control movement (which could be considerable in light of jet streams that typically circulate at 7 – 12 kilometer and 10 – 16 kilometer altitudes). Ben Quine, chief technology officer for Thoth, envisions lifting payloads with a “self-climbing” elevator that traverses around the exterior of the tower “for the view”, although “The safety engineers are going to want it on the inside”, he told Canadian Broadcasting (CBC).
Having just read stories about a 20-km tower in our July book, Hieroglyph, the Beamers may be early ticket holders for the observation deck when it opens. It may take a while; Quine has created a 7-meter (23 foot) prototype, and Thoth is looking for a construction firm to collaborate on a 1.5-kilometer demonstration project within 5 years. For comparison, the current tallest human-built structure on Earth, the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, is *only* 858 meters tall and NYC’s One World Trade Center is *merely* 541 meters.