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Miscellaneous updates – 2

Here is some more Space Elevator miscellany, gleaned from the web over the past several weeks…

The website Next Big Future always has interesting posts and I subscribed to it long ago.  This is a posting from this site from last January, talking about Alan Windle’s carbon nanotube ribbons.  According to the article, he has created something which has been measured at 9GPa.  If true, I sure hope he brings it to this year’s Strong Tether competition (being held at the Space Elevator Conference) – he would be a favorite to win.

This is an article, in French, about the Space Elevator Games and Space elevators, in general.  If you parlez the Francais (sorry for my slaughtered translation), enjoy…

And then we have another article about a Space Elevator, this time in Vietnamese…

One of my favorite sites, io9, has a posting about a new book with a Space Elevator as a backdrop, The Third Claw of God.  This is the second in the series of Andrea Cort novels and  io9’s review of the book says its a winner.  I suppose you can find it at your local bookstore, and it’s available in paperback from Amazon for $7.99.  It’s also available for Kindle and, as I’m lucky to have one, I’ve just downloaded it – I’ll start it on the plane-ride out to California next week.  When I’ve finished reading it, I’ll post a review.

.

In a recent speech to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute class of 2009, Futurist Peter Schwartz spoke of “…ten areas to make a Global Impact, find success” to help create a peaceful, prosperous world by the year 2050.  “The final item on Schwartz’s list is discovering new ways to radically lower the cost and environmental impact of space flight, and developing new ways, such as a space elevator, to get into space.”  I can only say “Amen” to that…

James Coughtrey has created an alternative world scenario entitled “Vast Worlds“.  It’s driven by humans acquiring technology from a derelict alien starship.  In this scenario;

The Chinese space elevator was the only one that was actually on the equator. Both the Commonwealth and AMA have theirs off centre for economic reasons. New Inca’s is placed further south to avoid American airspace, America doesn’t cross the equator and Russia doesn’t actually have a space elevator but an assisted floater rocket system.

I haven’t had a chance to review all of this, but it looks quite interesting…

Dave Barry recently opined on the Space Elevator here – most of his jokes about the elevator are a bit dated.

This is an interesting blog post concerning Space Based Solar Power.  A constituent attended a congressional briefing by Mark Kirk (he represents the district next to mine) and asked him about his views on SBSP.  Congressman Kirk identified one of the issues preventing the widespread use of it; i.e. the cost to orbit.  The writer states that we should look at this issue in light of; “…the mass required to produce a kilowatt of electricity (kg/kw) and the total system cost to produce a kilowatt of electricity (cost/kw)“.  I think this is correct, but alas, the writer didn’t supply his opinion of what this number should be.  I’ve written before about my skepticism about the practicality of SBSP and gave my numbers here.

A related article about Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) purchasing electricity created by SBSP is here.  Two companies are mentioned, Solaren and Space Energy.  As I’ve said before, I’m skeptical if this idea can work – it’s a lot easier to make a website than it is to generate SBSP cost-effectively.  I have no issues with the technology – I have serious doubts if we can generate enough electricity (we use so much of it) via SBSP to every make it worthwhile.  But if you believe that the idea of SBSP is a good one, I think you absolutely have to support the idea of a Space Elevator – no other technology gives you a chance to get enought stuff into orbit, cost-effectively enough, to perhaps make this idea work.

No, I still haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie, but I’m very interested in seeing the Vulcan Space Elevator made of “…of metallic chunks the size of refrigerators.”  Maybe after the Space Elevator Conference is over…

If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you dropped balls (or other heavy weights) from a Space Elevator, here’s a discussion thread on the question.

Enough for now – time to get ready to head out to NASA-Dryden for Round 2 of testing for the upcoming Space Elevator Games

(Picture thumbnail of Galileo and his balls from here – click on it for a larger version).

Space Elevator Blog celebrates its 3 Year Anniversary

Once again, all together now;

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Space Elevator Blog!
Happy birthday to you!

Yes, I know it’s April Fools day, but again this is no joke – three years ago today, I started this blog. It’s been yet another exciting year. In keeping with my tradition of writing an ‘anniversary post’ (first year summary and second year summary), the following is a list of, IMHO, the more significant happenings in the past 12 months that I was privileged to cover:

The highlights for this past year include:

The creation of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC).  This is the culmination of efforts by most of the ‘leading luminaries’ in the Space Elevator community to create an organization dedicated to actually getting a Space Elevator built.  All of the existing Space Elevator organizations that I know about are part of this effort; the Spaceward Foundation, EuroSpaceward, the Japan Space Elevator Association, the Space Elevator Reference, the Space Elevator Wiki and my own Space Elevator Blog.  In addition, other individuals who have had a long history within the Space Elevator effort have also joined in this effort.   I am very honored to be the President of this organization and pledge to do whatever I can to make a Space Elevator happen within my lifetime.

Attending and blogging on the Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington.  The Space Engineering and Science Institute did an outstanding job in organizing this conference.  The arrangements, facilities and speakers were first-rate.  I truly enjoyed all of the presentations I heard and also presented my own paper on who, IMHO, might be the first entity to actually create a Space Elevator.

Watching the traffic at this site continue to grow.  This post is number 1,172 for this blog so I’m averaging nearly 400 posts per year.  In it’s first year, the Space Elevator blog had approximately 28,000 hits.  In it’s second year, this blog had about 68,000 hits.  In this third year, we’ve had nearly 80,000 hits.  While the growth rate looks like it has slowed, this is actually not the case – the average daily traffic has increased significantly.  In the blog’s first and second years, traffic spiked during my coverage of the Space Elevator Games.  I put up many posts during the Games and nearly 40% of the website hits in year 1 and year 2 were generated during that 10-12 day period.  Even though there were no Space Elevator Games in this past 12 months, traffic at this site still increased over 15%.  I fully expect our traffic numbers to double in the coming year with a) coverage of the Space Elevator games and b) coverage of the activity by the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC).

