Monthly Archives: March 2007

Emerging Asia

During the recently completed SESI2007 conference, I gave a presentation on who, IMHO, would build the first earth-based Space Elevator.  I identified several likely candidates and then narrowed it down to two possibilities; a consortium of US businesses which had struck a deal with the US Government or a Joint Venture between the governments of Dubai (part of the UAE) and India.  Without going through the whole presentation, my reasons for this conclusion were this; while the Space Elevator is a source of enormous potential wealth, no government (Dubai/India excepted) would take the risk to build it.  Rather, I had identified American business entrepeneurs as people who might well take this risk, but also thought the same about the government of Dubai.  This government has much in common with corporations, being flexible, adaptable and able to make decisions without resorting to a myriad of committees.  With them having the vision to drive the project (and the finances to pay for it), they need a partner.  India struck me as the right one; they are an emerging country, possessing an increasingly well-trained and technological-savvy work force.  They are a nuclear power and have a real military and a real space program.  They also have direct sea-lane access to two of the six potential Earth Port sites, including a favored one off the west coast of Australia.  But I had one more reason for picking them, their long-standing rivalry with China.  I think India would do much to leapfrog China and participating in the building a Space Elevator would be a perfect project for them.

I bring this all up now because of this blog posting from Centauri Dreams.  Scientist and Sci-Fi author Gregory Benford recently took a trip to the Asian subcontinent and wrote an absolutely fascinating account of his journey.  It has several connections to the Space Elevator (though none are explicitly mentioned).  First, he meets with Arthur C. Clarke, the person who is most responsible for the popularization of the idea.  Second, he describes India as an awakening giant and has this to say about their rivalry with China;

“Similarly, the Indian space program sees itself as a rival to China, not to the US or Europe. It will be amusing if audacious moves in space come from Asia as a regional competition, just as the US-USSR contest drove the first decades.”

This strikes me as absolutely accurate, though not very amusing.  And, as an aside (and something I forgot to mention in my presentation), India will be hosting this years International Astronautical Congress (for the second time), a convention that, in the past, has had a Space Elevator theme as one of its tracks.

Finally, as I blogged about many months ago, I attended a Skeptics conference last year, one where this same Gregory Benford was a speaker.  In a Q&A session after his presentation (and in a private conversation after that), he and I talked about a Space Elevator.

Just an interesting coincidence perhaps…

Read the blog entry; it truly is fascinating.  And remember what I predict about Dubai (UAE) and India – you heard it here first.

SESI2007 – Conference Wrapup

The Second International Conference and Exposition on Science, Engineering, and Habitation in Space, and the Second Biennial Space Elevator Workshop (heck of a title, yes?) wrapped up yesterday afternoon.  The afternoon session was dedicated to putting together a roadmap / plan / whatever you want to call it whereby about 20 or so of the conference participants vowed to work together to further the effort to build a space elevator.

Four teams were formed, each having a responsibility to explore one of four categories; Science & Technology Development, Political and Public Support, US and World Legal Considerations and Financial Funding and Market Drivers.  Four leaders were selected to lead the teams; from left to right, Brad Edwards, Peter Swan, Tom Nugent and Brad Neumann.  Some preliminary brainstorming was done and we’ll be hearing more from these teams in the not-too-distant future.

The final topic discussed was a conference analysis.  Many of the participants filled out a questionnaire that conference chair Phil Richter had distributed.  At this conference analysis, Phil led a discussion as to what could be done better in future conferences.  Many suggestions were given, but it came down to the fact that more volunteer help was needed, and will be needed at future conferences.  If you want to help get a Space Elevator built, but don’t have a PhD in Physics or deep pockets to sponsor someone, something you can do is to help out at a future conference.  All of these conferences have specific needs and tasks to be met and, when something isn’t picked up by a volunteer, a conference leader or chair inevitably has to pick it up.  This prevents them from concentrating on the major issues and will, sooner or later, cause things to get dropped.  You don’t have to be in close proximity to help.  When Ben Shelef was organizing the Space Elevator Games last year, many of the volunteers (yours truly included) would get together on a weekly phone call.  Tasks were assigned, discussed, analyzed and moved along by people who didn’t live anywhere near where the games were being held.

