Posts filed under 'Interviews / Presentations'
An oldie, but still goodie, and, with the Space Elevator Conference coming up in just a few days, this seems apropos…
In 2011 and 2012, the Science Channel aired 8 shows in the Prophets of Science Fiction series. Episode 4, originally aired on November 30, 2011, featured Sir Arthur C Clarke (my all-time favorite sci-fi author).
One of his best books was the Fountains of Paradise, Sir Arthur’s concept of a Space Elevator. The show devotes a good portion of time to the concept and also to Michael Laine, head of LiftPort, and someone very active in the Space Elevator community.
You can see the movie as it is occasionally re-aired on the Science Channel and also, online, thanks to the awesomeness that is YouTube.
The Space Elevator segment starts at about 26:20 and the bit with Michael Laine starts at about 30:28. Michael, incidentally, will be attending this year’s Space Elevator Conference as he usually does and I will look forward to seeing him again there.
August 20th, 2013
Earlier this year, Markus Landgraf, a Mission Analyst at the European Space Agency, gave a TEDx talk about the Space Elevator. It was well done and worth the 19+ minutes of your time it will take you to listen to it.
He discusses the long CNT fibers made by a company in China and proposes using these to make an SE Cable. The problem is, is that they’re just not yet “pure” enough to do so. Nano-threads spun from CNTs are, so far, full of kinks and defects - the technology is just not yet there to make them like we need to have them be. But technology continues to attack the problem and I think it’s only a matter of time…
July 13th, 2013
On Tuesday, March 20th, Michael Laine (of LiftPort fame) will appear on Dr. David Livingston’s The Space Show. From the Who’s On The Space Show This Week email:
We welcome back MICHAEL LAINE of Liftport to discuss his Lunar Space Elevator Concept. Visit his website for more information.
The show will be aired at 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT) and you are encouraged to call in to ask Michael any questions you might have.
And, you can view the Space Show Website Newsletter to get a detailed bio of Michael as well as information about how to call into the show.
(Image thumbnail of “Moonlifter”, from the Liftport site). Visit the Liftport 2.0 page - Art of the Elevator to see a full-size version of this picture as well as many more images that have been posted).
March 19th, 2012
This is the third in a three part series of Conversations with Yuri Artsutanov. Part I can be found here and Part II can be found here.
What Yuri Artsutanov told us about himself
Conversations with Yuri Artsutanov by phone, March 2010
Q. When and where were you born?
A.I was born on the 5th of October, 1929 in Leningrad, on the Moika river, in the building which once belonged to the Governor-General of St Petersburg in the XVIIIth century, during the time when either Casanova or Cagliostro visited the city.
Q.Who were your parents?
A. My mother was a teacher of history and worked in both standard and technical schools. My father was also a teacher of history but taught in special schools for workers which were organized after the revolution to educate the working classes. They met at the “A. Herzen Education Institute” where they studied together.
My maternal great-grandfather, my mother’s grandfather, was Ivan Vassil’evich Vassil’ev (after whom a street in old St Petersburg was named, now called Degtyaryov’s street). He was the son of a serf who came to St Petersburg from Tver province to sell canvases. Artists recognized his talent and began to teach him their trade. He became an artist and produced many paintings. Later he even became an Honorary Citizen, the title passed on to the next generations as Hereditary Honorary Citizen and my mother had this title as well. He opened a lane on the Okhta (a district in St Petersburg on the other side of the Big Neva River) near the Okhta cemetery. This lane grew and was renamed Vassil’ev street as I mentioned before.
In 1935, when I was 5 years old my father was arrested in connection with Trotsky’s trial and he was exiled to Kazakhstan. During the first couple of summers he came illegally from there to the dacha we rented near Leningrad. In 1937 he was finally sentenced to five years as ‘an enemy of the people’, and taken to a concentration camp in Magadan, on the Kolyma.
After that he was stripped of his civic rights for a further15 years, exactly like Ivan Denisovich, the hero in Solzhenitsyn famous novel. After five years, in 1942 he was released but denied the right to live in a big city. He lived in a village called Nexican, in Magadan district until 1957. After Stalin’s death and with Khrushchev in power he was rehabilitated. Then he moved to Krasnoyarsk where he lived until his death in 1973. I have a document confirming that I’m the son of the victim of unlawful repression and as such I receive an additional pension – 300 roubles (about $10!) a month.
My mother died in 1998. I had a brother who died 5 years ago. He was a graduate of the Air Force Academy as a meteorologist. After his death his wife appropriated my flat by deceit and left me to live in a tiny flat where I can’t order all my belongings properly. I think my original flat should become a museum just like the Tsiolkovsky museum.
Q. Where were you educated? What do you remember about your school?
A. I was educated in school No.14 (which later became No.78) on the Petrogradskaya Side. That was before the war and it was a standard school and my class was a standard one as well. There were some boys who were friends interested in science and we discussed all sorts of unusual scientific problems. I finished year 7 only.
Q. What you remember about the war?
A. The war started in June 1941 but only in March of 1942 were my mother, brother and I able to escape the blockaded city across the frozen Lake Ladoga along the so called “Road of Life”. We were lucky to survive as the truck in front of us sank under the ice. We spent the rest of the war in the Urals - in the village of Beloyarka in what was Chelyabinsk province at that time but later became Kurgan province. There was a very nice river in Beloyarka and the village itself has some connection to Tsar Boris Godunov.
Q. Where did you study and work after the war?
A. We returned to Leningrad in July 1945. After 7th grade at the standard school I began studies at the technical school from 1945 to 1949 and in that year I entered the “Lensoviet Leningrad Institute of Chemical Technology”. After graduation in 1954 I was sent to The Research Institute for the Chemistry of Mineral Oil (I stayed there for 3 years) and worked on polymers. In 1957 I entered the special course at the same Chemical Institute. I studied to do my PhD in the faculty of colloid chemistry.
Unfortunately I didn’t complete my PhD. I wrote my thesis but didn’t submit it because I became very sceptical of the details of “ Kremnyov’s Method ” ( he was the head of the Faculty) when I found them to be incorrect – this way of doing things made it possibile of achieve any results you wished.Q. Was it at that time that the idea of a lift into space came to you? How?
A. Yes, my idea for a lift into space took shape at that time. I was always interested in space and my friend Alik Yezrielev’s father, as a Stalin Prize winner had access to foreign scientific and technical journals (that was in 1957, four years after Stalin’s death) and we could also read them. On one occasion we read about a newly developed extremely strong polymer, so strong that if you used it to make a rope 400km in length it would not break under its own weight. At an altitude of 400km the force of gravity is already less than on earth so the rope could be lengthened up to 1km ( according to my calculations) without it breaking. The question arose what thickness would a rope of infinite length require. It turned out to be impossible if it was of a constant diameter. However, such a rope could be possible if it had a variable cross section, that is, was spindle shaped and if it was possible to use centrifugal force to counter the force of gravity. Step by step the idea of a lift into space was born. I kept talking to people about the idea but didn’t submit my article to the Soviet newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda” until 1960 and a week later they published it.Q. Where does your ability to have ideas on so many different areas come from? Is it innate or did you develop the skills yourself or were they the result of your studies and work?
A. It is difficult for me to answer that question. As a child I read popular science books in the series “ Entertaining Physics”,”Chemistry”,”Mathematics”, “Astronomy”,”Mechanics” and so on, all by the same author Perlman. Perhaps both my interest and my ability came from there.Q. If you were interested in such books and you read them it suggests you already had an interest in these things. The ability to think, to analyse, to develop new ideas could develop from your reading because all those books were about ideas and how to put them into practice.
A. I was always solving difficult problems. For example in 4th Grade I solved all the problems in our Arithmetic text book.
Q. Was your Arithmetic teacher special?
A. No, he was an average teacher.
Q. Do you recall any outstanding teacher at your school?
A. Yes. In Grade 7 there was a teacher of Physics – Guchkov who made a big impression on me. He gave me a physics textbook to read which he had used at University.
Q. Did you understand it all?
A. Of course! (he laughs)
Q. What are your own best qualities?
A. Love for knowledge otherwise known as ‘inquisitiveness’. I love to solve difficult problems. Yes, I’ve always tried to solve difficult problems wherever I’ve been.
Q. Did you join the Komsomol (Young communists) organization?
A. Of course I did. It was compulsory! As soon as I was 14 years old I became a member at once.
Q. What happened when you graduated from the Technological Institute? Did you let your membership lapse?
A. When I started my studies at the technical school I was asked whether I was a member of Komsomol and I said “yes”. When I started to work in the Research Institute for the Chemistry of Mineral Oil I was asked if I was a member of the Communist Party. I said ”no”. Of Komsomol? I said “yes”. When I completed the course work for my PhD in 1960 I left Komsomol because of my age. They kept asking me to become a member of the Communist Party but I avoided it at all costs. I was afraid to tell them that I didn’t want to! (Laughs).
From 1960 to 1964 I remained in the faculty of Colloid chemistry and worked in the laboratory. for four years.
In 1965 my friend Alik Yezrielev persuaded me to join the Institute of Synthetic Rubber (VNIISC) because at the Chemistry for Mineral Oil Institute I had been working with latexes. It was here I first met some young dissidents.
Q. Did the fact your father was arrested affect your career, if so how?
A. Yes, it affected me before his rehabilitation in 1956. Before then I was expelled from the special faculty of Atomic Energy in the Technological Institute where I studied. It was actually contrary to their own popular slogan “Children are not responsible for the deeds of their fathers”! (laughs). I always had the best marks in all subjects. I was awarded a special allowance as part of my scholarship (but they didn’t give me a Stalin scholarship!) Everyone around me kept telling me I was the best student in the Institute etc. Despite this I was expelled form the Atomic Energy faculty.
Q. How did you get into the Faculty of Atomic Energy in the first place?
A. I had a “red”diploma (an outstanding diploma with Honors) from the technical school where I had studied so they enrolled me there but by doing so they kept me from any of the other, better faculties. (The faculty of Atomic Energy was “closed” with increased security and secrecy so you needed to have an absolutely (politically)clean biography. From that point of view I was not “trustworthy” because my father was a political prisoner. Political considerations were more important than my qualifications in 1949. My father wasn’t rehabilitated until 1956.
