Trying to find a story that I read a couple years back -- Can't recall if it was an online short or something in print, though I'm fairly certain it wasn't more than novella length.

The protagonist built a linear accelerator based on a mountain top and extending into the air for miles (balloon lofted, I think) to launch cargo and eventually manned craft. Of course, they face the usual sabotage / espionage type issues, etc etc ..

Ring any bells?

I should note that it isn't Moon is a Harsh Mistress, since that does seem to be the top search result when I try to Google and the first answer I've received in here. I think the story was written more recently.

Started a bounty, maybe with the beta going public someone might be inspired to locate this - unfortunately my attempts to Google it have failed. It isn't a DD Harriman story, fairly certain it isn't a Heinlein at all -- I think Matthew Nichols is correct that this was an online-only publication from the past few years.

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    I remember this story and have been looking for it also, though I don't remember the name either. I believe it was only available online and there was a series of stories about the same engineer. I agree that the platform was suspended from balloons (solar heated). There was also an incident of one of the maintenance workers jumping from the platform and parachuting down for the thrill of it. Hopefully someone else knows where to find it. Jan 15, 2011 at 17:19
  • Yeah, that's definitely the same story. Hopefully one of us figures it out.
    – Saiboogu
    Jan 15, 2011 at 17:31
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    I love that you added a bounty to this, but it seems that "help me remember" questions aren't allowed and should be closed.
    – Slick23
    Jan 20, 2011 at 19:21
  • Got a citation? I saw the one closed recently that wasn't phrased as a question.. Think that was a bit overboard, but I've got that covered anyway.
    – Saiboogu
    Jan 20, 2011 at 19:24
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    I found the discussion over on meta. Odd, and I hope we can somehow permit this type of question here.
    – Saiboogu
    Jan 20, 2011 at 19:30

7 Answers 7


The Bridge to Space by Mike Combs. Spent another half hour or so with Google today when the site started reminding me that the bounty was running out. There are also a few more stories featuring the same protagonist, like Matthew Nichols recalled.

  • Thanks for finding that...I had looked in the past but not found anything. Jan 29, 2011 at 13:25
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    @MatthewNichols I have updated this answer as the links were pointing to a dead site. I have added a link to the story but can you verify it is defiantly the one? Jan 23, 2015 at 12:15
  • That is the correct story. Thanks for updating the answer.
    – Saiboogu
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:08

It's more than novella length, but linear accelerators were important in Heinlein's novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", and the protagonist was shot to Earth by one.

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    Upvote for a good answer, but that's not the one I'm thinking of. I think it was written relatively recently (past 5 years or so).
    – Saiboogu
    Jan 15, 2011 at 16:06

It's been forever since I've read it, but I am 95% certain that DD Harriman built a linear accelerator up the side of Pike's Peak in 'The Man Who Sold the Moon' by Heinlein.

I don't remember anything about balloons holding it or carrying it, but it has been more than 25 years. :)

  • And there are several other short stories with DD Harriman in them as well.
    – geoffc
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:35
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    Yeah, DD Harriman has some crossover with Lazarus Long, especially Long's mother.
    – Stewbob
    Jan 18, 2011 at 22:39
  • Indeed. Jan 24, 2011 at 3:55

The solar heating and balloons make me think this might be the following story:

Space Heater by J. J. Coupling (real name John R. Pierce)

This story was published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in February of 1954. I cannot find any online synopsis or text of the story to confirm this. Hopefully this will jog someone's memory.

  • Interesting. I'm leaning towards not -- the solar heated balloons weren't a main plot point and I'm nearly 100% certain I read the story online so a hard-to-find story from Astounding in the 50s isn't likely to be it. :) Thanks for the find though - I'll spend some time with Google to see if I can find text or synopsis of Space Heater.
    – Saiboogu
    Jan 20, 2011 at 20:09

In the more real world, there is the motion simulator (kind of like airplane flight simulators) at the base of the CN Tower in Toronto, which theorized that they used the hollow core of the tower as a linear accelerator for space tourism. :) Tour of the Universe I believe they call it.

In a long book series format, there is FireStar by Michael Flynn, where the main character develops a single stage to orbit launcher, but scams her competitors into competing with her, and one builds the Boomer, a fuel ramjet gun that launches up a mountain side (and booms them into orbit).


I'm pretty sure it was "Friday" by Heinlein.

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    No. I appreciate an answer, but Friday doesn't really bear much resemblance to the plot I described above...
    – Saiboogu
    Jan 22, 2011 at 2:16
  • Heinlein wrote linear accelerators into multiple stories. For example, Starman Jones described a system of hoops that were used to help ships accelerate to escape velocity. It wouldn't surprise me if there was a linear accelerator launch system mentioned tangentially somewhere in Friday but it certainly wasn't central to the plot.
    – steveha
    Feb 19, 2014 at 2:45

I wonder if this could be "The Heavy Lifters" by Dean Ing. The protagonist is involved in a horrific highway accident involving an overloaded and undersecured semi truck as a teen, and develops a lifelong obsession to eliminate road transport of freight. Over time, this manifests as becoming an engineer, starting a company that carries heavy freight in "deltas" -- hybrid lifting body and aerostat dirigibles -- and on high speed maglev rail, and eventually launches to orbit with a horizontal linear accelerator based on the maglev rail system.

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    The question was answered, and that answer accepted by the asker, over 7 years ago
    – Psycrow
    Aug 23, 2018 at 12:44
  • And apparently the system auto-bumped the question about five minutes before I answered. Sorry, didn't check the date -- but I stand by my answer as another possibility that matches the plot elements given, hence possibly useful for people who aren't actually looking for The Bridge to Space.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Aug 23, 2018 at 12:50

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