Monthly Archives: April 2007

MAST Update – Request for Big Eyeballs

Mixed (but mostly positive) results for the MAST mission so far.  Still no contact with Ted (Hey!  I’m here :) ), but they continue to have good contact with Gadget.  I can’t tell for sure from their blog, but it looks like they think the tether is deployed, but need verification of this.  Consequently, if you have a telescope and clear skies, they would love to have you take a look and report to them what you see.

You can go to heavens-above and get the coordinates for their satellite (it’s object 31126 in their database).  On the MAST site, they also have a cool map showing where the satellite is at the moment.  Just a few minutes ago, it came fairly close to passing overhead of the Chicago area.  If these &(^%)&^$U# clouds would ever clear, I might be able to spot it.

A couple of years ago, I bought my son a Meade ETX-80 for his birthday.  It has go-to capability so, theoretically, we should just be able to update the coordinate database and find MAST.  But, we’ve had nothing but rain and clouds here for the past few days.  This weekend it is supposed to clear up and then maybe I can get a look.  I think it would be an awesome sight…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia to build lunar base and space elevator?

In a recent posting on TechTakeaway.com, the author claims that “Transporting goods from earth to the moon and back has caused problems to efforts colonize the Moon, Russia plans to solve this with an ambitious space elevator project.”  They accompany this short article with an artists conception picture of an earth-based space elevator.

Frankly, I don’t think so, and have contacted the authors for more information.

Their source may be the two articles I had blogged about earlier (here and here), but the Space Elevators discussed in those two articles were based in outer space, in both lunar and earth orbit.

But I’d love to be wrong.  Maybe we’ll finally have a “Tsar-way to Heaven” after all (apologies to Led Zeppelin)…

(01MAY2007 Update – I heard back from the editors and yes, indeed, they did get their story from the articles I mentioned.  I sent an email back to them, letting them know of the miscommunication.)

MAST Status

The tether experiment currently being run by Tethers Unlimited is off to a good start. For those of you unfamiliar with the experiment, three picosatellites have been launched for the purpose of deploying a HoyTether and monitoring it’s “health” while in space’s hostile environment.

The base picosatellite (“Gadget”) has been successfully contacted via radio. The deployment picosatellite (“Ted” – hey, what a great name! :) ) has, so far, not made successful radio contact with ground control. However, the third picosatellite (“Ralph”), the one which will be traveling along the tether, photographing and monitoring its health, has sent back a preliminary picture of a portion of the tether – prior to deployment.

Though this tether is certainly not a Space Elevator, the relevance of this experiment towards the eventual deployment of a Space Elevator is obvious; How will this tether survive in space? How successful will the robots be in deploying it? How successful will the robot be in traveling along, monitoring and photographing the tether? If this monitoring robot had repair capabilities (on the drawing board for the next experiment, I’m sure), then it would be even more relevant.

Check out the MAST blog to keep up-to-date with the rapid pace of events of this experiment. I can’t wait to see (and perhaps take) a picture of the fully deployed tether.

LiftPort’s Michael Laine blogs (and blogs and blogs and blogs…) about LiftPort

If you want to know what’s going on in the mind of LiftPort’s Michael Laine these days, it’s not necessary to interview him – just check out his prolific blog postings over the past few days (here and here and here and here and here and here and here – and probably some more by the time I’ve posted this :) )

Or, you could just subscribe to the LiftPort Blog postings…

More on LiftPort…

Alan Boyle, from MSNBC’s The Cosmic Log, has just posted what, IMHO, is the most complete coverage (so far) on the problems at LiftPort and Michael Laine’s response to them.  Michael is going to go, full-bore, into trying to commercialize their balloon-platform product in an attempt to save the company.  Alan’s article is very comprehensive and is highly recommended reading.

Michael, I can’t think of any brilliant ideas, at the moment, for your balloon-platform product, but you have my promise that a) I’m going to seriously think about it and b) if I come up with ANYTHING, I will surely let you know.

I call on the rest of the Space Elevator Community to do likewise.  LiftPort is too valuable to let it go under.  If you have a good idea, even a crazy idea, send it along to Michael – we may all benefit from it.

Also, at the Space Elevator Reference, Michael Laine has responded to Marc Boucher’s editorial on the issues at LiftPort.

LiftPort – RIP?

This was posted on the LiftPort blog on Monday.  Grim news, indeed…

If this is really true, I (and others) will have much to say in the near future, I’m sure.