Watching the preparations for the next Space Elevator Games.  Even though the Games were not held at the hoped for time, it still has been an absolutely fascinating experience watching Spaceward and the competition teams get ready for the next Games.  I don’t think the scope of the next Games has been really appreciated by most people.  To win this competition, teams will now have to use a laser to power a climber that will ascend/descend a 1 kilometer-long tether.  This is freaking awesome!  Spaceward, the organization that hosts these games, now has to deal with entities like the Laser Clearing House to ensure that there are no satellites passing overhead which might be temporarily ‘blinded’ by a competitors laser beam.  A full two million US Dollars is on the line, available to a team that can do this climb at an average of 5 meters/second.  It really is magnificent and I can’t wait for it to happen.

The release of a paper by Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation entitled “The Space Elevator Feasability Condition“.  This paper represents, IMHO, the first serious review of what it will take to build a Space Elevator since the Edwards-Westling Space Elevator book.  In his paper, Ben argues that a tether as weak as 25-30 MYuris may be strong enough to build a useful Space Elevator tether.  He discusses the various parameters which make up his calculations and shows how they relate to each other.  Reading and understanding this document should be a requirement for anyone who is interested in Space Elevators.

And finally, getting a professional-looking masthead for this blog.  I want to thank Susan Seichrist once again for doing an outstanding job with this.

Other highlights occuring the past year the announcement of the first Japan Space Elevator Games, attending ISDC2008 and seeing Ben Shelef’s absolutely awesome model of a hypothetical Space Elevator Games held at Meteor Crater in Arizona, the captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates, Brian Turner, appearing on the Conan O’Brien show, the release of the Iron Man comic book where the chief protagonist, Tony Stark, successfully manages the construction of a Space Elevator, Dr. Who and his cohorts using a Space Elevator to help thwart the bad guys, acknowledging NASA’s 50th Anniversary, the release of Ropewalk, installing DSL for my Mother, and beer-pouring robots.

Downers for the year include my inability to attend either the EuroSpaceward conference or the Japan Space Elevator Association conference due to reasons which are beyond bizarre and the disappointment of Arthur C. Clarke’s last book, The Last Theorem (released posthumously).

So, what’s coming up this year?  Well, first and foremost should be the Space Elevator Games.  As you are reading this, I should be returning home from a trip to an ‘undisclosed location’ with Ben Shelef of the Spaceward Foundation (hosts of the Space Elevator Games), trying to finalize arrangements for the Games.  Let’s hope we were successful.  Also upcoming is the next Space Elevator Conference, scheduled for August 13-16 of this year.  The inaugural Japan Space Elevator Games are scheduled for early August and I would expect either/both the Europeans and Japanese to have another Space Elevator Conference this year (which I really do want to attend?).

The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) should become a serious force for pushing the idea of someone (anyone) building a Space Elevator.  We have a lot riding on this organization and I encourage you to visit our website and JOIN us in helping make this game-changing idea a reality.

Stay tuned and, thanks again for reading!

“Ten-X Stimulus Projects”

The DaVinci Institute’s Thomas Frey has given his opinion on “What projects can the U.S. government invest in to provide at least 10 times return on Investment?“.

One of the projects he supports is the Space Elevator;

“The space elevator is a proposed system to transport material from the earth’s surface into space.  Many variations of this idea have been proposed, but the primary idea involves an elevator-type car that travels along a fixed cabling system held in place by a geostationary satellite orbiting the earth.  The space elevator is intended to replace our present system of using rockets to transport people and equipment outside of the earth’s atmosphere.  Current technology is not capable of manufacturing a cabling system that is both strong enough and light enough to make this connection.  Most of the recent efforts have focused on the use of carbon nanotube-based materials for the tether design, since the strength of microscopic carbon nanotubes appears great enough to make this possible.  A functional space elevator will become a primary driver of space commerce, enabling travel beyond earth’s gravitational pull for a fraction of today’s cost.”

Nice to know we’re on the list but he’s not emphasizing the main advantage of a Space Elevator, it’s scalability.  There is really no limit to how big you can build this thing and thus how much capacity it can carry.  Yes, the price per kilo has to be reasonable, but if you can’t carry hundreds or thousands of tons per day into space, the commercialization of space will be a very slow and painful process, no matter how inexpensive it is.

Freight cars, think freight cars to space…

(Picture of Freight Car from here – click on the thumbnail for a larger version)

Michael Laine and a short history of LiftPort

On the Liftport blog, Michael Laine put up a post detailing (in a very abbreviated fashion) his adventures (to date) with trying to get a Space Elevator built.  This post; 6 years condensed to 2 pages – LiftPort in hindsight, is very interesting and well worth your time.

Michael has also commented about his views on the Social Media; Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc…  And, as he is now in charge of Public Outreach for the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), you’ll be seeing ISEC being promulgated in many of these new web 2.0 platforms.  Michael has been nominated for a Twitter Shorty Award – if you want to vote for him, you can do so here.

Finally, it’s just nice to see the LiftPort blog active again…

Space Elevator news catch-up…

I’ve gotten a bit behind on all Space-Elevator related news, so I’ll combine a few items in this post;

There have been several news reports recently (a few of them are here, here, and here) about the unmanned ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1.  This mission is designed, among other tasks, to more thoroughly map the moon.  A dozen instruments are on board; half from ISRO and half from other countries.  What does this have to do with a Space Elevator?  It’s just another step in the maturation of the Indian Space Program and India, as I have written before (here and here) is a prime candidate to actually ‘do it’ when it comes to building a Space Elevator (IMHO, of course)…

The Speculist is running a competition to, well, let them tell you: “As we announced on the most recent edition of FastForward Radio, we will be awarding the presidential candidate who outlines the most speculicious program — that is, the plan with the most Speculist appeal — with a FastForward Radio coffee mug…And a reminder to both Senator Obama and Senator McCain — if either happen to be reading this — any use by either of you of the phrase “space elevator” ought to just about clinch this thing. So don’t be shy.”