Q. Were you interested in atomic energy?
A. No, but they offered other subjects in the faculty: all the nuclear processes, all the chemical processes connected with nuclear technology etc. i.e. it gave a very broad knowledge around the behaviour of atoms.
Q. How did you become an “Enemy of People”?
A. It was much later, in 1965 and I didn’t become one directly as such. There was a group of nine students who decided to organize a communist revolution. They were all arrested and imprisoned. Those who read their pamphlets and the book called “From Bureaucracy to Dictatorship of the Proletariat” and who hadn’t informed the “organs” (of the KGB) about such anti-Soviet activities were expelled. ‘Why didn’t you denounce them?’ ‘Why didn’t you come to tell us?’ ‘If you hadn’t forgotten our special department (Department No.1) at your place of work or study and if you had have come to us more often everything could be different’. So, I was dismissed from the Institute of Synthetic Rubber. I had worked there for only a year and a half.
Q. How did that affect your life?
A. It continued to affect me in one way or another. Wherever I worked I was either paid less than before or didn’t receive any wages for some months. And if they wanted to dismiss me I was told to write an application that I wanted to terminate my work “of my own free will”. Or else I was told, “Yes, we’ll appoint you” but three days later I was rejected.
That was the case in five or six work places. Finally I found a position at the VNIIASH (Institute for Abrasives and Grinding Materials) where people from the 1st Department of my previous place of employment had called asking them to take me (the Institute had a low security profile). That was in 1966. Actually it only happened after I had gone to the headquarters of the KGB in Leningrad (the so called “Big House” on the Liteinyi Prospect) and told them that I hadn’t known that I had to inform them about the dissidents. I hadn’t known I had to denounce them! I worked from 1966 to 1992 at VNIIASH. In between I worked for four years at the “Ilych” in an experimental research plant.
Q. Your future wife worked at VNIIASH?
A. Yes, she had graduated from the Electrotechnical Institute in Leningrad.
Q. How did you survive financially before you started to work at VNIIASH?
A. My mother and my aunt helped me with money but personally I wasn’t stressed because I felt it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t have a job.
Q. Why didn’t you emigrate when it became possible? You told me in 1979 when I emigrated that you couldn’t bear leaving the Russian landscape.
A. No, I was joking! I never considered emigrating seriously because I couldn’t bear to cut my connections with hundreds of my friends and acquaintances.
Q. Are you a member of some scientific organization, club, or association?
A. I was a member of a society where people delivered scientific lectures and I did the same: the Society for the Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge Unfortunately I haven’t heard about the society for a long time. I also gave lectures at the Historical Museum of the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Q. When did you retire from VNIIASH?
A. In 1992. I didn’t retire, they made me go on the pension. The Deputy Director of Science, M. Efros, told me I was too individualistic. If I had have included all the “essential people” (i.e. himself) as co-authors on the applications of my inventions I could have worked much longer!
Copyright 2010.:Yuri Artsutanov, Natalie Sherman, Eugene Schlusser
This conversation, as the previous two, are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any form without the express, written consent of Eugene Schlusser (eugenesc [at] netspace.net.au).
I find the whole interaction with the KGB and the Russian state beaurocracy to be fascinating. To not be allowed to do the work of your choice because they had a political problem with your father is just so bizarre…
Yuri Arsutanov and Jerome Pearson will both be at the upcoming Space Elevator Conference and it’s still not too late to sign up! Come out, learn more about this magnificent idea, and meet the two people largely responsible for the modern day concept of the Space Elevator!
The Space Elevator Blog wishes to thank Mr.’s Schlusser and Artsutanov for their permission to publish these conversations. It’s truly been an honor.
August 4th, 2010
This is the second part of a three part series; “Conversations with Yuri Artsutanov”. Part I can be found here.
(Conversation with Yura Artsutanov by phone - Melbourne – St Petersburg), March 2010
Q. What is Dyson’s sphere?
A. Dyson is an American scientist-physicist. He proposed that if we want to survive in the Universe we need to search for much bigger sources of energy than the sun, the sizes of the entire solar system and the absolute temperature of radiation up to 300 F, the temperature needed to support life. He said that life of any civilization develops and expands requiring more and more space. In the end, the entire terrestrial civilization will occupy a “cocoon” – so called “Dyson’s cocoon ” which will include some of the planets of our solar system, satellites, any artificial bodies (Sputniks) etc. All this matter will form a sphere around the sun capturing its entire energy for use by humankind. At present only a millionth part reaches our planet. So the sphere has to be of an enormous size but its temperature has to be equal to that of the human body.
Nobody knows how to construct such a cocoon. The (Polish) writer and philosopher Stanislav Lem wrote that it was impossible. Mathematics and mechanics also indicate such a sphere is impossible to create, that it is fundamentally unstable, that it will be crushed by the forces of gravity.
So this is my proposal: to make a belt in the shape of a beautiful shell revolving around the sun like a stretched satellite. If such a belt were constructed we could get not just a millionth part of the sun’s energy but as much as one hundredth of it. However, the radiation will be immense so a second belt has to be constructed at an angel to the first, and a third belt - at the same angle as the second one. The second belt must have a lesser diameter than the first one and the third belt a lesser diameter than the second to prevent them from crashing into each other. Such a shell will be impossible to crush. It will be stable because in each section the centrifugal force will be balanced by the force of gravity. The sphere will rotate around the sun and in addition it might even be possible to move closer to the sun. However that is a very complicated option.
So in principle it is possible to devise a mechanical structure which will not be crushed under its own weight and I’m the first one to propose this. My article “Threefold Matryoshka” was published in the Russian magazine “Energy”. 1986, No.12. There is even a drawing of how it will look. I sent the article to Freeman Dyson, but unfortunately I couldn’t meet him when I was in the USA about 10 years ago.
Copyright 2010 Yuri Artsutanov, Natalie Sherman, Eugene Schlusser
Again, these conversations are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any form without the express, written consent of Eugene Schlusser (eugenesc [at] netspace.net.au).
The ‘belt’ idea seems to mimic Larry Niven’s Ringworld (one of the all-time great SciFi stories) - I wonder if Yuri is familiar with this novel? I’ll have to ask him at the upcoming Space Elevator Conference.
As I mentioned in Part I of this series, Yuri will be attending the upcoming Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington. If you want the chance to be able to meet both Yuri and Jerome Pearson, two of the true pioneers of the space age, come out to the Conference - it’s going to be the best one yet!
August 1st, 2010
For those of you who don’t know who Yuri Artsutanov is, he is a Russian engineer and the original co-inventor of the modern idea of a Space Elevator. It was Yuri who first postulated the Space Elevator being a tensile structure rather than a compressive one (like a conventional building or tower).
Yuri will be appearing at the upcoming Space Elevator Conference (August 12-15) in Redmond, Washington - traveling all the way from his home in St. Petersburg, Russia. Yuri is 81 years young and is, by all accounts, in excellent health.
The Space Elevator Blog is very privileged to be able to present the first in a three-part series; “Conversations with Yuri Artsutanov”. Parts II and III will be posted over the next several days.
Yuri Artsutanov in a phone conversation with Natalie Sherman and Eugene Schlusser - part I
(Melbourne –St Petersburg), March 2010
Q. Yura, please tell us how the idea of “A lift into Space” came to you initially?
A. It was in 1957; I had a friend, Alik (Albert) Yezrielev; his father was a Stalin Prize winner and as such had access to foreign scientific and technical journals so Alik read them as well. One day he told me the Americans had invented a very strong material so that a cable made of this material could be as long as 400kms and would not break under its own weight. I commented that if the cable were placed vertically at an altitude of 400kms where the force of gravity is less than on earth the cable could be made even longer (for ~ 200m) without collapsing into itself. There followed this hypothetical question: what strength would a cable of infinite length have to have? And what if such a cable where erected on the equator where its centrifugal force would keep it at the higher altitude and therefore it would not fall down? That might make it possible to travel into space along such a cable instead of using rockets!
Q. What aroused your interest in the material and the thickness of the cable in first place?
A. I was interested in travelling into space from my early childhood. When I read that a new super strong material had been invented I immediately realised it could be used for building super long cables to lift us to cosmic altitudes, i.e. for traveling into space.
Q. So the very idea of “a lift into Space” came to you when you thought about the cable, its strength etc.?
A. Yes and it was in 1957, two months before the first Sputnik was launched.
Q. Why is it so important to travel into Space?
A. To find fossils and water on other planets and to use them.
Q. What about “saving humankind”?
A. Plenty of writers and philosophers from Aristotle to the present have thought and written about this. K.E.Tsiolkovsky said that “The Earth is the cradle of humanity but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever”. The idea of Arthur C. Clarke was “to resettle humankind around the sun to increase its possibilities of survival”. Besides, sooner or later the sun and our planet will perhaps explode and people will need transport to escape and to disperse into space. So “salvaging humankind” has two meanings: the salvation of humankind in the event of a catastrophe, and making way for humankind in its natural aspiration to expand. Now it is closer to being realized thanks to the invention of the new super strong material – fullerene. The Americans could be using “A lift into Space” by 2040.
Q. Tell us how your idea came to be connected with Tsiolkovsky?
A. Five years after my article “A Lift into Space” was published in the newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda” a short article mentioning it appeared in the newspaper “Leningradskaya Pravda”. A year later the Americans invented the same “lift” (they called it a “space elevator”) and published an article in the American magazine “Science”. A correspondent of the “Novosti Press Agency” V. Lvov had special access to the foreign press and brought the article to “Leningradskay Pravda” where he was told that the idea was not a new one. A Russian article on the same idea had already been published in their paper one year prior. They searched their archives and found the article. Lvov then came to me convinced that the Americans had stolen my idea and he even published an article accusing the Americans. That was in 1966 when “the cold war” was coming to an end. When the Americans found out about Lvov’s article they asked him to stop alleging plagiarism because he was wrong. Their invention had been made quite independently. Lvov agreed and in an article for the American journal “Science” wrote:the space elevator had been “invented for the second time”.