I’ll say it again; if you want to contribute to the effort to build a Space Elevator, volunteer to help out at one of the conferences – it will help us all.

The conference also hosted a Student Robotics competition.  Entrants constructed Climbers that were to climb a 20 foot tether.  The winner was declared based on calculations that included distance traveled, speed and payload as factors.  Three teams entered, two from Middle Tennessee State University and one from a (local, I think) High school.  The two teams from MTSU took first and second while the High school team finished third.  I would have posted more about this competition and posted it during the conference, but Patrick Boake’s Space Elevator Journal is supposed to keep the “official chronicle” of this event – he should be posting on this sometime soon (hint, hint).

In the meantime, here are 3 pictures from the Student Robotics Competition;

The tether, mounted from a scissors-lift.

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The anchor

Simple is good!

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Mounting the Climber

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I think that wraps it up.  I truly enjoyed this conference, it was a very worthwhile experience.  As I had mentioned in an earlier post, there are things going on, exciting things that I’m not at liberty to divulge at this time.  But more news should be coming foward very soon, in the weeks to months time frame.

Stay tuned !

(As always, click on the thumbnails for a larger version of the picture)

SESI2007 – Day 4 Update

The first of the morning sessions has just finished.  Brad Edwards had to do double-duty this morning, giving a talk on the current state of Space Elevator development and then giving Ben Shelef’s speech on the Space Elevator Games (Ben couldn’t be with us for this conference, unfortunately).

Nothing really new on the Space Elevator front from Brad.  He gave the status and listed the current problems, the biggest of which is funding.  He did, however, make the statement that he thought that the development of sufficiently strong carbon nanotubes was only “one or two years away.”  I sure hope he’s correct – this would change everything.

He then gave a summary of the Space Elevator games.  The “new news” is that there should be an announcement in the next week or two about the venue and timing for this year’s games and there was a well-received suggestion that perhaps a conference be held at the same time.  We’ll see.

I’ll wrap up in my next post.

Click on the thumbnail for a larger version of the pictue.

SESI2007 – Day 3 Update

Day 3 of this years SESI conference has come and gone, and I’m sorry it’s over.  I’ve learned several interesting new things, none of which, unfortunately, I’m free to publish.  But news on these items should be coming out soon, hopefully on this blog.  Sorry for the tease, but there are some good and interesting things in the works.

Several Space-Elevator themed presentations were given today.  Tom Nugent of LiftPort started it off with a talk on the “Rationale behind LiftPort’s Beta Roadmap.”  Tom gave a persuasive case of why this was important to do; that it was important to try and get a “real” date out there and to show the justification behind it.  One can argue with the details all they want (in fact this is encouraged), but the roadmap (Project Plan, if you will) is a necessary step.

Bryan Laubscher, of Black Line Ascension (and other things too, I think – I’ll have to check) then gave a talk on “Space Elevator and Rocket Cost Comparison.”  Bryan ran through the numbers on the best efficiency that can be expected from chemical rockets and showed why the Space Elevator was just a better way to get things out of our gravity well.

After a break, Bryan then gave a talk on “The Space Elevator and Planetary Defense”.  Bryan talked about the very real threat that comets and asteroids present to our planet and the role that the Space Elevator can play in mitigating this threat.

Brad Edwards then gave a presentation on a new organization, the “European Spaceward Association”.  This organization is so new, they don’t even have a website up.  (Correction – yes they do.  As noted in a comment, their new site is at www.eurospaceward.org)  They’ve been organized to help foster interest in Europe towards developing a Space Elevator.  My readers may recall an article I posted a few weeks ago on the German Space Elevator games, scheduled for next year.  One of European Spaceward Association’s activities is going to be working with the Germans on organizing these games.  I think I have a very good reason to visit Germany next year !

A talk was then given on “Some Aspects of Space Elevator Ribbon Elastic Stress and Length Reduction.”  Unfortunately the authors, Armenian by nationality, were unable to attend (visa problems, perhaps).  so one of the other attendees, Paul Edelman, had to fill in.  He did a noble job on a very difficult assignment.

The next talk was on “The Space Elevator: What’s in it for me” and was presnted by Brad Neumann.  Brad’s talk was really interesting and, IMHO, very timely.  Brad told us that if we wanted to get people excited about building a Space Elevator, we had to demonstrate the urgency ourselves and to engage other people in this by asking them what benefit THEY think they could get out of it and then LISTENING to the answers.