I have already commented on the incredible amount of press generated by the Times Online story saying that the Japanese have now begun work on building a Space Elevator (oh, if it were only true).  However, one blog post about this (from The Rogues Gallery) is worth commenting on.  The author states that whoever builds the first space elevator “owns space – game over.”  I must disagree.  Let’s assume that my prediction of a Dubai-India Joint Venture comes true and they go out and build the first one.  Does this mean that the US (or the Russians) couldn’t go out and build one themselves?  They certainly could.  It would be expensive (I don’t know if Dubai-India would sell space on their Elevator for a competitor), but we could certainly do it.  And if we Americans built one first?  The Russians (or Chinese or whoever) could build one for national security concerns.  The cost of building one of these ($10 Billion?) is a lot of money, but there are several entities with this kind of resources.  So, building one of these gives you a leg up, that’s for sure – but ‘game over’?  I don’t think so…

Finally (for today, anyway), the TV Tropes Wiki has a list of places where the Space Elevator has appeared in fiction.  There are several I’ve not heard of (my favorite is “Bubblegum Crisis”) and, will give me something else to look at in my ‘spare’ time…

More bits ‘n pieces tomorrow…

(Knight Sabers picture from here – click on it for a larger version)

Space Elevator interview

Several days ago, I was interviewed by Jon Udell, he of the Perspectives podcast fame.  The subject was, of course, the Space Elevator.

This interview has now been posted; you can access it here.

I read the partial transcript he put up on the website and listened to the interview and I think I made only one serious gaffe; when I spoke about the solid-state lasers that Boeing had recently developed, I said that they were capable of generating 25 MEGAwatts of power.  That should have been 25 KILOwatts of power (I had posted about these lasers earlier, here).

Those of you who attended the recent Space Elevator Conference also almost certainly met Maurice Franklin, a Microsoft employee (actually, I think he’s left Microsoft now and is up in New Hampshire learning how to build boats) who was largely responsible for getting the Microsoft conference center for us and making the venue work very well for us.  Jon also interviewed Maurice about the conference and the Space Elevator – you can view/listen to that interview here.

Thanks again Jon – I enjoyed our conversation and very much appreciate the work you’ve done to put these interviews together and on the web.

Winda Kosmiczna

A Polish-language article about the Winda Kosmiczna (Space Elevator) appeared on the ‘net today.

At least I think it was about the Space Elevator :)

Translating the first paragraph into English using this translator gives us:

“Space elevator – suggested structure, for totaling (taking away; amounting to) object from surface of blue body to space area s?u?ebna. Called will imprison in literature on satellite also, space bridge as well as orbital tower.”

This is a long and detailed article.  I don’t read Polish, but if you do, enjoy…

(11JUL08 – Update – Martin Lades (Technical Chairman of the upcoming Space Elevator Conference) sent me this link to a Google-powered english translation of this webpage.  Thanks Martin!)

We’re up to a dozen…

I now have twelve translations of “Space Elevator” on the Translation Project tab at the top of this blog.

One of the latest ones is the Dutch translation (ruimtelift) provided by reader Simon Vanden Bussche.  I’m singling Simon’s contribution out because he wrote an article for ‘Euroavia News’, the newspaper of the European Association of Aerospace Students (Euroavia) and also posted on his blog, discussing the Space Elevator and also talking about the First European Space Elevator Conference held last September in Luxembourg.  At the bottom of his posting, he links to one of the more comprehensive articles I’ve seen about the recent advances in carbon nanotube technology.

Thank you Simon!  And thank you to the many others who have sent me translations – keep them coming!

The Space Elevator Reference Launches the Twitter Community

Yesterday, The Space Elevator Reference announced the launch of a new Twitter Community dedicated to the Space Elevator.  Marc Boucher, the force behind all things at The Space Elevator Reference, asked me if he could feed my posts into this Twitter community and of course I agreed (I’m flattered :) ).

Up until now, I’ve not used Twitter but I know that its one of the ‘hot new things’ – maybe I’ll have to give it a try (according to Wikipedia, “Prominent Twitter users include U.S. presidential candidates Ron Paul, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton”).  If you’re into using Twitter and like the idea of a Space Elevator, this seems like a ‘must-join’ for you…

NSS Space Elevator Competition Team – Help Wanted

A few days ago, I wrote that the National Space Society (NSS) had decided to compete in the 2008 (and 2009) Space Elevator Games with an entry in the Climber-Power/Beaming competition.

At the NSS website, Bert Murray, fearless leader of the nascent NSS team, has put out a call for volunteers:

All,

I am leading a team to compete in this year’s Elevator2010 contest. Right now the team consists of seven people. I would like to grow the team to 10 to 20 team members. In particular we need help in laser optics, and embedded controls

If you are interested please shoot me an email.

Cheers,
Bert Murray
Ellicott City, MD

hcm1955 [AT] gmail.com

D 301 698 3382
E 410 750 7497

NSS Space Elevator Chapter
NSS Space Elevator Team

As a member of NSS, it’s tempting for me to sign up.  However, I think the independence and objectivity of the Space Elevator Blog requires that I keep this at arms length.  If you’re a member of NSS though (or even if you’re not) and you’re looking for a fun project and/or a concrete way to help further the development of a Space Elevator, here’s a great opportunity for you to do so.