Then the KGB came into the picture asserting that Artsutanov was not worthy of the status of ‘ a hero’. His father had been arrested as “an enemy of the people” and he himself hadn’t informed them about a group of young dissidents (i.e.“enemies of the Soviet State”) at the Leningrad Technological Institute where he had studied. He had known them and was even connected with them. Lvov was ordered as follows: “You need to reduce the role of Artsutanov in this invention; write that the idea originated with Tsiolkovsky and Zander, and Artsutanov had copied their idea; that is, he wasn’t the originator of the idea”.
In fact what Tsiolkovsky had written was: ”if it were possible to build a tower to a height of 36, 000 kms it might be possible to launch satellites from the top. However, everybody understands that to build such a tower is impossible”. He didn’t even offer a solution on how to build such a tower. It was a purely mental speculation on his part, “a mental experiment” as Arthur C. Clarke put it later.
Among the rough notes belonging to F. Zander they found his calculations for the strength of a tube which could be used by people to get to the moon. He concluded that the entire supply of cast iron on the planet would not be enough to build such a tube. He also wrote that while it might be conceivable “everyone understands that it would be impossible”, and thereafter he never mentioned it again.
Despite all these obvious facts V. Lvov still claimed that both scientists had been thinking of “a lift into Space” long before Artsutanov.
It must be said that Tsiolkovsky’s idea for a tower was not original. It goes back to the Biblical Tower of Babel. People wanted to build a tower to reach the sky but God punished them and destroyed the tower.
Arthur C. Clarke wrote to V. Lvov pointing out that there are no references to a lift in the works of Tsiolkovsky. The idea of a tower remained merely a speculative matter.
Q. What did Arthur C. Clarke think about it all when he found out you were the real father of the idea?
A. In his novel “The Fountains of Paradise” he clearly wrote that the lift into space was invented in the 20th century by Yuri Artsutanov and Tsiolkovsky didn’t invent any of it. Tsiolkovsky’s writings about the tower are no more than a mere “mental experiment”.
Q. How did you meet Arthur C. Clarke?
A. He came to the USSR with several purposes in mind; one was to meet me. His main goal was to see the Hermitage in St Petersburg and the location in Siberia where the Tunguz meteor fell in 1908 (he wasn’t able to fulfil this aim). His trip was organized by the newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda” who gave him an interpreter as well. Yes, he came to my apartment, looked out from my window, we spoke sitting around the table …
Q. What do you think about Jerome Pearson and his work?
A. His is engineering work of a very high quality but the idea itself is exactly the same as mine. He had the opportunity to try to build a lift – the company, the equipment etc. which I, of course, didn’t have. The idea itself came to him through his work as an ichthyologist. In their research into the oceans it was very important to have very strong cables which wouldn’t break even at a depth of 30km. Then he realized it would be possible to pull the cable not only down underwater but up as well.
Q. Do you have other inventions on which you have written and published?
A. Dyson’s Sphere. In our search for other civilizations we need to locate and study huge objects of a length of up to one billion km. Their temperature has to be less than 50C for life to exist. In the future the increasing population on earth will need all the energy of the sun, not just that fraction which at present reaches our planet. So we need to create a sphere, where intelligent creatures can live on its inner surface and capture all of their energy’s source - the sun’s or other sources. That’s Dyson’s idea.
Q. What is your part in the idea?
A. Nobody knows how to construct a sphere so that it isn’t destroyed by the sun’s gravitation. My article on the subject was published in the Russian magazine “Knowledge is Power”, 1969, No.9.
© Copyright 2010 Yuri Artsutanov, Natalie Sherman, Eugene Schlusser
Note that these conversations are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any form without the express, written consent of either Natalie Sherman or Eugene Schlusser (you can email Eugene at eugenesc [at] netspace.net.au).
I found Yuri’s remarks, especially about the role of the KGB, absolutely fascinating.
It’s not too late to sign up to attend the Space Elevator Conference. Yuri will be appearing with another co-inventor of the modern idea of the Space Elevator, American Engineer Jerome Pearson. They will be hosting a Q&A session, currently scheduled for the morning of Saturday, August 14th.
Come on out and meet some true pioneers of the Space Age!
July 30th, 2010
I’ve written about the NASA MICI (NASA Minority Innovation Challenges Institute) before (here), telling you all about a video which had been posted on this website. This video showed portions of the competition in several of the recent NASA Centennial Challenges.
That’s all well and cool, but Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation (organizers of the Space Elevator Games) has just let me know that, at the NASA MICI channel, “June is Space Elevator Month“. Two presentations relating to the Space Elevator Games have already been posted and two more are on the way. And, if you login to the site while a presentation is underway, you’ll be able to interact (via Chat) with the presenter, asking questions in real-time.
The presentations that have already been posted are:
- The Space Elevator (Ben Shelef)
- Robotics and the Space Elevator (Dr. Antonio J Soares)
Upcoming presentations are:
- Photovoltaic cells and the Space Elevator (Dr. Antonio J Soares) - June 21st, 3:00pm US Eastern time
- Lasers and the Space Elevator (Dr. Antonio J Soares) - June 28th, 3:00pm US Eastern time
The ‘catch’ to all this is that to register to view these presentations, you must be a professor that is “…currently employed at a university or college located in the United States” or a student that is “…(a) a US Citizen currently enrolled at a university or college or (b) a non-US Citizen who is currently enrolled at a university or college located in the United States. “ If you don’t fall into either of these categories, you can apply for login permission (you’ll see how to do this on their website).
This site and it’s videos are there to encourage participation by US students and faculties in the NASA Centennial Challenges program. If you qualify (i.e. are a faculty member of student meeting the MICI requirements), then I would highly encourage you to sign up for this. We are always looking for more competitors in the Space Elevator Games and the majority of teams that have registered have been university-based. The more the merrier!
June 19th, 2010
Anyone who is familiar with the Climber / Power-Beaming team from the University of Saskatchewan, the USST team, knows or knows about Clayton Ruszkowski. Clayton was the team captain for the first several years of their competing and, in the latest competition held in 2009, Clayton was there as an elder statesman…
Many moons ago (Dec 28, 2007), Stan Taylor of the Science Teachers Association of Ontario did an interview with Clayton and recently, he kindly emailed it to me. You can read the interview here (it’s in pdf format). It’s very interesting and we learn all sorts of interesting facts about Clayton. For instance, he is a Canadian and, when he was younger, he played hockey - what are the odds?
He gives his future plans as ‘joining the Canadian Air Force’. I wonder if it’s this Canadian Air Force he’s thinking of:
STAN FREBERG: …ahem, okay people, now when I give you the cue, I want the 700 foot mountain of whipped cream to roll into Lake Michigan, which has been drained and filled with hot chocolate. Then the Royal Canadian Air Force will fly overhead towing a 10-ton maraschino cherry, which will be dropped into the whipped cream to the cheering of 25,000 extras. All right - cut to the mountain!
Cue the Air Force!
Cue the maraschino cherry!
Okay, 25,000 Cheering Extras!(Appropriate SFX, which end abruptly)
Now, you want to try that on television?
Of course, if you weren’t a fan of Stan Freberg, that probably didn’t mean anything to you…
Anyway, it’s a cool interview - check it out. And hey, Clayton - you still owe me a USST mug…
June 16th, 2010
Recently posted on the NASA MICI (Minority Innovation Challenges Institute) website is a short video showing portions of the competition in several of the recent NASA Centennial Challenges.
The Power-Beaming competition is shown, of course, with the 2009 prize-winners, LaserMotive, as the representative.
If you visit their photos/videos page, you can see several other cool things worth watching.
Hat-tip to the LaserMotive blog posting which alerted me to this.
May 13th, 2010
The Chicago Video Production company, Bitter Jester Creative, Inc., the “official video chronicler” of the Space Elevator Games, has some updated and some new video clips available. The sound is in stereo, too…
Check out this page to view them. All of them are of the very high quality that we have come to expect from this talented and dedicated group.
Nic DeGrazia, one of the members of this group, sent me this email about these clips:
Hello Elevator Boys!
I sent you the crane building vid for your enjoyment but I thought I’d let you know that I added that clip (with a nicer fade at the start) and two others (one that you’ve seen, where Ben explains the space elevator on the white board and another new one … UBC delicately polishing their solar cells before the wind whips their climber around) to the BJC site as well.
Check out this page on our new(!) website to see the clips in question…
The title of this post was a quote from Ben Shelef (in the video clip ‘Building the crane‘) talking about how the redesign of the raceway would, hopefully, dampen the oscillations in the tether caused by the wind. Alas, this tether failed during the competition (described here and here) due to those pesky oscillations, and was a primary reason why Ben moved to a steel cable (which performed spectacularly well) in the 2009 Games. This was just one of those things that you don’t know if it’s going to work or not until you try it.
Watching these clips of the 2007 Games brought back a lot of memories - most of them good, but some of them sad. The weather really was a handicap in this event; lots of rain, lots of wind and even some snow and hail for good measure.
I enjoyed watching all of these videos, but the one showing the UBC Climber was, IMHO, particularly fascinating. At the end of the clip, you can see how the wind just played havoc with everything, the tether and the climbers. The picture thumbnail of the UBC Climber, reflected off of their gigantic mirrors, was truly a video highlight of the Games. Click on the thumbnail for a full-size version of the picture.
March 2nd, 2010
It’s good to see that our intrepid explorers can talk through these issues and help each other out when the need arises…
I identified with this webisode as I’ve often been the guilty party when my wife has yelled out “Hey, who ate all the ice cream?“ I’ve also tried the Astronaut Ice Cream, having purchased some at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Gift Shop (yes, there really is one there and they have some cool stuff for sale) during the Space Elevator Games tests and competition. I wasn’t expecting much, but they’re actually edible. I should have refrigerated them before eating though - then I think they would have tasted more like ice cream.
And I should mention that this episode 19 in the Elevator to Space series. I’m glad to see that these guys aren’t winding down and continue to entertain us with their humor.
Visit their website to view all of the webisodes - thanks guys - I’m always very happy when my RSS reader tells me you have a new webisode up…
December 8th, 2009
Sander Olson of the Next Big Future kindly emailed me to let me know that his recent interview with Dr. Brad Edwards has now been posted at their website.
Most interesting quote (IMHO) from the interview:
Small quantities of some nanotubes have been made that are sufficiently strong to be used in a space elevator. We would obviously need to produce hundreds of tons of such nanotubes to build a space elevator. With sufficient funding, we could create a nanotube-based material appropriate for a space elevator within a couple of years.