Next up was Tom Nugent, combining his presentation of the “Space Elevator Questions Database” and Michael Laine’s presentation of the “Four Pillars of Infrastructure Development to the Space Elevator” into one extended talk (Michael was unable to attend the conference – the rumor is that he fell down the stairs and injured himself – Tom denies any involvement in this :) )  Tom talked about what the Questions database is and why it could be an important resource if properly used.  He then discussed the “Four Pillars” necessary to get something like the Space Elevator (or any large infrastructure project) built; Technology, Finance & Business, Legal and Social/Political support.  Without all these players on board, LiftPort contends that the Space Elevator won’t happen.  It’s a good argument.

Fred Cowan of Raytheon then gave a presentation on “A Different Space Elevator Approach”, a most informative and stimulating presentation.

Finally, Bryan Laubscher wound up the day’s presentations with “The Space Elevator and its Role in Mitigating Threats to Earth.”  Bryan talked about some really far out possible threats to earth (black holes, Novas, neutron stars, etc.).  He contends that, once we have put into place adequate defenses to guard the earth against the more imminent threats of comets and asteroids, we should then use the Space Elevator’s capabilities to begin to think about how we deal with these longer-term issues.

A full day and a truly enjoyable one.  If you believe in the concept of a Space Elevator, like I do, the stuff presented today was truly “red meat”.  Tomorrow’s presentations promise to be just as stimulating.

More tomorrow – but probably very late as I’ll be traveling back home after the conference.

As always, click on the thumbnails for a larger version.

SESI2007 – Day 2 Update

Presentations for today, including one by yours truly, have finished.  After I finish putting up this post, time to go downstairs and have a beer or two…

My presentation went well (I think).  No one laughed (at least none that I could hear) and no one threw anything at me.  I also was asked several questions and have had two other conference participants stop me in the hall and tell me that they enjoyed my presentation.  So I guess it went OK.  Huge thanks to Marco Benassi, my speech teacher…

The picture is of Brad Edwards (on the right) and Haym Benaroya.  Haym, from Rutgers University, gave a couple of presentations today; “Lunar Base Concepts” and “Why the moon?”.  Brad makes his two presentations tomorrow.  I’m hoping that we hear something (anything) about Black Line Ascension, his new venture with Bryan Laubscher.

As always, click on the thumbnail for a larger version.

SESI2007 Underway

Today was the first “real” day of this year’s 2007 SESI conference.  Yesterday evening, there were some talks given to the public about astronomy, and all that was cool, but today is when we start getting into the scientific presentations…

Bryan Laubscher, one of the driving forces in the Space Elevator “movement” gave one of the keynote addresses this morning.  He brought the audience (most are not here for the Space Elevator portion of this conference, rather for “The Second International Conference and Exposition on Science, Engineering, and Habitation in Space”) up to speed on the current concept of the Space Elevator, the “Brad Edwards version”.  This will be one of only two Space Elevator related presentations made today (lots more are made tomorrow).

My presentation; “Who will build the first, earth-based Space Elevator?” is scheduled for this afternoon.  I was glad to see that nothing Bryan said in his presentation this morning contradicted anything I’ve written :)

Also attending the conference is Patrick Boake, of the Space Elevator Journal.  He’s the “official press guy” for this event.  Here is a picture of him trying to combine relaxation and work…

Much more on this conference over the next 2&1/2 days.

Click on the thumbnails for larger versions of the pictures.

Private Rocketship Falcon 1 Flies, Reaches Space, But Fails to Reach Orbit

Though not directly applicable to the Space Elevator, this Planetary Society article does have relevance because of the future plans for SpaceX.  One of their future models, the Falcon 9 Heavy, is to be designed to hoist 62,500 pounds to LEO and 27,400 pounds to GTO (Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit).

Dr. Edwards projects that the initial Space Elevator configuration will weigh about 80 tons, so that puts this well into range of just a few Falcon 9 Heavy lifts.

If SpaceX can pull this off, this would make it the second private company (in addition to Zenit) to be able to boost these heavy payloads into orbit.

NASA grounds its ideas factory?