The latest from Patrick over at the Space Elevator Journal…

Darnell Clayton from Colony Worlds posts his thoughts here

And the ever-present Brian Dunbar (from LiftPort) comments here

Finally, in a comment on a truly awesome posting from Almost Girl, the man, Michael Laine, posts his thoughts…

17APR07 – Update.  Michael Laine has given us his thoughts in a comment on this post.  And Marc Boucher, over at the Space Elevator Reference, has also posted his thoughts

Two tether launches scheduled

Readers of this blog have probably noticed a new logo and message on top of the blog’s sidebar, the logo and link to the MAST (Multi-Application Survivable Tether) mission, the latest project from Tethers Unlimited, Inc.  This company, founded by Dr. Robert Hoyt (of Hoytether fame) and Dr. Robert Forward, will be launching a one-kilometer long tether into low earth-orbit.  Each end of the tether will be anchored with a picosatellite, with a third picosatellite continuously traveling along the tether from one end to the other (and hey, one of them is named TED, this is a GOOD thing :) ).  The potential application here to a Space Elevator is obvious; how does a tether (even though it’s not the carbon nanotube ribbon envisioned by Dr. Brad Edwards) survive in space?  Atomic oxygen, radiation, micrometeorites, etc., are all potential dangers.  Everything we can learn about how they will affect structures like this will be valuable.  This tether experiment was set to be launched on March 27th, but launch problems have pushed that date back to April 17th.  Check out their blog (available by clicking on the icon on the top of my blog’s sidebar) for updates.

There is a very good story about this experment at NewScientistSpace.

There is also another tether experiment set to be launched in May; this one a 30 kilometer long tether.  From the press release;

“One of the most important aspects of this innovative mission is the deployment of a 30 km long tether to deploy the Fotino mini-satellite and re-entry capsule. . Not only will this be the longest artificial structure ever deployed in space, but it will also be the first time that a tether has been used to return a payload from space. The flight is intended to demonstrate how such a tether can be used to change a satellite’s orbit without attitude control systems or rocket engines.”

This is very cool.

Both of these structures should be easily visible via binoculars or perhaps even the naked eye.

Marc Boucher at the Space Elevator Reference has been following these stories closely (herehere, here and here) including a couple of videos.

Space Elevator Blog celebrates 1 year anniversary

All together now;

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

Yes, I know it’s April Fools day, but this is no joke – one year ago today, I started this blog.  It’s been a fun year.  Highlights include;

  • Attending the 2nd Annual Space Elevator Games where I was fortunate to be selected as the “Official Blogger”.  I guess I did an OK job because I’ve been selected to be the “Official Blogger” for this year’s Games, too.  One of the best things about being at these Games was interacting with the leaders and members of the various teams that had entered.  They are a real “can-do” group and were a lot of fun to be around.
  • Attending the SESI2007 Conference where I gave a presentation; “Who will build the first, earth-based Space Elevator”.  Also at this conference, I was able to spend time with most of the “hard-core” Space Elevator junkies – always an “uplifting” (pun intended) experience…
  • Meeting such luminaries in the field such as Brad Edwards, Bryan Laubscher, Ben Shelef, Michael Laine and Tom Nugent – people who have been involved in this project for a lot longer than I have.
  • Understanding, to a much greater degree than before, how a Space Elevator really is going to work and being able to intelligently (at least I hope it’s intelligently) think about problems and alternatives.  At the recently concluded SESI2007 Conference, Bryan Laubscher gave a talk on the basics of what the current model of a Space Elevator is and how/why it would work.  I understand things well enough now that I could have given his talk (though I would have punted had someone in the audience asked me some arcane, technical question about ribbon harmonics or something similar – being able to understand that is next year’s project :) ).
  • Watching the traffic at this site steadily grow.  I don’t know exactly how many visitors I’ve had since the site has started because a) I didn’t keep statistics for the first couple of months and b) Sitemeter (my stat-counter) has occasionally just “died” and consequently lost count of some of the visitors.  But in the first year, I’ve had well over 28,000 visitors – and that’s a number I’m pretty happy with.  Traffic peaked during the Space Elevator Games; on October 23rd of last year, this site had 1,966 visitors and well over 4,000 page views.  For the 7-day period of October 18th through October 24th, this site had 10,308 visitors – people wanted to hear about the Space Elevator Games and I (to the best of my knowledge) was the only one doing real-time reporting from the event.  Having people mention this site, such as David Livingston on his Space Show and Mat Kaplan on The Planetary Society’s Radio show has helped immensely.  I think my continually posting fresh material has helped, too – no one likes visiting a site that hasn’t been updated regularly.  This posting will be my 579th on this blog.
  • Being able to join one of the four teams that were created at the recently concluded SESI2007 Conference.  As I reported earlier, these teams have been set up to further the vision of a Space Elevator.  The team I’ve joined, the “technology” team, is headed up by Brad Edwards.  Working with someone with his knowledge and vision is going to be very exciting – I just hope I can keep up…

So, what will the next year bring?  Who knows?  We’re all waiting for the breakthrough in carbon nanotube research that will allow a Space Elevator to be built.  If/when that happens, this whole idea will instantly change from an “interesting intellectual exercise” to a real project.  I have every intention of being involved in any way I can.

In the meantime, I’ll watch and report everything I can find which is Space-Elevator related and I will do whatever I can to further this project along.  In addition to working with Brad Edward’s technology team, I’m planning on attending and live-blogging this year’s Space Elevator Games and will make every effort to attend the inagural EuroSpaceward version of the Games in 2008.

Stay tuned!