That certainly sounds overly-optimistic to me, but who am I to argue with Dr. Edwards?
Anyway, it’s always interesting to get the current thoughts of Dr. Edwards and I recommend that you check out the interview.
December 4th, 2009
On the LaserMotive Blog, mention is made of a recent article in the SunBreak, a local Seattle newspaper (team LaserMotive is based in Seattle).
It’s a very interesting article and well worth the read. LaserMotive’s Jordin Kare talks about power-beaming and why that interests LaserMotive (as opposed to a Space Elevator, which they are not interested in).
Jordin is quoted:
“Some of the people who are competing are very much believers in the space elevator–Tom Nugent and I, who started the LaserMotive team, are pretty skeptical,” admitted Kare. “It’s one of these things where it’s a lovely idea, and it may be physically possible–which I wouldn’t have said a decade ago–but it’s a very long jump drawing pretty pictures and writing basic equations to being able to build something a hundred-and-some-odd-thousand kilometers long.”
He’s absolutely correct, of course - right now a Space Elevator IS not much more than ‘pretty pictures’. As the President of ISEC, it’s my job to change that ‘equation’…
It’s ironic - the team that really is not a fan of the idea of Space Elevator is the team that won the recent Space Elevator Games. On one of the many news-clips that resulted from the Games, a reporter asked why LaserMotive bothered to compete in the Games if they don’t believe in the concept. The reply was that they wanted to demonstrate their prowess in power-beaming. I don’t think the $900,000 hurt anything either…
(Picture of Jordin from here - click on it to see a full-size version)
November 29th, 2009
On Tuesday, November 17th, at 4:30pm (Eastern time), members of the 2009 Space Elevator Games prize-winning LaserMotive team will be interviewed on the Jay Thomas radio show. This will be broadcast both on Sirius radio (channel 108) and XM radio (channel 139).
The show will be replayed at 9:00pm (Eastern time).
If you subscribe (or you can get one of the ‘free trials’), this should be a fun interview to listen to.
November 16th, 2009
As many/most of you know, the recently completed Space Elevator Games were broadcast live on uStream.tv. I hope you were watching and listening. After a very ragged first day, commentators Bryan Laubscher and myself did OK, I think, in bringing you all of the action.
For the competition next year (plans already in the works), we’ll be doing this again and hopefully, even better than this time around.
One of the neat things you can do with uStream.tv is record what you watch. Marc Boucher from SpaceRef.com did just that with LaserMotive’s first prize-winning run and it is now available on YouTube. You can watch the run in all it’s glory and listen to Bryan and I (in all our “unglory”) as we call the action. Thanks Marc!
November 12th, 2009
Dr. Brad Edwards, co-author of The Space Elevator and Leaving the Planet by Space Elevator, has appeared in two new interviews. These interviews discusses the Space Elevator somewhat, but concentrate much more on nanotechnology in general.
In the first interview, Dr. Edwards briefly discusses the Space Elevator before the conversation turns to developments in nanotechnology. I must disagree with Dr. Edwards on one issue though. When asked why a Space Elevator hasn’t been built yet, he said that it was because a) society is distracted by other things (swine flu, the war in Afghanistan, etc.) and b) NASA is afraid of failure. While both of these may or may not be true, IMHO I think the reason a Space Elevator hasn’t been built yet is the fact that carbon nanotubes just aren’t strong enough yet.
In the second interview, Dr. Edwards states that a carbon nanotube “1/8 inch in diameter could hold 20 tons”. Again, I must disagree with the optimism here. I don’t think such a tether exists. Someday it may (and it better if we ever want to build a space elevator), but it’s not here yet.
But the interviews are interesting and a lot of very futuristic nano-technologies are discussed.
August 21st, 2009
Charles Radley attended the Space Elevator Conference this year and decided to record a number of videos of the event - I commend him for doing so. If you go to his YouTube page, you can see all of them (there are several). Below is one of them;
August 17th, 2009
Earlier today, Bryan Laubscher, PhD, astrophysicist, long-time supporter of the concept of a Space Elevator and conference organizer extrordinaire, appeared on NPR Radio. The topic was entrepreneurship and Bryan was talking about developing carbon nanotubes to build a Space Elevator.
It’s a short piece but very interesting. Check it out.
July 15th, 2009
On June 8th, Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation, appeared on Dr. David Livingston’s The Space Show to discuss the upcoming Space Elevator Games, Power Beaming, Strong Tethers and Space Elevators in general.
Ben’s Spaceward Foundation is the host of the Space Elevator Games, so he is THE MAN to discuss the topic of the Games. As well, with his recent publications (you can find them all here), most importantly, The Space Elevator Feasability Condition, I think it is safe to say that Ben is now pushing the research forward about the Space Elevator more than anyone else.
Check out the show here - it’s very interesting…
And be sure and check out the official site of the Space Elevator Games here…
June 24th, 2009
I missed this one…
Last Monday, Dr. Bryan Laubscher appeared on David Livingston’s The Space Show. Bryan and David discussed the state of Space Elevator ‘affairs’ and the upcoming Space Elevator Conference (Aug 13-16).
Dr. Laubscher’s bio:
Bryan E. Laubscher received his Ph.D. in physics in 1994 from the University of New Mexico with a concentration in astrophysics. In 2008 Bryan left Los Alamos National Laboratory to pursue new adventures in the Redmond, WA where he and his wife now live. In 2006 Bryan spent a year on Entrepreneurial Leave to Seattle. There he started a company to develop the strongest materials ever created. These materials are based upon carbon nanotubes – the strongest structures known in nature and the first material identified with sufficient strength-to-weight properties to build a space elevator. At LANL he is was a project leader and has worked in various capacities for 17 years. His past projects include LANL’s portion of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey , Magdalena Ridge Observatory and a project developing concepts and technologies for space situational awareness. Over the years Bryan has participated in research in astronomy, lidar, non-linear optics, space mission design, space-borne instrumentation design and construction, spacecraft design, novel electromagnetic detection concepts and technologies, detector/receiver system development, spectrometer development, interferometry and participated in many field experiments. Bryan led space elevator development at LANL until going on entrepreneurial leave in late 2005.
And, thanks to the miracle of podcasting, none of us missed the show (though we did miss a chance to call in and ask Dr. Laubscher questions). Click here to listen to the show or visit The Space Show’s website.
May 6th, 2009
The third in the series of the Space Elevator Spring Chats, hosted by Marc Boucher at the Space Elevator Reference site, will be tomorrow, Tuesday, March 31st at 2:30pm - Eastern Time. This week, Marc will interview Bert Murray, the head of the National Space Society (NSS) Climber / Power-Beaming team.
The topic: Discussion on the NSS Team efforts and the Space Elevator. Bert has 30 years experience working at Lockheed Martin.
I look forward to seeing all of you on Marc’s next chat!
March 30th, 2009
On March 17th, the inaugural Space Elevator Reference chat was held. This is a series of chats that is being hosted at Marc Boucher’s Space Elevator Reference site.
The first guest was Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation, host of the Space Elevator Games.
The transcript of this chat is now available. If you missed the chat, here is your chance to get the absolute latest information on the Space Elevator Games and hear Ben’s answers to other questions that were posed to him.
March 29th, 2009
Over at the Space Elevator Reference, THE original Space Elevator website, host Marc Boucher will be hosting a series of online chats dedicated to the topic of the Space Elevator. Each week, Marc will have a different luminary from the Space Elevator effort on the chat.
Spring Chat Series Starting March 17 and running every Tuesday for at least 4 weeks.
Our first guest will be:
Ben Shelef, Co-founder, The Spaceward Foundation & the International Space Elevator Consortium
Join the Chat: March 17 @ 2:30 PM Eastern Time/ 11:30 AM Pacific Time
Topic: The Space Elevator concept including an update on the Space Elevator Challenges
So, join the chat and learn, first-hand, the latest goings-on in the Space Elevator effort. You can also send questions to Marc before the show at:
Marc.Boucher [at] spaceelevator.com.
Hope to see you on the chat!
March 16th, 2009
No, there’s nothing wrong with me (outside of a nasty cold that had me bed-ridden for a few days), there’s just not much going on in the “Space Elevator World” at this time.
Work still continues on finalizing arrangements for the next Space Elevator Games. It has been reported in many places (but NOT this blog) that the Games are scheduled for April 26th-30th, or alternatively, April 27th-May1st. This may yet happen but is NOT yet certain. When the dates and location are set, you’ll hear about it first here on this blog and, of course, on the Spaceward website. Several of us, including some team representatives, visited the Kennedy Space Center in late February to meet with people from ISTEF, the Kennedy Space Center, NASA, and several other groups to discuss logistical problems and find solutions. This is no small task. What Spaceward and the teams are attempting to accomplish this year is truly quite astonishing; creating a laser-powered climber speeding along at an average speed of 5 meters/second up a kilometer-long steel cable racetrack held up by a hovering helicopter. Because the teams are beaming class-4 lasers essentially straight up into the air, flight restrictions must be observed so that aircraft, especially low-flying aircraft, are not allowed in the area during climbs. Also, the actual scheduling of the runs must take into account overhead satellite passes as it is might be possible for these lasers to affect some satellite optics. In addition, because reflections from these lasers off of the climbers can be potentially dangerous, procedures and ’safe’ areas need be designated so that the “6 year old albino kid who never blinks and has both a 12″ Celestron telescope and a litigious mother” are taken into account and kept safe. All these problems are solvable, but many parties are involved and all have to be satisfied that the plan is a sound one.
Speaking of lasers, LaserMotive’s Jordin Kare recently appearedon Dr. David Livingston’s Space Show. Jordin really knows lasers and the show is quite informative - tune in and enjoy…
March 2nd, 2009
I’m sure many of you saw the BBC News Article about using vibrations to power a Space Elevator Climber (along with a very short video clip demonstrating the effect via using a broomstick).
On YouTube now, there is a longer video where the engineer who has proposed the idea at the recent EuroSpaceward conference, Age-Raymond Riise, talks about how this idea works and some of the problems it introduces.