The McCain Space Elevator?

In March of 2006, economist and writer/blogger  James D. Miller wrote an essay for TCSDaily called “Elevating Elephants” (which I linked to here), an article calling for the Republican Party to commit the US Government to build a Space Elevator by 2020.

With McCain the evident Republican nominee, Mr. Miller is now calling for:

Building a space elevator has just become vastly more practical because scientists have figured out how to”grow nanowires of unlimited length.” So I now urge John McCain to advocate building a space elevator. McCain seems like the type of politician who would support a bold project that would showcase America’s technological dominance while giving the U.S. military a tremendous boost.

I’m not a McCain fan in any way, shape or form, but if he did this I would certainly applaud – I’d even let them name it after him (The “McCainevator”?)  Of course I’m not going to hold my breath…

Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s upcoming 90th birthday…

Today I received the following email from Thilna Heenatigala, the General Secretary of the Sri Lankan Astronomical Association:

“Fellow Earthlings,

Sixty two years ago Arthur C. Clarke of the British Interplanetary Society sent a letter to the editor titled Peacetime Uses for V2 which was published in the 1945 February issue of the Wireless World magazine suggesting the use of Geostationary Satellites for the instant global communications. Quoting,“I would like to close by mentioning a possibility of the more remote future–perhaps half a century ahead.  An “artificial satellite” at the correct distance from the earth would make one revolution every 24 hours; i.e., it would remain stationary above the same spot and would be within optical range of nearly half the earth’s surface. Three repeater stations, 120 degrees apart in the correct orbit, could give television and microwave coverage to the entire planet.”

Today, the Clarke Orbit has over 330 satellites. Sir Arthur C. Clarke, a science-fiction author, inventor, and futurist, simply a greate mind celebrates his 90th birth anniversary on 16th of December, 2007.

In 1959, he founded the Ceylon Astronomical Association (now known as Sri Lanka Astronomical Association). As the current General Secretary of the Association, I’m honored to run an association founded by him. And as a big fan of his writings and admirer of his work, I have put up a blog where every one could wish him for his 90th birth day.If you are a friend, colleague, fan or simply an earthling who admires work of Sir Arthur Clarke, please write your greetings and good wishes on the blog. Please forward this message around and publish in your website/ magazine/ paper/blog etc… if possible.Let us wish together a healthy and a long life for Sir Arthur.Post your greetings and wishes on http://SirArthurCClarke90.blogspot.com

Regards,

Thilina Heenatigala
General Secretary
Sri Lanka Astronomical Association
E-mail: thilina_atn@yahoo.com
URL:     http://aalk.lakdiva.net

http://thilinaheenatigala-astronomy.blogspot.com

Phone:    +94-716245545″

Readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of Sir Arthur C. Clarke.  I think I can honestly say I’ve read everything he’s ever written for public consumption, both fiction and non-fiction.  His book The Fountains of Paradise was what introduced me to the concept of a Space Elevator and is probably the main reason this blog exists.  One of my fantasies is that someday he would attend some Space Elevator Function (the Games, a Workshop / Seminar, etc.) and that I would be attending it too and would have a chance to meet him.

Please visit Thilna’s birthday blog and post a birthday greeting to Sir Clarke.  Without him, the World would be a much poorer place.

(The picture thumbnail shown is of Sir Clarke with Yuri Artsutanov, the father of the Space Elevator concept.  I don’t know who to give credit to this photo to, but I found it here.  Click on it for a larger version.)

Updates from LaserMotive…

Since the competition, LaserMotive has put up a number of posts on their blog.  These cover everything from who some of their sponsors / suppliers were, to qualifying videos to problems with their brakes, etc.  Rather than trying to summarize each one, just go visit their blog, here, for yourself, and see what they’ve been up to.  I fully expect these guys to be a major player in the next Spaceward Games.

The coolest video they had on their blog, IMHO, was one showing them testing a portion of their automated tracking system.  It would have been wonderful to see this in action; USST had problems with theirs and it may have cost them the prize money.  As this is largely software-dependent (and I’m a software guy), its of particular interest to me.  And, as their blog entry states, this video “certainly makes an interesting sound”.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU9dlvR6NFA[/youtube]

What you should think about a modern-day Erie Canal

The comparison between building a Space Elevator and the building of the Erie Canal are not new, but the subject has been revisited here, by TCS Daily.  This is a fine article and covers all of the relevant points I believe.  He reports an interesting quote from Thomas Jefferson about the Erie Canal project: “It is a splendid project, and may be executed a century hence. It is little short of madness to think of it this day.”  But just 15 years later (and two years ahead of schedule) the project was completed.  Twenty years after that, it was hard to think of commerce traffic in New York State without the Erie Canal and twenty years after the first Space Elevator is successfully completed, it will be hard to think of space travel without thinking of the Space Elevator.

And in this article, the author calls for more public funding to support such a project.

LaserMotive wraps it up

LaserMotive was one of two Laser-powered teams in this year’s games.  I had great hopes for their performance, but alas, things did not work out well for them.  I’ll be posting more about them in the future (along with some videos and pix I have).

This is from the LaserMotive blog:

“Back From Utah, and Recovering

The entire LaserMotive team is back from Utah. Equipment is safely stowed, and everyone is working to fight off sleep deprivation and various illnesses that have cropped up (probably due to the aforementioned sleep deprivation). No one won this year’s competition, which means that next year the prize purse will be $900,000.