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard the rumors that NASA is planning on cutting off funding for NIAC, NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts.  This is the agency that has funded, among other things, Dr. Brad Edwards groundbreaking research into designing a practical Space Elevator.

There’s still nothing official, but, as several stories about this proposed cut have appeared on NIAC’s website (without refutation), it sure doesn’t look good.

Several others have posted on this, among them NASA Watch and The Guardian.  In addition, the Space Elevator Journal’s Patrick Boake contacted Dr. Edwards for his comments – they are on the Space Elevator Journal posting covering this story…

Eating your “seed corn” is never a good idea.  I’m just glad it’s happened after Dr. Edwards had completed the studies that NIAC funded and not before…

You can find links to the Edwards-NIAC reports on this blog’s sidebar, under Reference Sites.

To Infinity … and beyond!

This is a fine article from MachineDesign.com, discussing power beaming via lasers.  It discusses both the history and current developments in this technology, including possible applications for a Space Elevator.

The efforts of the Canadian Snowstar team, veterans of the 2006 Space Elevator games, are mentioned.  While their team is not yet listed in the Elevator2010’s 2007 entries, they do sound like they are going to enter the competition this year.  It would be cool to see them (or somebody, anybody) use something other than white light as a power source.  You can view the Snowstar website here.

Buzz Lightyear would be proud…

Dave Barry comments on the Space Elevator

Search engines are weird sometimes; yesterday they found this Howard Lovy June 27, 2004 blog entry on Space Elevators.  It’s an interesting blog entry in and of itself and it links to a video I hadn’t seen before, an interview with Brad Edwards.

But the real prize in this blog entry was its mention of a Dave Barry column on the Space Elevator.  The link to the column doesn’t work anymore, but I hunted around and found an archived copy of it – you can view it here.  It’s typical Dave Barry stuff – pretty funny…

Detailed Conference Program for SESI2007 released

The final, detailed, program for the upcoming SESI2007 Conference has just been released.  This schedule includes the papers that are going to be presented at the conference.  The original Word Document can be found here and an .htm version can be found here.

Astute viewers will note that yours truly will be giving a presentation on Monday afternoon at 5:10pm.

I will discuss this more in some upcoming posts but, for now, just wanted to get it out there for people to see.

If you haven’t registered to attend, it’s still not too late to do so by visiting the SESI Site.  Only 9 more days…

Horizons – Book Review

It’s always a treat to find a new author to enjoy, and I think I’ve accomplished that in discovering Mary Rosenblum, the author of Horizons.  This book is about how human civilization might develop and evolve in space, in places which are connected to earth via Space Elevators.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I’m not going to summarize the book here – you can find a summary, if you want it, at the Amazon.com site.  But I do have some comments about how the Space Elevator is used in the book.  First of all, Ms. Rosenblum has done her homework on how a Space Elevator might actually function; indeed, she gives credit to Dr. Bradley Edwards “…extensive work on the realities of the Space Elevator…”.  The Space Elevator she envisions seems to be the same one that Dr. Edwards has laid out.  The amount of time it takes to travel between the Earth and the Elevator-based colonies is both realistic and significant in the story.  She also has postulated four Space Elevators, each with their own colony, each run by a different organization/government and all is close proximity to each other, again quite believable.  Finally, she has painted scenarios where the inhabitants of the Space Elevator colonies could actually threaten Earth and makes this fact, too, integral to the story.

Other future possibilities she posits, including hard-wired links in the brain to a future version of the Internet, are both possible and probable.  And she foresees a huge, perhaps even leading role for China in the future, again something that is quite possible.

Her grasp of technology is solid and her extrapolation of how it might evolve was truly well done.  IMHO, however, I don’t think her development of the characters quite matches it.  Some character changes and outcomes were just too convenient, or too jarring at times and somewhat marred an otherwise excellent effort.  However, in the relative scheme of things, that’s a small complaint.

Overall, however, I quite enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to see how a future, Space-Elevator based civilization might develop.

(Click on the thumbnail of the Cover to see an enlarged version)

Nanotechnology in Aerospace

Over at the Space Elevator Reference, Marc Boucher tells us about the Ninth Nanoforum Report on Nanotechnology in Aerospace, recently released by Nanoforum, a European nanotechnology network.