Frankly, I’m a bit skeptical of this idea. There is already, IMHO, too much going on with the tether (having to move it to avoid potential collisions as well as just the natural vibrations which will already be in the tether due to the Climbers, the sun, the moon, etc.) and introducing this will just muck up the works even more. But I’m not a physicist, perhaps I’m wrong.
One of the things we hope to do with ISEC is to launch a ‘rapid-response-team’ which will look at ideas like this and say if they are feasible or not. It will be nice to catch the news cycle these stories appear in and give them a bit more credibility if they past muster, or point out the obvious flaws in them if they do not.
(Picture of parking space from here - click on it for a larger version)
January 22nd, 2009
Markus Klettner, Executive Director of EuroSpaceward, has kindly sent me several documents resulting from or relating to the recent EuroSpaceward Conference.
This first document is an interview of Markus by BBC New Journalist Jason Palmer. Markus hastens to add that the views he expresses in this interview are his own and are not necessarily representative of EuroSpaceward. This document is in pdf format.
The next document is the Conference presentation by Professor Nicola Pugno entitled “The role of defects in the design of Space Elevator cable” and is in Microsoft Powerpoint format.
Finally, Markus has kindly provided us with 8 other documents/presentations authored or co-authored by the same Professor Pugno relating to his studies of defects in carbon nanotubes. All of these documents are in pdf format.
So, if you need some reading material - here it is!
These documents are particularly relevant as I have recently presented a series of posts (here, here and here) on Ben Shelef’s (CEO of Spaceward) view of how strong a carbon nanotube ribbon has to be to make a useful Space Elevator. From my own reading of Prof. Pugno’s papers, it appears that there are some differences of opinion (or at least differences in the way things are stated) between Prof. Pugno and Ben on this issue. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, ISEC can explore these differences in more detail.
December 29th, 2008
I finally have my copy of the new Marvel release, Iron Man - The End. It’s been one busy week, so I didn’t have a chance to read it until tonight.
The issue is about 98% Iron Man and 2% Space Elevator, but hey, 2% of a Marvel Iron Man issue is nothing to sneeze at. I was initially going to do a review of the storyline, but decided against it because a) I am not competent to do so as I really know nothing about the comic book genre and b) I thought it would be more interesting to tease out the 2% Space Elevator bits to see how they stack up against the ‘currently accepted model’.
To begin with, the earthport of the Stark Space Elevator (Tony Stark = aka Iron Man) is based on a tiny island. This does not fit the currently proposed model, which calls for an an ocean-based, movable platform. The Edwards-Westling book gives eight reasons why we would want to have a movable base;
- Able to move the ribbon out of the path of orbiting objects and also any storms strong enough to be dangerous.
- Can be located directly on the equator in the most weather-friendly position possible.
- Can be located in international waters.
- Can be located near populations or not as selected.
- Large-scale, mobile sea platforms are tested technology (Sea Launch).
- If the ribbon breaks, much or all of the lower portion will probably fall into the ocean.
- No high-altitude operational challenges (snow, thin-air, etc.)
- Easier to ship really large, bulky, irregular-shaped items to a Space Elevator via sea than on land.
Some difficulties of a ocean-based earth-port vs. a land-based earth-port are also mentioned in this book;
- Vertical movement of the anchor
- Movement of the power-beam(s)
Personally, I’ve never liked the idea of an ocean-going earth-port - the idea has always seemed a bit dodgy to me. When I first read The Space Elevator, everything proposed made sense EXCEPT for the earth-port. Having to move the earth-port itself to induce a wave in the tether in order to make it miss a bit of debris (or a satellite) is really inefficient. Why not have lasers zap the 99.99% of the debris that no one cares about and have thrusters mounted on the ribbon every 1,000 Km or so and let them move the ribbon as necessary for the rare bit (live satellite or whatever) which cannot be zapped? Just find the thruster that’s closest and use it. And, with the portion of the tether which is in the atmosphere now probably going to be a cable rather than a ribbon, it will be minimally affected by the wind.
So, my heart is with Stark on this one, though the ‘prevailing wisdom’ says otherwise…
The next item mentioned is the tether itself. To quote from the relevant frame; “Basically a giant nanotube ‘grown’ from a geostationary Space Station.“ Travel on this tether will be by (again quoting); “…magnetically levitated shuttles (which) will carry passengers and cargo at less than two percent of current costs making the stars accessible to the common man.” Hmmmm.
Again, the current model says that the baseline tether will be shipped to GEO, assembled, and then simultaneously deployed downwards (towards earth) and upwards (away from earth), this to keep it stable. If the tether is only ’grown downwards’, as is shown in the comic book, pretty soon (very soon, in fact), gravity will have its say and will pull everything down. Yes, you can have a counterweight at GEO (with nothing above it) to hold the tether in place, but it would have to be ginormous, far bigger than the space station shown in the comic. Also, later on in the issue, there is a picture of the tether in the clouds, looking like it’s being ‘grown downwards’, but it’s not a tether at all, but rather a very large structure. This is reminiscent of the ‘Clarke model’ from his Fountains of Paradise novel.
So, IMHO, I don’t think the tether scenario in the comic would work at all…
The next Space Elevator item was, well, there was no ‘next item’ - that was it. Like I said, 98% Iron Man, 2% Space Elevator.
If you want to find out if Tony Stark succeeds in building his Space Elevator, you’ll just have to go out and buy the issue
When this issue was first announced, I emailed one of the storyline artists, Bob Layton, and asked if he would be willing to answer a few questions for us. He graciously consented and below, is our short interview with Bob.
[Space Elevator Blog - SEB] Have you been following the evolution in thought regarding the development of a Space Elevator? Do you consider it to be a realistic possibility or just a crazy idea?
[Bob Layton - BL] I believe that it’s a totally realistic concept and I hope that we eventually apply our energies as a society to make this science into a reality.
[SEB]Why did you pick a Space Elevator as Tony Stark’s “Ultimate Project”? Were you at all influenced by author Arthur C. Clarke and his fictional engineer (Vannevar Morgan) building a Space Elevator as his ‘ultimate project’ or was there another inspiration behind this?
[BL]When David Michelinie and I were originally concocting the plot to Iron Man: The End back in 1999, I had just finished reading Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘Songs of Distant Earth’. The scientific theory around the Space Elevator in that story served as an inspiration.
[SEB]If it’s not revealing a plot line you’d rather keep secret for now, does Tony Stark use the ‘Edwards model’ for building a Space Elevator (a carbon nanotube ribbon as the climber cable, anchored in the ocean at the earth-end) or the ‘Clarke model’ (a more solid structure anchored on land) or some other model?
[BL] We use a little bit of the “Edwards Model” and the “Clarke Model” in IRON MAN:The End.
[SEB] Reading your Bio on your website (http://www.boblayton.com <http://www.boblayton.com/>), it’s obvious that, to date, you have had a long and successful career in the comic book industry as well as in film and television. During your career, have you used the concept of a Space Elevator in any other project? If so, could you tell us a little bit about those projects?
[BL] No. But I have a proposed TV series in the works entitled “Jett’s Way” that revolves around the first commercial Space Agency. In the premise, the lead character is trying to get permits to construct the space elevator and encounters political and corporate opposition from every imaginable source.
[SEB] There is support building for a Space Elevator in both Europe and Japan and I think they would be very interested in this issue. Are Marvel Comics available in other languages?
[SEB] Finally, if you had a chance to ride on a real Space Elevator, would you do it?
[BL ] In a HEARTBEAT!! YOU BET!!
Thank you Bob! And, please keep us updated on the “Jett’s Way” project you mentioned. It sounds fascinating.
Go out and buy this issue, dear readers. More than most comic books, I think this could become a ‘Collector’s Item’.
(Cover Text/Graphic and frame from this issue)
November 22nd, 2008
Over at SpaceFellowship.com, they have just posted an interview with Elon Musk, he of SpaceX fame (as well as PayPal, Tesla Motors and SolarCity). The interview covered many subjects. including the Space Elevator. He’s not a fan.
“Question: I know that SpaceX has plenty on its plate right now. However, any thoughts on using your techology after you go public on the construction of a Space Elevator? Private or Public?
Elon Musk: It will be a *long* time, if ever, before the economics of a space elevators make sense. Consider that no one has decided to build a bridge from New York to London and that would be way easier than building a space elevator.”
That’s an odd answer, to say the least. Why would anyone want to build a bridge from New York to London? We already have commercial shipping and air transport that gets things to/from one side of the pond to the other. He really thinks we should drive between New York and London? Rest stops? Gasoline stations? Restaurants? In the middle of the Atlantic? When someone can fly from New York to London in just a few hours? I think he’s totally missing the point, especially considering a quote a little later on in the interview:
“Question: Do you have an estimate of when the common person will be able to take advantage of the fruits of the SpaceX program?
Elon Musk: Depends on how common. If we can make reusability work well, I think we can get the cost per person to orbit down to a few million dollars within eight to ten years. If reusability works well and demand is strong, so that we can distribute overhead over a large number of launches, it could one day get to under $1M.”
“Under $1M“. Gee, how exciting…
On the other hand, I do tend to agree with his assessment of Space Solar Power:
“Question: Should not NASA be funding research to make Space Solar Power possible in this time of energy crisis as they did in the 1970’s?
Elon Musk: No, I don’t believe in space solar power. It will never be competitive with ground solar power. The cost of converting the electron energy to photon energy and then back again on the ground overwhelms the 2X increase in solar incidence. And that’s before you consider the cost of transporting the solar panels and converters to orbit!”
It’s a very interesting interview - check it out.
(Picture of Elon Musk and the Falcon2 from here. Click on it for a larger version.)
September 27th, 2008
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.
August 8th, 2008
In January of 2007, the PBS show NOVA Science Now aired a short clip (about 12 minutes) on building a Space Elevator. This clip was narrated by the esteemed Neil deGrasse Tyson. I blogged about it a few times, including here and here.
Jim Dempsey has let me know that this show is being rebroadcast TONIGHT. Check your local listings for playing times.
August 6th, 2008
Remember, on today’s ‘The Space Show’, host Dr. David Livingston interviews Dr.’s Bryan Laubscher and Martin Lades to talk about the upcoming Space Elevator Conference and the ’state of affairs’ for the Space Elevator.
If you have questions and/or comments about the Space Elevator or the conference, or just want to hear the latest, be sure to tune into today’s show.
