Monthly Archives: May 2006

USST Interview

The second in the series of Interviews with the competitors in this year’s Space Elevator games is now available.  I talk with Clayton Ruszkowski from the University of Saskatchewan (USST) team, the group with the Lifter that climbed the highest in last year’s competition.  Find out if they attribute their success last year to superior Canadian beer.

You can listen to the interview (an .mp3 file) here.

A Plea for Help with Ruby on Rails

Normally I don’t re-post anything off of the LiftPort blog – figuring that if someone is interested in it, they can just subscribe to it directly.  However, Tom Nugent has posted a request for help in a web-based database application that perhaps some of my readers might be interested in contributing to.  Following is his complete post;

“I’m working on setting up a database-backed web application for outlining space elevator research questions, as part of the work we’re doing this summer with our interns. (I hope to talk about the project in more detail in a future blog post.) I’m not a web programmer by training; I’ve done bits of PHP and database design here and there, but not enough to be an expert. I’m using Ruby on Rails for this task, which has certainly boosted my productivity relative to using PHP. But I need to get a lot more done in a very short time (think: within a week), hence I’m sending out a plea to our community at large.

If you’re a programmer who has strong experience with Ruby on Rails and are willing to offer suggestions, feedback, discussion, and/or improvement of code related to furthering the space elevator project, please get in touch with me. My email address is ‘tom DOT nugent AT liftport DOT com’ (is it hopeless to think that this kind of mis-writing of an email address will fool spam address-harvesting bots?). Thanks!”

So, if anyone can help him out, please send him an email…

Space Elevator

In this article from Texas A&M Engineering, the Centennial Challenge competition is briefly discussed.  The article talks about an unnamed team, which I believe is the Canadian Snowstar team.  With all the teams coming from Texas, one would think they would have discussed one of them.

BrickHeap Wars Space Elevator Challenge Results

This is cool.  Last Saturday there was a Space Elevator robot challenge, held in the Seattle area.  Several teams competed to build Lifters out of identical Lego Kits.  The objective was to climb a “Space Elevator” (a 7 foot long, 2 inch wide nylon ribbon) to deliver a “payload” (golfballs) to the “satellite” (a large brass ring).

Lots of pictures and videos at this website.

The space elevator: going down?

In this Nature.com article, the author cites a study by Nicola Pugno of the Polytechnic of Turin, Italy, which indicates that carbon nanotubes are not strong enough to make a Space Elevator because of their “inevitable defects”.  And, he says, even if the defect problem could be overcome, “damage from micrometeorites and even erosion by oxygen atoms would render them weak. So can a space elevator be made? “With the technology available today? Never,” he says.”

This article has, obviously, generated quite a stir.  Some of the debate can be seen over at the Yahoo Space Elevator forum.

“The Space Elevator – Opening Space to Everyone” – a Book Review

As a long-time fan of the concept of a Space Elevator, and having previously devoured the thin amount of literature available on this subject, I have been eagerly awaiting this book. I was not disappointed.

This book, compiled and edited by LiftPort, Inc., has multiple authors; it’s a collection of essays about various aspects of the Space Elevator. Each entry is unique and stands on its own. Some authors tout the benefits to be gained from constructing this highway to the solar system. Others give us a description and/or suggested solution to a problem to be overcome in its construction while still others create a vision of what civilizations that have Space Elevators might be like. All are valuable and contribute to the theme of the book; Space Elevators will greatly increase our access to earth orbit and beyond and will give humanity its first “broadband access” to space.

Several of the essays struck a particular chord with me. Joan Horvath’s “Turning Space Launch into a Business” does an excellent job of describing the transition of space launches from a government program into a private enterprise. Ben Shelef’s “The Lifter: The Space Elevator’s Robotic Workhorse” and Dr. Kare’s “Powering a Space Elevator” give us a good overview of how Lifter’s might actually work. And LiftPort’s own Michael Laine makes a fine case for why private enterprise should take the lead in this undertaking in his essay “The Business Basics of Space Elevator Development”. Other readers will have their own favorites, too, I’m sure. My favorite line in the book is in Piotr Jagodzinski’s excellent essay “Why International Public Inclusion is Important” where he writes “…space should be open for all, not just a few astronauts and a couple of rich guys.” I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly.

