Following the completion of the Martian beanstalk in 2112, the EF began work on a beanstalk to be tethered in Gabon, one of the provinces of the West African Protectorate. The EF/AB-Benz beanstalk, a marvel of 22nd century engineering, overcame the technical challenge of building an orbital tower in the much stronger gravity of Earth. The orbital terminal, the city of Artsutanov, soon became the most important of the cis-Lunar platforms.
Building more beanstalks on Earth was really an unnecessary duplication, since the speed of surface transport and its practically unlimited capacity allowed the Gabon-Artsutanov tower to satisfy all of Earth's bulk interface needs. However, the effective monopoly AB-Benz and the EF possessed, and the huge profits and strategic advantage this monopoly position conferred, meant more beanstalks were inevitable. Therefore more were built, in Ecuador and Malaysia, later in the century.
The beanstalks enabled the true opening of the High Frontier. The increase in the number of orbital facilities and the population of cis-Lunar space was dramatic. By the end of the century the population of the orbital habitats was around 100 million. The Orbital Republics grew into substantial cities at the Lagrange points (the largest at L4 and L5, the points 60° behind and ahead of Luna). Most of the orbital population, however, lived in a constellation of corporate, independent or UN/EF habitats in synchronous orbit (especially around the beanstalk terminals).
For more than a century there had been specialist industries thriving in orbital space, producing power sats, ultrapure materials and pharmaceuticals. Now, though, essentially all of Terran heavy industry moved into space. Both energy and raw materials were freely available on Luna, and could be exploited without the fear of polluting a biosphere. Soon the helium mines and scientific outposts were vastly outnumbered by heavy-element mines, refineries and factories, and the cities that grew around them. Factories in orbital habitats were supplied with materials launched by railguns from the Lunar surface or, more importantly, from the carbon-rich asteroids of the Belt.
Towards the end of the century, the increasing importance of the mining operations in the Belt began to worry the Lunar corporations. To re-establish their competitiveness, GLO and other operations on Luna formed a consortium to build a Lunar beanstalk. This consortium became Adam Smith Lunar. The chosen site for the surface terminal was Tsukuyomi, a Japanese city in the Gilbert highlands. The beanstalk more than restored Luna's position as the industrial centre of the Earth-Moon system; ASL was so successful that it was sold off as a large Corp in its own right.
The economies of Luna and the Cis-Lunar region grew at an extraordinary pace throughout the century. Orbital space became the ideal location in the solar system. Anywhere on Earth or Luna was only days away by low-energy trajectories and Mars or the Belt a matter of weeks. Cis-Luna became the major corporate location, although most board members kept their wilderness sanctuaries as main residences.
Cis-Luna: 1 | 2 3 | 4 5 | Now
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