From the Show Notes:
The Sunday, July 6, 2008 program, 12-1:30 PM Pacific Daylight Time welcomes Dr. Bryan Laubscher and Dr. Marin Lades to the program to discuss the upcoming Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington.
Bryan E. Laubscher received his Ph.D. in physics in 1994 from the University of New Mexico with a concentration in astrophysics. Bryan has just left Los Alamos National Laboratory to pursue new adventures in the Redmond, WA where his wife lives. In 2006, Bryan spent a year on Entrepreneurial Leave to Seattle. There, he started a company to develop the strongest materials ever created. These materials are based upon carbon nanotubes – the strongest structures known in nature and the first material identified with sufficient strength-to-weight properties to build a space elevator. At LANL, he is a project leader and has worked in various capacities for 17 years. His past projects include LANL’s portion of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey , Magdalena Ridge Observatory and a project developing concepts and technologies for space situational awareness. Over the years, Bryan has participated in research in astronomy, lidar, non-linear optics, space mission design, space-borne instrumentation design and construction, spacecraft design, novel electromagnetic detection concepts and technologies, detector/receiver system development, spectrometer development, interferometry and participated in many field experiments. Bryan led space elevator development at LANL until going on entrepreneurial leave in late 2005.
Dr. Martin Lades, has an interdisciplinary physics Ph.D. with a dissertation on pattern recognition and neural networks from the Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum, Germany, and an M.S. in physics on applied optics from the Friedrich-Alexander Universitaet Erlangen, Germany. His research work includes pattern recognition research at LLNL and software development in bioinformatics. He has managed R&D, IT, and information security efforts and co-founded a VC funded tissue engineering startup running FDA trials. Martin joined the Space Elevator community 2004 attending the SE conference in D.C. He is currently working on optical design and control system questions for the 2008 Kansas City Space Pirates entry in Spaceward’s Power Beaming competition. He was working with the same team in 2006 and 2007, for example contributing the KCSP mirror targeting device for 2007. Martin’s passion is to coalesce the forces for Space Elevator development and support their communication infrastructure.
Listeners can talk to Dr. Laubscher, Dr. Lades, or the host using toll free 1 (866) 687-7223, by sending e-mail during the program using email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or chatting on AOL/ICQ/CompuServe Chat using the screen name “spaceshowchat.”
July 6th, 2008
On Sunday, July 6th, Dr.’s Bryan Laubscher and Martin Lades will be joint guests on Dr. David Livingston’s The Space Show. From the show notes:
Sunday, July 6, 2008, 12-1:30 PM PDT (19-20:30 GMT) - Dr. Bryan Laubscher and Dr. Martin Lades come to the program to discuss the upcoming Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington…
Bryan E. Laubscher received his Ph.D. in physics in 1994 from the University of New Mexico with a concentration in astrophysics. Bryan has just left Los Alamos National Laboratory to pursue new adventures in the Redmond, WA where his wife lives. In 2006, Bryan spent a year on Entrepreneurial Leave to Seattle. There, he started a company to develop the strongest materials ever created. These materials are based upon carbon nanotubes – the strongest structures known in nature and the first material identified with sufficient strength-to-weight properties to build a space elevator…
Dr. Martin Lades, has an interdisciplinary physics Ph.D. with a dissertation on pattern recognition and neural networks from the Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum, Germany, and an M.S. in physics on applied optics from the Friedrich-Alexander Universitaet Erlangen, Germany. His research work includes pattern recognition research at LLNL and software development in bioinformatics.
Visit The Space Show website to read the full biographies of both men and be sure to tune into the show.
And visit the Space Elevator Conference website to learn more about the conference and to register to attend. It’s coming up soon - only 18 more days - but it’s still not too late to make plans to attend.
See you there!
July 2nd, 2008
Well, that didn’t take long. The video clip I put up of Brian Turner of the Kansas City Space Pirates appearing on the Conan O’Brien show has been taken down due to “Copyright violations”. I don’t know why - there’s a ton of other Conan video clips up on YouTube. Maybe someone from another Climber/Power-Beaming team complained because they thought that Brian was getting too much publicity :) Anyway, you can go to the Conan O’Brien website and see the clip. Don’t delay though, it probably won’t be up there for long either. Go to this website, navigate to the “May 2nd” episode and then select on “Brian Turner”.
I received a couple of photos from Akira Tsuchida, Captain and Fearless Leader of team E-T-C, showing the Japanese translation of the Edwards-Ragan book “Leaving the Planet by Space Elevator” on sale at a Japanese bookstore. When Akira first wrote me about this, he exclaimed that the book was “Laying on it’s side!!” I had no clue why that was important until he explained to me that this was reserved only for books with multiple copies - a position of prominence I’m told. On a related note, I received an email from Phil Ragan, the co-author of the book. He emailed me to say; “I just saw your spaceelevatorblog.com web site for the first time, sorry I hadn’t come across it earlier. Thanks for the supportive words about our book! The intent was to increase the public awareness of the project and help it along in some way. We’ve just had the Japanese version of the book released and it is in the stores in Tokyo and available at amazon.com.jp and its prompting the book publisher to consider taking us up for a second edition in English, which would be great if it happens.” So, way cool…
On the Spaceward Foundation website, there is an “Artist’s rendition” (complete with Homer Simpson) of a mockup of what the 2008 Space Elevator Games venue might look like (if it’s held at Meteor Crater in Arizona). This mockup will be on display at this year’s ISDC and SEC2008 (and probably some other venues too).
Speaking of ISDC, Ben Shelef of the Spaceward Foundation will be there (with the aforementioned venue mockup) along with representatives of some of the teams entering this year’s Space Elevator competition. I may make it there myself - we’ll see…
And, speaking of the Space Elevator games, the observant may note that the date for these games (posted on the sidebar of this blog) has been changed from September 8th to September 26th-28th. The September 8th date was never really ’set in stone’ - it was just a target date. The 26th-28th dates (with qualifications beginning on the 23rd or 24th) is a much more firm date.
And finally, just another example of how the term “Space Elevator” is entering into the everyday lexicon. In this article, the author is complaining about the rise in diesel fuel prices saying; “Sure, fuel spikes aren’t new, but this time it’s less of a roller-coaster ride than a space elevator.”
(Gas price sign from here)
(For all pictures, click on the thumbnails for a larger version)
May 7th, 2008
This was Conan O’Brien’s joking response to Brian Turner’s description of the “Space Elevator highway(s) to Space”.
Brian Turner of the Kansas City Space Pirates appeared on Friday night’s Conan O’Brien show. I thought the interview went well and that Brian handled himself very commendably. It’s not easy, being interviewed live like that. Many, many years ago, I had one very forgettable instance in a TV interview and I am eternally grateful the TV network chose not to air my mumblings…
Clearly Conan understood the concept of a Space Elevator; either he knew it beforehand or had been coached prior to the show. His questions were accurate and Brian handled them well. There was one comment by Brian where I thought he had clearly misspoke - describing the probable site of a future Space Elevator port as being in the Pacific Ocean, “south of Kansas City.” But I looked on a globe and darned if it isn’t true…
My only complaint would be that they did not mention the Space Elevator Games at all. I think this would have given the concept much more credibility; NASA putting up 4 million dollars in prize money and that what Brian’s team (one of many in the event) is building is an entry for this competition, not a real Space Elevator. But still, Conan O’Brien…
Well done Brian!
(Update 07MAY08 - YouTube has taken down the video. To see it, visit the Conan O’Brien website, navigate to the May 2nd episode and then select ‘Brian Turner’. Do it soon, though - I don’t think episodes stay up very long on this site either…)
May 3rd, 2008
On the current edition of Dr. David Livingston’s The Space Show, Dr. Michio Kaku and Dr. Bob Krone are interviewed.
It’s a wide-ranging interview, with many topics discussed, among them:
“As for discussing space travel, Dr. Kaku pointed out the problem of the high cost of space access. He was asked if we needed breakthrough advanced propulsion to give us low cost space access, could we do it through the space elevator which he talks about in his book, or could space tourism or space solar power be an economic driver leading to a significantly higher launch rate which would enable commercially attractive launch prices.”
It’s a very interesting interview and can be accessed here. Note that this is an .mp3 file and must be downloaded to be played. It’s > 50MB, so… patience is a virtue
April 26th, 2008
At last year’s Space Elevator Games, the Chicago video production company Bitter Jester Creative, Inc. was invited to film the games from a human interest viewpoint. The first fruits of this effort from the team of four that were at the games are now online.
Nic DeGrazia, one of the Bitter Jester Creative team members said this in an email he sent to me:
“The second and third clips in that screening room are two scenes from the feature. One is an introduction of some of the characters in the movie, the other is sort of a sample dramatic scene from one of the Space Pirates failed attempts to claim first place.… please know that this is a work in progress and as is, it’s a bit out of context. This is just to give an example of the production value, content, etc. The full feature would obviously have much more setup and explanation.”
If you visit this link at their website, you can see these two clips.
These are really well done, especially (IMHO) the first one.
(The picture thumbnail is from the first clip - interviewing Bryan Laubscher - one of several people interviewed during the clip. Click on it for a larger version, or, better yet, watch the videos)
April 24th, 2008
No comment, except, I can hardly wait for the next episode
April 16th, 2008
Yes I know that there have no posts here for a few days now. No, nothing’s wrong (thank you to those who emailed me, asking if all was well), there just hasn’t been much to post about.
One of the things I have been doing is some investigation into the “wobbly Space Elevator” (non?) problem. I’ve been corresponding with Dr. Brad Edwards and Dave Lang about this (as well as reading what Blaise Gassend had to say about it) and am going to pony up the $31.50 to read the original paper by Lubos Perek to see what ignited all the fuss. At some future point, if I think I have something to add to this discussion, I will do so.
Glen Phillips is in town Friday night - I look forward to this concert with great anticipation.
Planning is still ongoing for this year’s Space Elevator Games. The two biggest changes from previous games are, of course, the length of the racecourse (now 1km) and that instead of a ribbon, the climbers will have to be ascending/descending a steel rope. The chances that anyone will attempt this competition with a power source other than a laser are somewhere between zero and nil.
