Frank and the Orbital Siphon

In sorting through Frank’s papers I came across the October 2006 edition of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. On page 368 was a paper titled ‘THE ORBITAL SIPHON: A NEW SPACE ELEVATOR CONCEPT’ which was authored by Frank – then still known as Chris – Davis and Colin McInnes of Strathclyde University. They had presented the paper as ‘Novel payload Dynamics on Space Elevator Systems at the 56th International Astronautical Congress at Fukuoka, Japan in October 2005.

Frank, in his younger days, had read Arthur C Clarke and the potential of some the ideas stayed with him. His development of the siphon theory – moving minerals from an asteroid back to earth – seems to have moved up a gear when he was able to produce computer simulations in the nineties which were later picked up online by Colin McInnes. Together they fleshed out the concept before introducing it at the Fukuoka conference in 2005.

It took – and still takes – a particular quality of imagination to accept the thinking involved, let alone the practical implications. But Frank regularly walked untravelled roads. So he booked a JAL flight and a room at the Hakata Green Hotel and spent a week figuring out their language and their food. He didn’t say if they figured him out…

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9 Responses to Frank and the Orbital Siphon

  1. RdM says:


    Interpreting handwriting for OCR is a whole other thing, endeavor, but trying to find that original article is not easy at all either.

    I tried a search on author and title but got no results.

    Next fortnight, October 8th, folk are invited to meet virtually at 5 PM EST/10 PM UK time, at the virtual bar that Frank created, with help from Nisakiman, here:

    You just need a camera and microphone to participate.
    There’s an entrance page where you can check your settings, appearance.

    It’s just a virtual pub, with some regulars, who’d like to greet new comers.

    In celebration and memorial and appreciation of Frank.

    • jaxthefirst says:

      What a lovely thought. Alas, my computer is so old and decrepit that I have neither camera nor microphone on it, so I won’t be able to join you. But I will be with you all in spirit!

      • RdM says:

        Actually it turns out that one does need a somewhat modern web browser as well, one could run some Linux OS on old hardware and get that, but on an older Windows PC or laptop or Mac that might not be possible.

        However if your browser was up to date, Chrome Edge Firefox or others, it might work sort of. You might be able to see & hear us.
        We’d only see a placeholder for you. But you’d be there.

        You’d maybe hear and see us all. But only as a visible silent viewer…

        Well, how smart is your phone, and what type is it?

        Android or iOS?

        You might be able to get a video and audio interaction on it?

        But if not, hey, I suspect the community will be around for a while.

        Maybe we could talk about recording it;- but that would be against the rules.

        Frank swore privacy, when a Spanish chap wanted to come in.

        In the depths of revolution, he needed trust.

        Some of us may remember that.

        I’ll have to search out his name again.

        Cheers and no worries!

        Maybe the phone will work!?

  2. RdM says:

    While anyone can have a look at that link, even share it with others, it might be worth looking at the Getting Started notes in advance.

    It would be great if we had a few more people than usual attend on this anniversary.

  3. Emily says:

    Thank you for this post and for embedding the paper. I am going to attempt to tackle it though I know I won’t understand any of it.

    And thank you very much as well, RdM, for posting the info about Frank’s memorial and celebration on October 8.

    I’m afraid I have some sad news. I learned yesterday that Barry Homan, a longtime commenter on Frank’s blog, regular at the Smoky Drinky Bar, and a friend of Frank’s and of many of us, suddenly passed away on Thursday of a blood clot.

    I am deeply saddened and I will miss chatting with Barry on Saturday evenings. He was a humble, hardworking, and deeply kind person.

    • RdM says:

      It’s terribly unfortunate news about Barry, Emily, and but thank you for sharing it. We’d only just talked the week before. Alone in the SDB.

      We were just starting to get to know each other, after initial aloofnesses.

      He’d taken the vaccine so that he could visit his 90+ yr old Mum in the US.

  4. RdM says:

    Gosh Andrew (I have a brother named the same) I didn’t see it first time round, it didn’t seem to load … now I can. The text I mean.

    Thanks again. No need to search bis after all. ;~


  5. RdM says:

    A favourite kind of jazz track …
    I’m thinking of my own post and during funeral tunes too.

    Life Goes On

    Sort of laid back in a trio jazz way … I hope not too irreverent.

    Listen at a good volume … enjoy!

    In a quiet contemplative way, of course ;=})

  6. Yvonne says:

    With the anniversary of Frank’s passing, and someone who seldom commented, I just want friends and loved ones know that there’s hardly a day that I don’t miss his posts. The world isn’t the same without his curiosity and insights that he shared without asking anything in return.

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