We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to show the world the power of our system. A detailed analysis of what happened will have to wait for another time, but the brief summary is that our system was working before we left Seattle, and we demonstrated it working again during the first qualifying run on Wednesday (10/17). We then made adjustments to the on-board electronics for Thursday’s attempt, but those changes prevented the motor controller from working properly the first time Thursday night. More frustrating, the vehicle tried to climb on our second attempt Thursday but due to miscommunication and lack of visibility, the person holding the belay line wound up pulling both the up and down directions and held the vehicle in place so that it couldn’t climb (he was standing outside our safety curtain and couldn’t see in, and given that it was midnight and rainy, it was difficult to figure out the problem on the fly). Such errors are what happens for a team that hasn’t entered the competition before and hence hasn’t had enough time to practice. Next year we will, of course, be much more practiced.

Bad weather prevented any climbs on Friday and Saturday, and just as we were getting ready to mount the ribbon for a climb on Sunday, winds forced Spaceward to take down the crane. We then had to pack up our system for people to get home Monday for their other jobs.

Now that we have some time, I will soon post the qualifying video we submitted to Spaceward at the beginning of October (I need to compress it for YouTube).

I want to thank the entire team, their families, and all of the other volunteers (including Howard Tayler and his friend Tim) who helped us out at the event. As we figure out our plans for the future over the next few weeks, I will try and post more information.”

How to (really) fix a ribbon

Several days ago, LaserMotive put up an entry on their blog describing a tear that had developed in their test ribbon and asking for people to comment on how they thought it might be fixed.

I wrote on my blog, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that this would be a perfect job for duct tape, but later, on the LaserMotive website, put up my real suggestion (basically sewing it back together).

LaserMotive has now documented how they have fixed this problem.  Click here to see both their temporary and permanent solution.

(Picture from the LaserMotive blog.  Click on it or visit their blog to view a larger version.)

LaserMotive posts photos of one of their test setups…

This is an interesting post from LaserMotive with some neat photos of one of their test setups.

The post notes that LaserMotive needed to produce a video of their power beaming system in operation.  All of the entrants in the Climber / Power-Beaming competition needed to produce a similar video, a requirement from Spaceward (the organization running the Space Elevator Games) to help ensure that only serious entrants will be allowed to compete.  Last year, there were entrants who were totally unprepared for the competition but who showed up anyway and insisted on getting time on the test and competition ribbons.  This wound up hurting the teams that actually were prepared, something that Spaceward is determined to prevent this year.

(The picture is from the LaserMotive blog – click on it (or visit their blog) for a larger version.  They have another picture of the test setup on the blog as well)

Another LaserMotive “Meet the Team” posting…

In this posting, we ‘meet’ LaserMotive’s Tom Nugent.  For most of us in the Space Elevator ‘community’, this is a very familiar name.  He was the research director at Liftport and his name was as nearly synonymous with the company as is Michael Laine’s.

I’ve known Tom for some time now and can vouch for the fact that he is a genuine good guy.  He’s always eager to help and is always eager to do whatever he can to further the concept of a Space Elevator.  He’s a family man and a proud pappa and, in this posting, we learn about his education and experiences.

I look for the LaserMotive team to be one of the favorites this year, and much of that is due to Tom.

“NASA Issues Challenges and Prizes to Spur Technological Innovation”

This is an interesting post from Brant McLaughlin.  While his mention of the upcoming Space Elevator Games is not unique, he does list a number of consumer products that we take for granted today that were offshoots of the Space Program.

And, he has a modest motto: “People who think they know it all are very irritating to those of us who do.”

Check out the animation on the KC Space Pirates website

On the KC Space Pirates website, Brian Turner has placed an animated version of the launching pad to be used for the Climber/Power Beaming event in this year’s Space Elevator games.  He also shows where he is going to be placing his team’s mirrors (but the anti-rotation wire and Belay line are not shown).

And, he displays great confidence by displaying the (in)famous line: “Abandon Hope all ye who enter here”…

We meet another member of LaserMotive…

In this week’s “Meet the Team” blog posting from LaserMotive, we meet David Shoemaker.  David’s “credits” include a stint in the Navy, getting involved with LiftPort (where he met Tom Nugent), working at Microsoft and working on coin-op Arcade Games.  A techno-geek for sure :-).

Read the whole post here.

What’s a “Solar Laser”?

That was my question when I read the previous posting from the Andromeda Connection.  A Laser is coherent light, sunlight is not.  I did a quick Google on the term and found a few sites that discussed “Solar Lasers” (including selling them to heat swimming pools).  It still didn’t sound right to me and, with today’s posting at the Andromeda Connection’s website, the mystery is cleared up.

From the post:

“On the other hand, even though the MOLPSoL doesn’t use a single frequency of light as defined by a true laser, it can be tuned to a relatively narrow bandwidth. A collimated beam of white light cannot maintain convergence due to the different frequencies of light interfering with each other thereby causing divergence in the beam (in English: the photons, or light particles, traveling at different speeds collide with each other and cause the beam to spread). However, a well tunned MOLPSoL, using a fairly narrow bandwidth, can maintain convergence for fairly long distances.”

This is, in essence, a similiar technique to what the KC Space Pirates did last year.  The Space Pirates used a large number of mirrors to focus sunlight onto a collector on the climber itself.  The climber then further focused this light onto the photovoltaic cells onboard.  However, if I’m reading between the lines correctly here, the Andromeda Connection technique will be to do the “final focusing” at the ground and beam the convergent output to the climber.

Read the whole post here

News from the Andromeda Connection

The Andromeda Connection has updated their blog (they entitle it “Progress Report”).  The latest news reads, in part;

“It seems the solar laser will be easier and cheaper to build anyway, and the odds of cloud cover during the 3 day event are acceptable. It was therefore decided that a MOLPSoL solar laser would replace the spot lights, providing 6 suns of light energy instead of the original 2 suns expected from the spot lights.”