Planning is also ongoing for the 2008 Space Elevator Conference. A full team has been assembled to organize this event and I, for one, am truly looking forward to it. It will also be very interesting to see how much Microsoft is truly interested in this idea. I had blogged earlier about Bryan Laubscher’s talk at Microsoft - perhaps this is another way that they are going to compete with Google?
The picture thumbnail, above, is probably one of the last (if not the last) pictures of Sir Arthur C. Clarke and was provided as part of a story by Saswato R. Das. Click on it for a slightly larger version (or access the story, of course).
Finally, about 30% of me thinks that this is a hoax…
April 9th, 2008
Early last year, a new series from the Discovery Channel aired. One of the episodes was a fictional account about how a Space Elevator might be used / integrated into our future and how it may play a part in future scientific development. I blogged about this show here.
Now, thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can view this show again (or, for the first time if you missed it before). It was posted in five parts.
March 20th, 2008
On July 20, 2007, Bryan Laubscher gave a talk about the Space Elevator at Microsoft. It has just (I think) been posted on the web. You can access it here.
This is an hour and 23 minute presentation, exploring the concepts, history, potential uses and current status of the Space Elevator development.
If anyone is looking for a primer (or refresher) about the Space Elevator and its benefits to humanity, this is the video to watch.
(Pictures are screenshots of the presentation. Click on them for a larger version)
March 13th, 2008
Weltraumaufzug - this is how you say/write “Space Elevator” in German. In the most recent episode of the German TV series ‘Quarks‘, the concept of the Space Elevator is explored.
I don’t speak German, so I can’t give you a word by word description of what the show was about, but for anyone who is at all familiar with the concept of a Space Elevator, most of the show will be very understandable. IMHO, it’s really well done - the graphics and animations, some of which I’ve not seen before, are first-rate.
It’s not on YouTube (at least not yet ), so I can’t link to it that way. However, you can view the show here. Maximize the screen size. You can watch the entire show (which covers many subjects besides a Space Elevator), or you can just click on the ‘Weltraumaufzug’ link on the left-hand side to go directly to the Space Elevator episode.
The show spends some time talking about a Climber vehicle being created by some German University students. I don’t recognize the Climber - it wasn’t the TurboCrawler entry into the 2006 Games and there is no German entry into this year’s Games (at least not yet). I’ve emailed the show’s producer to ask her about it - when I find out, I’ll either post an update here or else will put it on a separate post.
And by the way, the videos of the 2007 Space Elevator Games at the beginning of the TV episode were all taken by yours truly. Many of the teams and their climbers are shown.
Watch the show. Even if you don’t speak German, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
(The picture is a screen capture from the show - click on it for a larger version (or watch the show )
March 8th, 2008
A couple of days ago, I received this email from Akira Tsuchida; fearless leader of team E-T-C;
Ted, Brad and Ben,
I am sorry not to talk to you for a long time. I am having hard time to get sponsor for E-T-C to join 2008 game. Still I am not sure if we can join this year or not even I registered….
BTW, there is one good news from Japan today. Space Elevator became popular today in Japan. It was on TV Asahi from 8 pm to 9 pm on Sunday. TV Asahi is one of major TV broadcasting network in Japan. This program in not for Education purpose but unique. That program has an audience rating of almost ten percent. Ten percent is big number.
Anyway, HQ of Spaceward foundation was shown even I have not been there yet. And Brad is also on the TV. Also they made big globe and space station to explain about SE and they invited me to explain.
They broadcast around 30 minutes. I hope SE becomes more popular in Japan.
I just want to tell you about this TV program. Still I need to find sponsor but I am very happy today.
10 percent IS a big number in viewer percentage - let’s hope this leads to a) more interest in the concept of a Space Elevator in Japan and b) some sponsorship help for team E-T-C.
The four pictures in this post are from Akira; they are from the show. Click on them for a larger version. The good looking guy just “above” the globe in the first picture is Akira. And the large-version of the picture of Dr. Edwards is almost scary
And, as this team IS the Earth-Track-Controllers (for the International Space Station - ISS), the picture of the ISS in this group can be forgiven
March 4th, 2008
Tomorrow, Sunday, March 2nd, Ken Davidian, NASA’s man at the Spaceward Games (and other Centennial Challenges), will be interviewed on Dr. David Livingston’s The Space Show. The show airs from 12:00 noon to 1:30pm Pacific Time. Here is a short blurb from the show’s promo:
Ken is now the NASA ESMD (Exploration Systems Mission Directorate) Commercial Development Policy Lead. Ken Davidian is a NASA contractor and the former Program Manager for Centennial Challenges at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Within ESMD, Mr. Davidian is charged with conducting and promoting commercialization efforts related to the Vision for Space Exploration and the Global Exploration Strategy. Mr. Davidian is also the principal driver of Centennial Challenges, NASA’s prize program modeled on past and ongoing prize competitions.
Ken’s interviews are always high-energy and a joy to listen to. But “former Program Manager” for the Centennial Challenges? I’ll be listening to the show tomorrow to see if Ken is still going to be involved with them. I would be sad if he leaves - he’s great to work with and a lot of fun to be around.
As with all broadcasts on The Space Show, it will be saved as a podcast so you can catch it later on if you miss the show.
March 1st, 2008
Ben Shelef of Spaceward sent me the following response to the Bruce Pittman statement (comparing the reality of using Fusion Power for rockets to a Space Elevator) that I posted here.
“Regrettably, that statement shows such a basic lack of understanding of both the Space Elevator design or even straight forward physical reasoning.
To respond directly, there is absolutely zero connection between the wind behavior of the power beaming setup and a real Space Elevator.
A real Space Elevator, inside the atmosphere, will likely have a round cross section, about 1/4″ in diameter, and only 0.05% of the Space Elevator (yes - half-a-thousandth) is inside any appreciable atmosphere. (50km). The Space Elevator will oscillate with a period of hours, not even comparable to what we see in atmospheric tests.
Having said that, here is one more statement:
Go Fusion! Fusion technology is definitely not a pipe-dream, and we need it urgently.”
Thank you Ben…
February 17th, 2008
In a recent episode of The Space Show, the show’s host, Dr. David Livingston, interviewed Bruce Pittman. The topic of the show was Fusion Power - what is the status, when might it be available, problems in creating it, etc. Now frankly, I know very little about the ins and outs of fusion power, how feasible it is, etc., so I’m in no position to judge Mr. Pittman’s veracity or expertise on this subject. What did interest me, however (and why I’m mentioning this interview on the Space Elevator Blog), was when a listener asked Mr. Pittman about what he thought what was “more realistic”; fusion power for rocket propulsion or a Space Elevator. Not surprisingly, Mr. Pittman said “fusion power”. He freely admits he doesn’t know much about the Space Elevator, but says that, based on his trips to the last “two X-Prize Cups” to watch the Space Elevator Games (?!), there seems to be some “real challenges” to building a Space Elevator, specifically wind issues (and tether strength) and the problem with space debris.
I don’t have the background to make this comparison on my own so I won’t try. But perhaps you have your own opinion
The discussion about fusion vs. Space Elevator is near the end of the interview, beginning at the 52:28 mark.
February 16th, 2008
LaserMotive has just announced an Open House on February 23rd for their new shop (mentioned earlier here). If you are in the Seattle area and have any interest at all in Space Elevators or the technology used in the Space Elevator Games or just want to talk to anyone from the LaserMotive team, here’s your chance to take a close-up tour.
Also, I did hear from LaserMotive’s Jordin Kare about what they were up to, especially at the recently concluded Photonics West Show:
[Space Elevator Blog - SEB] - Why did Lasermotive decide to use DILAS equipment in the 2007 Space Elevator Games?
[Jordin Kare - JK] - We had been talking to a couple of other companies, and had found at least one workable option, but we held off placing an order until after Photonics West. I talked to several manufacturers at last year’s Photonics West. I also talked to people I knew from a company I used to consult for, who are heavy users of laser diodes, and they strongly recommended I talk to DILAS. I spoke to Georg Treusch at PW, and we made a deal on the spot.
[SEB] - What factors will be most important to you and Lasermotive in deciding what power source you’ll be using in this year’s Games?
[JK] - Ease of development and overall project cost.
[SEB] - Will Lasermotive be attending the Photonics West show and will Lasermotive be “interviewing” with TRUMPF for possible use of their equipment?
[JK] - I’ll be at PW, but on behalf of my employer, not (primarily) LaserMotive. However, I’m sure I’ll talk to some of the laser companies while there. I won’t discuss (at least for publication) any particular plans.
[SEB] - What are Lasermotive’s goals for this year’s competition?
[JK] - Compete and win! Seriously, we have decided we’ll try to compete this year, despite the short schedule, but we are still deciding exactly what we’ll build — and we’re still very concerned about the feasibility of Spaceward’s proposed contest setup.
Thank you Jordin!
February 15th, 2008
While perusing the current list of team’s entered into this year’s Climber/Power-Beaming competition, I noticed that the National Space Society (NSS) had recently been added to the mix. Now I’m a member of NSS so I was quite intrigued as to what they planned to do. I recently spoke with Bert Murray from the NSS. Here is what I learned from the conversation.
Bert (with the enthusiastic backing of George Whitesides, the Executive Director of NSS) has recruited the beginnings of the NSS team. In addition to Bert (who is the team lead), the team includes Matt Abrahms (Chief Engineer), Steve Laroche (command and control), Chris Barnes, Aaron Bakos (who works at Bosch Home Applications, a company that uses Trumpf lasers for fabrication) and Al Burke (Robotics).
Matt Abrahms, as you may recall, was the guy who was behind the Starclimber entrant into the 2006 Space Elevator Games. It’s great to see him back in the picture.
Bert is looking to expand this team (to at least 10 members) with the emphasis of making it a “senior team”. Bert, who has 30 years experience in the aerospace and transportation industries, works at Lockheed-Martin during his “day job”. He is looking to put together a team that has an “engineering” mindset, meaning a heavy emphasis on planning, project management and testing, testing, testing (“build a little, test a little, learn a lot”).
IMHO, the only teams with a chance to win the Climber/Power-Beaming prize now, with the requirements so high, are teams that take this engineering-management approach so I certainly concur with the way they are organizing.
They have talked with Trumpf about using their equipment as a power source; talks are ongoing.
