Asteroid-Tethered Structure Is Ultimate High-Rise

FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2017

You would have to buy a spacesuit, because your residence would be at an elevation of 32,000 meters (105,000 feet). Step outside, and you would be in a near-vacuum. The temperature would be about minus-100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Doesn’t exactly sound like ideal living conditions, but a New York architecture firm proposed a design in March that would begin with construction of the world’s tallest building, and then hang it from the sky suspended by air cables—to an asteroid.

Reach for the Sky

Clouds Architecture Office’s Analemma Tower borrows on the concept of a space elevator, which uses an orbiting counterweight tethered to Earth by a long cable that, once built, could provide more affordable access to space.

“Analemma inverts the traditional diagram of an earth-based foundation, instead depending on a space-based supporting foundation from which the tower is suspended. This system is referred to as the Universal Orbital Support System (UOSS),” CAO said in a statement. “By placing a large asteroid into orbit over earth, a high strength cable can be lowered towards the surface of earth from which a super tall tower can be suspended. Since this new tower typology is suspended in the air, it can be constructed anywhere in the world and transported to its final location.”

The cost? Start at “astronomical.” Still, CAO believes the tower would more than recoup construction expenditures. The publicity generated by the project and the fact that it “taps into the desire for extreme height, seclusion and constant mobility” by a more discerning—in other words, “rich”—clientele.

Getting It Off the Ground

CAO would build the 20-mile-high tower in the sky over Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, citing “tall building construction at one-fifth the cost of New York City construction.” The finished tower—business offices and retail space at the lower end of the structure, with sleeping quarters two-thirds of the way up—would be shipped to New York.

The entire system would orbit at the same speed the Earth turns. It could hover over a relatively narrow area instead of zipping around many times per day, like the International Space Station does. The slowest part of the entire trajectory would happen over New York, and the entire trip would take 24 hours. The loop would include passes over the south east coast of the U.S., Cuba, Ecuador and Peru.

Rock and a Hard Place

Of course, there is the not-so-insignificant matter of finding and securing an asteroid.

Clouds Architecture Office

An asteroid would orbit about 30,000 miles above the Earth. Tens of thousands of miles of cable would suspend the apartment complex, which nearly scrape the planet's surface.

According to CAO’s plan, an asteroid will be captured and brought back to orbit Earth. It’s similar to what NASA’s soon-to-be-canceled Asteroid Redirect Mission does.

The giant chunk of floating space rock would orbit about 30,000 miles above the Earth. Tens of thousands of miles of cable would suspend the apartment complex, which nearly scrape the planet's surface.

An extra bonus for sky-dwellers: a 40-minute increase in daylight each day because of the curvature of the Earth.

Clouds Architecture Office realizes living in what might be the ultimate high-rise structure might not be for everyone. Still …

“While researching atmospheric conditions for this project, we realized that there is probably a tangible height limit beyond which people would not tolerate living due to the extreme conditions," CAO admits.“Then again, astronauts have continually occupied the space station for decades, so perhaps it’s not so bad?"

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11 a.m. on Friday (April 21) to correct the elevation measurement.


Tagged categories: Aerospace; Building Envelope; Design; Design build; North America; Residential contractors

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