Criticisms? I would like to have seen the issue of Radiation being addressed as well as the issue of Space Debris. Both of these problems are well known and an essay or two sharing the current thinking on these issues would have been quite informative. Finally, a nit; I have to mildly complain about the cover of the book. No serious proposal that I’m aware of has been made to anchor a Space Elevator anywhere but in water, on the equator, usually in the Pacific Ocean. The cover of the book, however, shows a hypothetical Elevator anchored somewhere in the Eastern United States. But none of these criticisms diminish the value of this book. It’s a fine accomplishment and should contribute to LiftPort’s efforts to make Space Elevators something that the public is aware of and, more importantly, demands.

The book is available directly from LiftPort and also from Amazon. Buy it.

Update 22MAY06 – Here is the Space.com announcement about the book.  In it is also mentioned a multi-city tour this summer to promote the book.  I hope they make Chicago…

Webcast May 30: Nanotech for space elevator

As announced on the Foresight Nanotech Institute website, Michael Laine, founder and President of LiftPort, will be giving a presentation “on the topic of using nanotech to build a space elevator.”  This presentation will be on Tuesday, May 30th, at 12:30pm Eastern time and will be available via webcast for those of us not able to attend.

Mark your calendars…

Halo 3 and the Space Elevator

Anybody into gaming knows that Halo 2 is far and away the most popular game released for the Microsoft XBOX platform.  The company that produced Halo and Halo 2, Bungie, has now announced Halo 3.  The announced release date is sometime in 2007 and the game is designed for the new XBOX platform, XBOX 360.

What has this got to do with a Space Elevator?  On AdamCreighton.com, I found an announcement that a new trailer / teaser for Halo 3 has just been released.  The scene shown is in New Mombasa, with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background, along with the wreckage of a Space Elevator.

You can view the high-res version of the trailer here and the lo-res version here.  Unless you have a high-speed internet connection, stick with the lo-res – they’re big files.

I’m glad the Space Elevator will make it to such a popular gaming platform, but wish it was there as something other than wreckage.  Still, I guess it’s progress…

Earth’s Artificial Ring: Project West Ford

One of the known problems which will have to be solved before a Space Elevator can become a reality is space debris.  I ran across this article, detailing one of the sources of debris.  In 1963, the Air Force launched a rocket that put 480 million tiny copper needles into space, and, according to the same article, some of them are still there.  Interesting reading.

One small step for NASA, One giant leap for the X Prize

Over at Lunar Lander Challenge, Robin writes, in some detail, about NASA’s Centennial Challenges.  Though the bulk of the article discusses the X Prize, he does mention the Tether and Climber challenges.

One line in the story stood out; “…now that Spaceward Foundation is considering an invitation to stage its competitions in Las Cruces this year.”  Note the verb “considering.”  So is the date/location change to October 19th-22nd / Las Cruces (as reported at the Space Elevator Reference site) definite or not?  I called Elevator2010 and left a message – hopefully they’ll call me back soon and I’ll let everyone know.

Next Floor – Men’s Fashion, Sporting Goods and the Ionosphere …

In this Yahoo Finance story, Zilog announces that they are going to be supplying 8 bit hardware and software to the University of British Columbia team that is competing in the 2006 Space Elevator Games.  It’s a good story and it’s interesting to read about Team Snowstar, but the story has the old date and location for this years competition; as announced on the Space Elevator Reference site, the games this year will be held from October 19th through the 22nd at Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Liftport May, 2006 Technical Newsletter released

In this issue, Liftport’s Research Director, Tom Nugent, shares with us slides from two of his presentations at last week’s ISDC 2006 conference (Bob Munck alert – these are .pdf files).  He also talks about the new interns arriving at LiftPort and tells us that the long-awaited LiftPort book has finally arrived!!  I’ve been looking forward to this book for some time and will be posting a review of it in the next several days.