Bert tells me that they want to compete in 2008, and hopefully win, of course, but they are starting late and are focused on the competition in 2009 as well (as is the team from the University of Michigan).
Here’s wishing them luck!
February 14th, 2008
There is a TV/DVD series out now called The Universe. It’s a series of shows about all aspects of, naturally enough, The Universe, and everything in it. Recently the aired an episode entitled “Space Travel“, Professor Michio Kaku (who I posted about earlier) discussed the issue of the cost of getting to space and how a Space Elevator could significantly lessen that.
February 7th, 2008
Back in January of 2007, the Discovery Channel Series 2057 aired an episode which used a Space Elevator as a backdrop. I wrote about it here.
I bring this up again because I’ve found that Dr. Michio Kaku’s website has now linked to a YouTube video containing a portion of this show, the portion where he is speaking, of course
I looked up Dr. Kaku in Wikipedia (sorry, Dr. Edwards) and the guy has a MOST impressive resume.
(Picture from Cosmos Magazine - you should read the article in this picture link - it is quite interesting)
February 3rd, 2008
Regular readers of this blog or those that follow the goings-on at the Spaceward site know that TRUMPF decided to help out, big-time, in the upcoming Space Elevator Games. This is well-summarized on the Spaceward web site:
“We’re thrilled to announce that Laser tool manufacturer TRUMPF has stepped forward with a lucrative offer to support teams with its state-of-the-art laser equipment.
Being the world leader in laser technology, TRUMPF took a natural interest in the power beaming games, and is providing both hardware and expertise to enable the 1-km climb.”
I have posed several questions to TRUMPFlger Schlueter about the technology, the upcoming games and TRUMPF’s goals. He (and Dave Marcotte, also of TRUMPF) have kindly answered. Note that if you are unable to read all of the slides or the table, you can click on them for a larger version.
Space Elevator Blog [SEB] - I noticed that in the current issue of “Laser Community” (http://www.trumpf-laser.com/208.img-cust/Laser_Community_03-2007_en.pdf), a TRUMPF publication, the last page states the following: “100,000 Kilometers: Across this distance, laser beams may one day power the motors of the so-called Space Elevator…” Before last year’s Space Elevator Games, were you aware of the concept of the Space Elevator? If so, how did you learn about it?
Holger Schlueter [HS]- Hello Ted ! TRUMPF is a big, multinational company - I actually saw the laser community magazine for the first time yesterday. I was as surprised as you. TRUMPF in Germany was obviously as intrigued by the space elevator concept as we were here in the United States. Maybe they had read the same Spiegel Online article that I had read. Well, anyways, end of October I sent Ben a message with a terribly faulty calculation claiming the space elevator would never work because of the beam divergence. Ben, being the nice and courteous person he is, wrote back friendly and humbly pointed out the embarrasing mistake I had made. So I did the calculation again and realized you actually can transmit a multi-kW laser beam several hundred thousand km into space with manageable divergence. So I repented and a very good relationship with Ben began.
Did I know about the space elevator before? Faintly in the back of my head I recollect something about the Space Elevator, but I always put it into the realm of impossible science fiction because it seemed so infeasible to me.
[SEB]- What do you think of the idea of a Space Elevator and do you think that TRUMPF equipment can play a key part in its construction?
[HS] - Well, the two big obstacles are:
- Beam divergence and control of multi-kW beams - after correcting the calculation it seems very feasible to me that lasers can provide the necessary 1000 kW class beam with the necessary beam quality.
- Tether strength - I don’t understand much about it - but it seems the teams around the world are making great progress.
As a laser source you have several different options:
- Diode lasers
- CO2 lasers
- Diode pumped solid state lasers - here you have basically another three options - see slide:
In evaluating the beam sources there are many aspects to consider, for instance: Power, Scalability, Beam divergence, Efficiency, Wavelength, Receiver efficiency.
Here is a compilation of currently relevant laser technologies:
Beam quality and Brightness: Power scalability itself is not the important aspect - it is important to be able to increase the power without changing the beam quality of the beam (for TRUE power scalability see: http://arxiv.org/abs/0711.3987v1). Beam quality is measured as half the beam divergence times the beam radius (units: mm mrad) and tells you for a given beam diameter the divergence of the beam. Beam quality cannot be improved using passive optical elements without reducing the power of the beam. In other words: The brightness (Power per steradian) of a beam source cannot be increased using passive optical elements. This is VERY important for the space elevator, since we want to shoot the beam at a receiver that can be up to 100,000 km away. Ben tells me, one needs full power on the elevator up to a distance of 6,000km then a portion of the beam is good enough. I have to believe him there. So, taking these numbers you have for instance for the available Disk laser: 10 kW with 8 mm mrad beam divergence with a (hypothetical) laser aperture of 10 m diameter sending the beam space ward (I chose 10m as it represents todays largest optical telescope apertures, for instance Keck Observatory in Hawaii - you need diffraction limited optical performance on the sending end - therefore this seems a good comparison to me). In this case the beam grows with a divergence of 1.6e-3 mrad (8 mm mrad / 5000 mm) - the radius therefore grows by 1.6mm for every km - 9600 mm in 6,000km distance. The entire beam therefore has a diameter of 30 m (2 x 9.6m+10m) in 6,000 km distance. That seems quite feasible to me for a space craft as the receiver does not have to be diffraction limited, it only requires the size.
By building more advanced resonators we can filter higher order modes in the disk laser and achieve 12 kW with 1 mm mrad (This is a hero results that was actually achieved in government lab). That already gives us a beam size of 12,4m instead of 30m!
In order to now scale this power to 100 or even 1000kW the thin disk laser gives us several options (from now on I only talk hypothetically and about hero results):
- We can currently extract 7 kW per disk and can put 4 disks optically in series - that should allow us eventually to achieve 28 kW at 1 mm mrad - putting disk in one resonator in series does not decrease the beam quality.
- We can wavelength combine at least 4 different wavelength into a 28 kW x 4 = 112 kW of the same beam quality (since you can superimpose beams of different wavelength without deteriorating the beam quality - called wavelength multiplexing).
This gives us - quite feasible in the next 5 years - 112 kW at 1 mm mrad.
If we would now install 10 separate beam stations that would track the space elevator with a gimble system we can achieve 1000 kW beam with TODAYS’ technology!
BUT NOW TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION:
The most important property of the Thin Disk Laser is its ability to be scaled into the 100 kW regime without sacrificing beam quality. This is the major advantage the Thin Disk Geometry has over the fiber geometry for the space elevator project. For an exact definition of power scalability see the following article: http://arxiv.org/abs/0711.3987v1. In this slide you can see that limitations on the scalability of the disk concept to power becomes relevant only at 100 kW per disk or more.
Another big obstacle will be the receiver efficiency at the different wavelengths.
- Diodes have an advantage since their emission wavelength can be tailored to match maximum quantum efficiency of the receiver material and they are they might even allow the usage of Si as the receiver material. TRUMPF has a diode laser factory near Princeton, New Jersey - I was their GM for three years - and I can see possible advances with super high brightness diodes and dense wavelength multiplexing that might make this another good contender for the beam source of a real elevator.
- CO2 lasers emit at 10.6 um - there is no direct conversion using the photoelectric effect feasible - therefore you would need a thermoelectric conversion process, for instance a sterling engine could be used.
- The diode pumped solid state lasers (Disk, Fiber, Rod) emit beyond the fundamental absorption line of Si and therefore need Ge receivers or even ATJ (advanced triple junction - three different receiver types on top of each other) (see the graph below and the white paper link below):
Excerpt from http://www.emcore.com/assets/photovoltaics/Emcore_Manuscript_Fatemi_3P-B5-03_WCPEC-3.pdf.
Ben should tell you some more about the finite efficiency of all receivers, as this will provide maybe the THIRD large challenge for the space elevator project - how do you actually remove the excess heat in space that stems from the limited efficiency of any such receiver. And the heat generated may be substantial: Imagine a 1000 kW beam converted with 80% efficiency - you still have to cool 200 kW - how do you do that in vacuum?
[SEB] - What are you offering this year to teams who want to use your equipment?
[HS]- We have promised to offer at least a 8 kW TruDisk laser with 8 mm mrad. This laser is fiber delivered and the teams would have to interface into our safety system and our fiber delivery receptacle. We can provide all the necessary documentation and components for the teams. They will also get enough test time at our or our partners labs. The project leader for the actual interaction with the teams is Dave Marcotte, our national head of the service and training organization - he is a space enthusiast himself I would like you to ask him directly about the exact deliverables of TRUMPF.
Dave Marcotte [DM]- We look forward to assisting the groups as they progress. We are estimating the need for 4 “hot laser” testing opportunities for each team at intermediate points in the development process. We also plan to have a “dress rehersal” before the big competition. TRUMPF and the teams will need to work together on the “design of test” for each phase. We have highly knowledgeable people in our Service Group, Product Management and R&D who can be referenced for insight on laser technology, optics, interfacing, safety and integrated systems.
[SEB]- I understand that TRUMPF will be interviewing contestants in this year’s Space Elevator Games at the upcoming Photonics West Trade Show. What are you going to be looking for?
[DM]- Difficult question. Basically, I feel key elements of a successful development project are knowledge, organization, attitude and resources. We will consider the skill set of the group and how the players are presented as a knowledge base. We will consider the proposed approach to solving the problem, more than the hypothetical solution. An organized project plan with a best guess on which skills will be utilized is important to pulling the various technologies together into an integrated solution. Frequently I have seen attitude as a defining difference when presented with development frustrations and failures encountered by individual members and the team. There is a saying… something like…. “Inspiration vs Perspiration”. Available resources are unfortunately not connected to knowledge, organization and attitude. I have seen great guys, who work together seamlessly, but without resources (hardware, software, time, space…) they are starved and unable to demonstrate success. The resources the group brings to the table will complete TRUMPF’s contribution.
[SEB] - Are you planning on attending the Space Elevator Games this year?
[HS] - Absolutely & I hope to ride the first elevator in 2025.
[DM]- As project manager I plan to be at the games to make sure the laser is transported, installed and operating, with all teams supported. As for the first elevator ride… I will keep the load balanced, riding with Holger.
Thank you very much gentlemen for your time. I look forward to meeting you at the upcoming Games.
January 25th, 2008