The man has confidence, no doubt about it.  On his “Why AnConn” page, he states;

“True, there is a lot of competition in this event. Some of this year’s competitors have big names. Some have proven their muster in past events. But given what I have seen from past events, the research I’ve done and my ideas for overcoming the problems mentioned below, there is no doubt in my mind that this year’s competition is in the bag.”

Due to his change in Climber power supply, he also now has some items for sale;

“I have 6 – 2500W/220V long throw spot lights for sale. Asking $1200.00 each, plus shipping. Any takers?”

Their website also has a number of photos and videos on it – definitely worth checking out.  The thumbnail shown on this post is from their gallery and is of the two halves of their drive system.  Click on it for a larger view.

LaserMotive – Problems and Solutions…

The latest posting on the LaserMotive blog discusses ongoing problems they’ve had with their climber’s motor controller.  These types of problems are typical engineering ones; I’ve seen many like it during my time of gainful employment.  It’s what the engineering process is all about, and it’s why it will take real engineering skills to build something that has a chance in winning the climber/power-beaming competition (this year, or any year).

One engineering “skill” is employing testing, testing and testing some more.  I remember when I was working at a company called InFlight Phone Corporation.  Our product was phone and entertainment systems for commercial and private aircraft (my job was managing all of the software development).  We were having a problem with the phone cord mechanism on many of our commercial plane installations – it kept failing.  Our new corporate owner, MCI, brought in a “SWAT” team of people to help us make our product more robust.  Some of their people were competent, some were not.  One of the not-so-good ones got involved with the problem of the handset cord failures.  He looked at our current solution and soon came up with a new one, one he was sure would solve the problem.  He was so sure that he said it didn’t need testing – just get it out to the planes ASAP.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and, over his objections, we brought in an ME to do some real analysis and testing on it.  The ME rigged up a mechanism that repeatedly pulled the cord in and out of its holder, simultaneously dragging it over a plastic arm, simulating the type of motion it would be subjected to on a plane.  Within 12 hours, the new, “improved” design failed.

Testing, testing, testing – an absolute key ingredient to success…

Kansas City Space Pirates start blog

Taking up the challenge offered by LaserMotive, the KC Space Pirates have updated their web site with a blog.  Their latest posting is titled “Its a great day to be a Space Pirate”.

Dan Leafblad from the Space Pirates has this to say about the blog:

“Hi, We have been working hard testing and preparing for the competition but also accepted LaserMotive’s challenge to start a blog, something we have been planning on for months but just now got around to doing. we hope to update it regularly, i dont know how often it will be but we hope to keep it updated.”

Their website is very interesting and is one of the better Team sites out there.  Take a look…

LaserMotive issues blogging challenge…

In the latest post from the LaserMotive blog, Tom Nugent says that they’re going to increase their already (relatively) prolific blogging and challenges the other competitors in this year’s Space Elevator Games to do likewise.

Tom points out the diminishing risks of doing so; it IS getting late in the game to be changing an entry and so teams would be risking little, if anything, by letting us know what is going on with them (hint, hint)…

I know USST is in the process of updating their website, and the KC Space Pirates, Snowstar, RAMCO I and E-T-C have been updating us semi-irregularly, but from the others, essentially nada.  Several of the teams don’t even have websites.  Of course we can’t read too much into that as one of the teams without a website, LiteWon (now the Technology Tycoons?), came in with the second fastest time last year and should only improve this year.

So, do we have any takers for this blogging challenge?

Updates from LiftPort

Over a dozen posts have been put up on the LiftPort blog in the past few days.  Rather than summarize each one of them, I recommend that you just link over to the most recent post (here) and then just work your way backwards through the preceding posts.

Many of the posts have to do with LiftPort photos posted on flickr and comments on their ongoing legal issues.  But the post titled LiftPort’s Tethered Towers, Trials and Triumph: Part 1 conclusion deserves special mention.  Now, I’m a Systems guy from way back.  I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly with designing Systems and putting them together, and I’ve contributed to each at various times.  But I don’t recall participating in a demo as trouble-plagued as the one summarized in this LiftPort post.  If I was in this writer’s shoes, I’d have been seriously dependent on Prozac by the time this demo was completed.  It’s a miracle they got it working at all.

Read it and weep…

On Lasers and Lasermotive

Tom Nugent from Lasermotive, an entrant into the 2007 Space Elevator Games, has put a couple of interesting, laser-related posts on their team blog.

In the first, we find that “cheaper is better”, at least when it comes to seeing in the near Infrared.

And in the second, we learn about safety considerations when working with lasers, even with relatively low-powered ones.

$34,000 = cost to lift one 1kg from earth to the vicinity of Mars

In this post on the Space Elevator Reference, Dr. Bryan Laubscher discusses what it will cost to lift 1kg from the surface of earth to the vicinity of Mars using rocket technology.   Dr. Laubscher asks (and answers) the question:

“My question is: How much exploration, especially manned exploration, of the moon and Mars will we be doing at $34,000 per kilogram? My guess is that we’ll do pretty much what we’ve done over the last 35 years since the last Apollo mission.”

Dr. Laubscher makes a compelling, cost-justified case for a Space Elevator.  Too bad “the concept is not of interest to NASA.”

My money is still on a US business-consortium or a joint venture between Dubai and India to build the first, earth-based Space Elevator…

In a related article, “How to Get to Space – cheap“, Andrey Kobilnyk gives the cost of lifting 1kg from the surface of the earth to LEO ad $19,000.  Dr. Laubscher had given this cost as $10,000.  If Mr. Kobilnyk is correct, then it costs even more to lift one 1kg from earth to the vicinity of Mars.  He, too, argues that a Space Elevator, built from carbon nanotubes, would be a much more cost-effective way to solve this problem…

(Money Graphic courtesy of Money Clip Art Gallery.  Rotating nanotube graphic from FirstScience.com)

“Wet and Breezy Internet”

Joe Julian writes on the LiftPort blog:

“I’m writing this from the Tethered Towers demo. It’s rainy and windy with 45mph gusts at 500 feet. We’re only using one balloon, which is not enough lift, but we still have a working wireless internet system.