Also, Andrew Becker is looking for opportunities to use LiftPort’s HALE platform to help site wind power farms.

The newsletter can be found here.

Feersumm Endjinn

Over at BillSaysThis, he posts a review of Iain M. Banks 1995 book Feersumm Endjinn.  This SF novel, favorably reviewed by most readers at Amazon.com, revolves around descendents of a civilization that had built a Space Elevator.  Be warned, this book is supposed to be fairly “heavy reading”, especially for a SF novel.

Project #83 on my To-Do list…

Liftport May, 2006 Art Newsletter released

In the latest issue, Liftport’s chief artist, Mr. Nyein Aung, shares with us his latest Space Elevator related drawings.  He also informs us that he is going back to college and so will be interning at LiftPort only part time in the future.  I hope it doesn’t cut down on his creativity too much – I really enjoy his drawings.

Also, Joe Julian informs us that LiftPort is developing a “coffee table picture book” and is looking for artists to contribute to it.  If you’re interested and talented, contact him at LiftPort.  The newsletter can be found here.

Ex Machina

I’ve never been a fan of computer role-playing games; I’ve got nothing against them but they’ve just never interested me enough to “float my boat”.  But I’ve found one that I might give a try; In Tri-Stat: Ex Machina (Guardians of Order), Bruce Baugh has put together roles for a future civilization based on and around a Space Elevator.  I’d hazard a guess that it probably has many similarities to Babylon Five (my all-time favorite SF series); permanent inhabitants of a futuristic structure interacting with each other and other, transient characters.  If I could just find the time…

And over at LiveJournal, Malaclypse the Seeker has his own version of these roles.

ISDC 2006: Exploring New Worlds

At adAstra Online, Leonard David writes about the upcoming 25th Annual International Space Development Conference.

From the conference schedule, as of this posting, the following Space Elevator themed presentations and panel discussions will occur:

On Thursday, May 4th:

Steven E. Patamia: Movement of Space Elevator Ribbon due to Magnetospheric Storms and Solar Pressure (3:30)
Jim Dempsey: Second Generation Space Elevator (4:00)
Michael Fischer: Using Momentum Transfer to Climb the Space Elevator (4:30)
Tom Nugent: Modular Self-Reinforcing Space Elevator (5:00)
Tom Nugent: The Lifter Shield — An Improved SE Vehicle Design (5:30)

On Friday, May 5th:

Ben Shelef: The Story of the Space Elevator (2:00)
Bradley C. Edwards: Overview of the Space Elevator Concept (2:30)
Alan Chan: How I Built the Space Elevator – Primers to Using Hollywood Talent and Tools to Shape the Future (3:00)
David D. Lang: Space Elevator Initial Construction Mission Overview (3:30)
Panel: Engineering Alternatives for Design and Deployment of the First Space Elevator (4:00)
   Brad Edwards, Tom Nugent, Ben Shelef, Moderator Vern McGeorge

On Saturday, May 6th:

Bradley C. Edwards: Current Activities on the Space Elevator (2:00)
Deepak Srivastava: Nano- and Macromechanics of Carbon Nanotube based Materials: Space Elevator (2:30)
While Waiting for Our Miracle (3:00 – 4:30)
   Panel moderated by Monte Davis
   Vladimir Chobotov, Jordin Kare, Geoff Landis, Tom Nugent, Steven Patamia
Can Space Help Solve Earth’s Energy Crisis? (3:30)
   Moderator: Mark Jannot, Editor in Chief, Popular Science Magazine
   John Mankins, SUNSAT Energy Council
   Brad Edwards, Space Elevator Guru
Ben Shelef: The Spaceward Foundation and the 2005 Space Elevator Games (4:30)
Anders M. Jorgensen: The Space Elevator and the Magnetosphere (5:00)
Blaise Gassend: Fate of a Broken Space Elevator (5:30)

Sure wish I was going…