In chapter 4 of this extensive (150+ pages) of this report (chapter 4.7.1 to be exact), there is a brief mention of the concept of a Space Elevator, Dr. Bradley Edwards and the Space Elevator games.

This report can be downloaded for free once you register (again, for free) at the site.  You can download the entire report (which is interesting reading) or just chapter 4 if the Space Elevator mention is all you’re interested in.

Can U Say … Tower of Babel?

I can’t remember when I have enjoyed a comment thread more than the one attached to this Blog posting.

Jeremy is convinced that current efforts to build a Space Elevator are a sign of the imminent return of Christ.  Brian Dunbar, from LiftPort, tries to gently engage him in some rational conversation.  For his pains, he’s told that he’s trying to interpret scripture with a “carnal mind” and that he’s persecuting Jeremy…

For shame, Brian… :)

Germans plan on holding a Space Elevator Contest in 2008

Arthur Shay, from Team Zero G (the latest qualified entrant into the 2007 Space Elevator Games), forwarded a VERY interesting email to me yesterday.  It seems that the Germans are now going to have their own version of the Space Elevator Games in February of 2008.  These games are being organized by the Max Born Project, the people behind the German Turbo-Crawler entry into the Spaceward 2006 Space Elevator Games.

The length of the racetrack is 50 meters and the (undetermined) prize(s) will be awarded to the top 3 finishers.  If I’m reading the rules correctly (I’m reading the not-so-good English translation, but I’m sure the German version is fine), teams only get three days to put their climbers together, with the sponsors providing the light beam energy source.  So, this version of the Space Elevator games is not as ambitious (yet) as the ones being put on by the Spaceward Foundation.

But these are the Germans.  Their entrant into the 2006 Space Elevator games was one of only four that made it all the way to the top (along with MClimber, Litewon and USST).  They have another entry (not Turbo-Crawler) into this year’s competition.  If this idea catches on in Germany, it could be fun…

A .jpg version of the email can be found here and a .pdf version of the rulebook can be found here.

LiftPort Newsletters

I’ve added the capability for readers of this blog to be able to directly subscribe to the LiftPort Newsletters.  If you scroll down and look on the sidebar, you’ll see it, after the various link categories.

LiftPort is making a major push to increase their Newsletter subscription and asked if I would help – I’m very happy to do so.

So, if you want to be able to get the news from LiftPort “hot off the presses” without having to wait for me to mention it out on this blog, I highly recommend that you sign up.  I’m hopeful of many good things coming from LiftPort in the near future and you’ll be among the first to hear it them if you subscribe.

Megastructures

Readers of Arthur C. Clarke’s Fountains of Paradise or 3001 know of a structure he proposed; essentially a giant ring around the earth connecting multiple space elevators together.  Something like this would provide an enormous increase in living space and a save haven for millions in the event of a planetary wide catastrophe.

Paul Lucas discusses this and other megastructures in this very interesting web posting.  People who “think big” enough to be comfortable with the idea of a Space Elevator should also be comfortable with other concepts Mr. Lucas discusses.

Site maintenance – Phase 3

It seems that the WordPress development team inadvertently allowed a hacker into their midst and he/she included some unauthorized (and potentially dangerous) modifications to WordPress 2.1.1, the version I had just upgraded to last weekend.

So, I’ve had to scramble and install their new, “safe” release, 2.1.2.  If you’ve noticed anything funky with this blog over the past hour or so, that’s probably why.  Everything seems to be working now – let’s hope it stays that way.

On the bright side, I’m getting pretty good at the upgrade process…

2006 Space Elevator Games Video posted

Over on this Blog’s sidebar, in the Images & Animation section, I’ve posted a video summary of the 2006 Space Elevator Games.  It’s the best one I’ve found and I’ve had hopes that it’s producers would put it up on their website, in archives or something.  Alas, it has not happened and they have refused to respond to repeated emails on my part.

So this evening I traversed some of the interesting challenges in converting DVD-Video to Flash with the result that you can see here or by clicking on the link in the sidebar.

Yes I know it’s not well integrated into the site, no background or common theme, etc.  Maybe later, if/when I decide to tackle that challenge I’ll make it look better.  For now, I’m just happy it’s there.

Please check it out – it’s worth a look (thanks, Brian)…