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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3 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.

  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.

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