New Space and Tech

Liftport – The Space Elevator Companies Shuts Down

By Marc Boucher
April 8, 2013
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Editorial by Marc Boucher

Starting a business from the ground up is extremely tough. I know, I’ve done it a few times. So I’m not surprised to read that Liftport has shut down operations. This is according to what’s posted by Brian Dunbar in the Liftport blog.

Building a Space Elevator will not be an easy endeavour. The hurdles to overcome are numerous. Currently a community effort, led by Bryan Laubscher, is underway to build a roadmap that outlines the steps needed to build the first space elevator. Some companies will choose to follow the roadmap, others will not, others still will focus on a particular niche of the roadmap. No one company today will start from scratch with the stated business aim of building a space elevator and succeed, it’s too soon. Companies today interested in the space elevator need to focus on technologies, materials needed for the space elevator and produce tangible spinoff products that can be made the foundation of a business. The space elevator is no ordinary product, so applying traditional business models and fundraising techniques won’t work.

Liftport created their own roadmap, one in which they stated that in 25 years they would start sending cargo up an elevator. What investor today who is thinking about a return on investment would consider such a long term investment? None who have the funds to get such an endeavour off the ground. And in applying traditional business models this is in part where Liftport went wrong. And I feel for those who made emotional decisions to invest in the Liftport Group. In fours years Liftport went from one company to a group of four companies. This was all part of the fundraising strategy. And while they got a lot of people excited, raised expectations and did do some work, for the most part what was produced was hype. And hype is not a product, and without a product and with your expenses mounting the day will come when your business fails.
But space elevator enthusiast should take heart in knowing that while this effort is dead others are going strong and the community is growing as is our knowledge base. Ben Shelef works tirelessly with the SpaceWard Foundation to put on the Space Elevator Games which has been growing each year and generating community involvement on scale I don’t think he even expected. The shared knowledge, collaboration that is the result of the games is priceless. There is also the private ventures which aspire to build the foundation first. And by this I mean new materials development which is at the core of any space elevator effort. Companies like Black Line Ascension led by Brad Edwards are working on a technique for creating mass quantities of carbon nanotube material which can be used for more than just the foundation of space elevator cables. Others still like Tether’s Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) are working on other technologies which have real world applications today. In fact TUI reached a milestone as their MAST experiment reached orbit today on Dnepr rocket.

So while some people may mourn the passing of Liftport I would say that the community is stronger than ever, private efforts are making progress and the passing of Liftport will not have an effect on the effort to some day build a space elevator.

Note: Full disclosure. Bryan Laubscher and Brad Edwards are unpaid editors for the Space Elevator Reference. SpaceRef Interactive Inc., publishers of the Space Elevator Reference has no financial interest in Black Line Ascension or any other space elevator related company.

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.