Thanks to everyone that helped. More later.”

I’m looking forward to the details and, hopefully, LiftPort will be able to generate some business from this demo.

The BBC visits LaserMotive

One of the new entrants into this year’s Space Elevator Games is LaserMotive.  Now, I’m not privy to their plans or designs, but with a name like “LaserMotive” and a picture of a 1kw laser on their blog (and also shown here), I’m hopeful that  we will actually have at least one laser-powered climber in this year’s Games (note that USST brought a laser to last year’s competition, but couldn’t get it working in time).  It would be very cool to have multiple laser-powered vehicles competing this year; real competition using power-beaming devices envisoned to eventually power a real Space Elevator.

The project manager at LaserMotive is Tom Nugent, the same Tom Nugent late of LiftPort.  He emailed me a couple of days ago to point out a new entry in their blog; it seems that they have been visited by the BBC to “to interview us and to video some of LaserMotive’s early hardware during May as part of a documentary they’re working on about future technhology...”.

All I can say is “way cool”…

USST still has to be considered the favorites in this year’s Games.  They were the best team running in the first two competitions, missing out on the prize money by only 2 seconds last year.  But knowing Tom Nugent like I do, I’m pretty confident that they’re going to give USST very stiff competition.

(Click on the thumbnail, or visit the Lasermotive blog to view a larger version of the image of a 1kw laser)

Upcoming LiftPort-Tethered Towers Demo

From the LiftPort blog, Michael Laine tells us about an upcoming demo, on June 28th, for a Tethered Tower.  All are welcome to attend, especially potential customers.  Michael states that this demo will show how “Space Elevator related technology to solve real world, down-to-earth problems in Communications, Observation and Weather Monitoring.”

For more details, check out the blog entry, here.

“Space Doughnut”

Here’s a depressing view of the first trip on the world’s first Space Elevator.

Why would 200 dignitaries from the world’s various nations beat each other to death bare-handedly?

There was a short story written some time ago (“Air Raid“, by John Varley) about people from a future earth, an earth in near-disaster status due to global pollution / warming, who would travel to the past, replacing live passengers on airplanes that were about to crash with matching corpses.  These live humans would be returned to the future to help carry on the species.  Come to think of it, there was a movie (“Millennium“) based on this story too, starring Kris Kristofferson (no, I’m not on drugs).

Anyway, perhaps something similar happened to this Space Elevator trip.  Future humans, having mastered time travel, went to the past to gather up 200 people of different races & nationalities, perhaps to increase the future gene pool.  They left 200 fake bodies to cover their tracks…

If you have a better guess, let’s hear it…

Second Life and LiftPort

According to the LiftPort Blog;

“I have been commissioned by LiftPort to create a Virtual LiftPort group in the game of Second Life and to create a space elevator there. The vision and purpose behind this project is to bring the space community together and get the word out about what we are doing…I am still recruiting people who are interested in becoming involved with this project. I can be contacted via email at justin.schneider [AT] liftport.com or at my ingame avatar named Elevator Kidd. I have formed a group ingame called LiftPort Group and it is open invite at the moment so anyone is interested can join and stay posted on what is going on.”

You can read the full blog entry here.

Space Prizes Blog

One of my favorite blogs is Space Prizes, THE definitive site for all things Space Prizes related.  Of course the author covers the Space Elevator Games, but also the other NASA Centennial Challenges, X Prize Cup, The Heinlein Prize and on and on.  He also has an exhaustive set of links on the blog’s sidebar.

If you’re interested in keeping current with any and all of the Space Prizes, this is the most complete blog I know of.  Check it out…

“The Moon is Red”

A “Future History” blog posting from The Divine Mr. M.  In it he postulates the breakup of the USA, the reconquista of the Southwest USA back into the arms of Mexico, the ascendance of Hispanic (and Chinese) power and, above all, a Spanish Space Elevator (“El Tallo“, The Stalk) located in Quito, Ecuador.

A very interesting read…

The return of Punkworks?

Punkworks was a Canadian team entrant into the 2006 Space Elevator Games Climber (Power Beaming) event  Their climber was Microwave powered, the only one like this in the tournament.  Unfortunately, they were unable to compete because they just couldn’t get their system working in time.  It was a real shame; many of us, including the event organizers, were looking for someone, anyone, to compete using other than spotlights or solar power.

Punkworks is still not listed yet as an official entrant into the 2007 Space Elevator games, but an entry on their blog leads me to believe that they are hoping to compete this year anyway.  It says, in part,

“After taking a long winter hiatus, our team has a fresh outlook for 2007 but has not forgotten the lessons learned from last year’s competition. The tests and redesign will ultimately determine whether the team will compete in October. In the meantime, a notice of interest has been submitted to the Spaceward Foundation in regards to Punkworks participation in this year’s contest. The team has also garnered outside interest from a silent partner if the beam tests are successful and prove to have enough beam power.”

Here’s hoping they make it – I’d love to see them give it a real shot at this year’s competition.

One note; their blog entry says that the competition will be in October.  That HAS NOT YET BEEN DECIDED.  As I’ve written before, the time and venue for this event are not yet finalized.  When they are, they’ll be posted on the Elevator2010 website and on this blog.

“Average Human Height now less than 100 Nanotubes”

A catchy blog posting title.  The author, Ravi Krishnamurthy, notes that since carbon nanotubes nearly two centimeters long can now be grown, stacking 100 of these would be taller than the average human height.  I guess that’s one way to measure progress.

