Space Elevator Could Be Rocket Alternative for Astronauts

It sounds like science fiction but technology company has patent on system.

— -- A proposed space elevator stretching 12 miles into the stratosphere could cut out the need for rockets to shuttle astronauts into space, according to a proposal from a Canadian company.

It sounds like an idea out of a science fiction novel, but Thoth Technology has been granted a patent for an inflatable, pneumatically pressured tower stretching 12.5 miles high. The top of the so-called space elevator would serve as a liftoff point to space, potentially saving more than 30 percent of the fuel of a conventional rocket, according to the company.

"From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refueling and reflight," Brendan Quine, the inventor of the ThothX Tower, said in a statement.

By removing the need for the vertical launch of a rocket, energy can be saved, allowing space passengers to catch a horizontal flight, much like a passenger plane, from the top of the space elevator.

Aside from being a final stop for astronauts before heading out of this world, Quine wrote in a filing with the United States Patent Office that the tower could help with wind-energy generation, communications, scientific research and tourism.

While it's just an idea for now, the patent moves it one step closer to potentially being another way to revolutionize space travel.