By 2025, people may be able to soar more than 12 miles above the Earth by simply riding an elevator.
The Canadian space company, Thoth Technology Inc, has received a US patent for a free-standing space elevator that could one day take astronauts aloft where they could take space planes into Earth's orbit.
Caroline Roberts, president and CEO of Thoth Technology Inc., said the space tower, coupled with self-landing spacecraft, would soon bring about a new era of space transportation, making space flight more like riding in a passenger jet.
The tower also is expected to be used for tourism, as well as communications and to generate wind energy.
"Transformative technologies are always exciting to Thoth," Roberts wrote, in an email to Computerworld. "The elevator will enable millions of people to experience the view from near space and reduce dramatically the cost of space exploration, enabling humanity to explore our solar system."
Thoth engineers began working on the design for a space elevator in 2007. Their goal is to build a nearly 1-mile high tower within three to five years as a demonstration of their design and building capacity.
The 12-mile-high tower, which is estimated to cost about $US5 billion, would be erected in eight to 10 years, according to Roberts.
At this point, it's not clear where the demonstration model or the 12-mile elevator will be built.
"We are planning to license the technology to partners around the world," Roberts wrote. "We may hold a competition to determine where to install the demonstrator or this may be determined by construction partners."
The structure's design includes a deck where companies could lease space for their communications equipment.
At 7.5 miles to 8.5 miles up, the company plans to build a wind farm with 50 turbines that would generate 1 gigawatt of continuous energy. That much energy could power about 700,000 homes.
The wind farm would have turbines mounted in rows with blades specifically designed to harvest continuous high-velocity winds in the jet stream.
Tourists also are expected to be able to ride the elevator to experience being12 miles closer to space.
"We plan to offer tickets for visitors to ascend to the [12-mile] level for approximately $1,000 U.S.," wrote Roberts. "The tower will enable around 1,000 visitors per day to experience the near-space environment first hand from a pressurized viewing lounge. The trip to and from the observation deck will take one hour."