Ravi’s blog posting is here and the original press release is here.

(Click on the thumbnail for a slightly larger version of the picture.  Photo credit: V. Shanov, M. Schulz, University of Cincinnati)

Space-Elevator solution for building a Lunar colony to be proposed

At the Space Elevator Reference, Dr. Brad Edwards writes about a proposal he is going to present to the Rutgers Symposium on Lunar Settlements, to be held in New Brunswick, NJ, on June 3-8 (of this year!).  Dr. Edwards will be presenting a proposal on how NASA can build and supply a lunar base for about half the cost, and with much greater capacity, than the current NASA program.

The backbone of this proposal will be the development of two, earth-based Space Elevators.

This really and truly rocks.  And, reading between the lines here, I’ve got to think that someone, somewhere must be close to announcing a breakthrough in the development of carbon nanotubes of the quality and quantity which are needed.  Either that, or else Dr. Edwards believes he can convince NASA that a big check can solve the problem quickly.

Of course, if this happens, and NASA is the lead developer, then it would prove my prediction of a private US consortium (or a joint venture between Dubai and India) as being the first developers of a Space Elevator as being wrong.  Gee, I’d sure hate that :)

I’d love to go to this symposium, but don’t think I can.  From the symposium program, it appears that Dr. Edwards is scheduled to speak from 8:30-9:15am on Thursday, June 7th.  Let’s hope Dr. Edwards will make the details of this proposal available soon to all of us.  This is the kind of project which the entire space community can and should get behind.  Not only would it be beneficial for Lunar colonization, but for Martian colonization as well.  And once a Space Elevator (or two) is in place, it changes the entire ballgame regarding space exploration.

I say again, this rocks, this well and truly rocks…

(Lunar base drawing courtesy of Ana Benaroya.  Click on the thumbnail for a larger version)

The Space Elevator & Space Engineering & Mathematics Project

At the Space Elevator Reference, they are reporting that during the 5th International Conference on Applied Sciences (to be held sometime in 2008), there will also be a track devoted to “The Space Elevator & Space Engineering & Mathematics Project”.  This is intended to;

“Now we will bring together in a special section of the the leaders in the relevant fields, scientists, colleagues and the private industry to push engineering designs of future climbers and allow participants to form partnerships that are beneficial to the teams, industry promoting their products in general.” 

Read the full posting here.

In the same posting, the Space Elevator Reference also discusses the upcoming German Space Elevator Games, also to be held in 2008.  It’s not clear from the posting whether or not they will be held in conjunction with the Conference, but looking at the logo, I would guess “yes”.  Thanks to a tip from Team Zero G’s Arthur Shay, I reported in early March about these same Games.  You can read that post here.

EuroSpaceward formed in Luxembourg to promote SE Activities

During the recent SESI 2007 Conference, Brad Edwards announced that a new European organization, EuroSpaceward, would be formed.  I blogged about it during the conference (available here).

The Space Elevator Reference is now reporting that this organization will;

The activities being pursued by EuroSpaceward include assisting in the German Space Elevator games to be held in 2008, organizing conferences related to the space elevator with the first one being this November in Luxembourg, publishing several books including The Space Elevator in Spanish and possibly French, and establishing a testing facility in Luxembourg for teams competing in the US or German games.

Read the complete post (here) for the details.

And, by the way, The Space Elevator Reference is now sporting a new look, and showing it’s ties to Space.com.

26MAY07 Update – Oops, I meant SpaceRef.com, not Space. com.  Sorry Marc…

What’s going on with Liftport…

Michael Laine is now trying to build up LiftPort’s presence in cyber-space.  He talks about this effort on the LiftPort blog here, here and here.  He also wants to recruit others into this effort and is openly appealing for some cyber-help.

The NSS Space Elevator Chapter weighs in on Michael’s efforts here.

Michael/LiftPort are obviously between a rock and a hard place.  There can be no Space Elevator without qualifying carbon nanotubes and those don’t appear to be imminent (please, please, please, someone announce them tomorrow and prove me wrong).  So it’s a question of surviving, in some form or another, until the ribbon material arrives on the scene.  And that survival can take the shape of moving into different markets, markets where one can actually sell product (and have a business plan that can attract investors), and/or living in cyber-space, trying to move the project along, until the nanotube logjam is broken.

Michael appears to be doing both, actively looking for applications for his balloon-tether-and-climber, as well as beefing up his cyber-presence.  I’ve sent him what thoughts/suggestions I have and I know that many others have too.  I hope that something clicks for him soon…

10 things YOU can do, to build an Elevator to Space…

This is a recent posting on the LiftPort Blog, one I had touched on very briefly before, but one which deserves a separate mention here.

Michae Laine list 9 things that each of us may be able to contribute to, in order to help further this cause.  He leaves the 10th one open (“intentionally blank”) to ask for our input.  It’s a thoughtful list and I urge readers to review it and consider what they may want to contribute to this effort.

A similar theme was sounded by Bryan Laubscher at the recent SESI2007 Conference.  At the very end of the conference, the discussion turned to “what we all can do” to help further this along.  No one had any brilliant ideas, but everyone agreed that publicity (in all forms, from helping out conferences, to presenting papers, to lobbying your congressman and NASA, to whatever else you can think of) was very important.

A recent posting on the National Space Society’s Space Elevator Special Interest Chapter said that there were “50 to 60 individuals of various backgrounds that would be interested in helping with the SE effort on a volunteer basis”.  One thing I might suggest to them is that they create an entry in the upcoming Space Elevator Games – this IS developing technology which will be applicable to the real Space Elevator, whenever it is built…

Of course, if someone can write a check for a million dollars or two for some basic research here, you can help out too…