Archive for June, 2007

Kansas City Space Pirates meet another fund-raising goal

From Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates:

New Mexico here we come!

We have passed the bottom fundraising threshold and now have enough Contributions, Sponsors, Assets(From 2006) and Pledges to finish the climber and make it to the competition in New Mexico!

We are now calling ourselves a “Participant”. That means that we can buy enough solar cells to make the climber function but not enough to secure a win. We will still be working to raise more money to fill out the solar cell budget. We can buy them in batches costing about $1,750. Look at the attached graphic to see the fundraising goals.

Budget amount (Competitiveness)
$15,000 (Land Lubber)
$32,000 (Participant)
$37,000 (Contender)
$42,000 (In-The-Money)
$53,000 (Dominating)

Those of you who have pledged, I would like to encourage you to send in your contribution as we are ordering the parts and building as fast as the money allows.

We currently have the parts needed to test every aspect of this years climber designs. In the next three weeks we should be testing each component and be able to come up with solid performance predictions. Our current predictions are based on specs and estimates.

In case you have not heard the venue will not be in Las Vegas. It looks like we will be at the fairgrounds that held the qualifications last year. This is good news as we really liked the facilities there and kinda know our way around Las Cruces.

Be sure and check out the New York Times Magazine in this Sunday’s paper for the Centennial Challenges article. I think my messy garage will be in there.

Brian Turner
Captain,
KC Space Pirates

So, this is good news - the more competition, the better.  Last year, the KC Space Pirates certainly put on a good show and I think we can count on them doing it again this year.  Whether or not they’re going to be able to successfully compete against one or more Laser-driven units, only time will tell.  Click on the Pirate ship picture for a larger version.  And, as Brian notes, please be sure and check out tomorrows NY Times.

Finally, you’ll note that Brian talks about Las Vegas and New Mexico as possible venues for the Space Elevator Games.  Yes, these were possible sites, but nothing has been announced yet.  And, if I were a betting man, well, I’d be hesitant to put money on either site.  More on that (very) soon…

Add comment June 30th, 2007

“Wet and Breezy Internet”

Joe Julian writes on the LiftPort blog:

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

Thanks to everyone that helped. More later.”

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

Add comment June 28th, 2007

The Andromeda Connection

One of the new contestants in this year’s Space Elevator Games is The Andromeda Connection.  If you visit their website, you learn that their captain, Michael Harvey, “…has a keen interest in science in general, particularly that involving space travel and electronics. Over the past 48 years Mike has developed skills in fields ranging from electronics and programming to residential construction and mechanics.”

On their website, they have a Progress Report and a Photo Album.  They’ve also posted a couple of videos at YouTube showing tests of their Climber’s drive system.

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Add comment June 27th, 2007

And, I think we’re back…

All of the blog upgrades are now done and everything seems to be working OK.  It’s nice that software developers continually upgrade their programs and provide bug fixes, but it does get annoying at times to have to do these constant upgrades.  This is my third upgrade this year (it’s only June) and I have skipped others that I could have done.  Once upon a time, I was a software developer myself and, having to work with my customers to upgrade their systems, I always tried to make it as painless as possible.  But it’s never completely painless…

So, for the moment, anyway, we’re on the current release of WordPress (2.2.1).  All of the security issues in the old release have been (supposedly) plugged - now we just have to wait for the hackers to find the holes in this release :)  Even the spelling checker works now!  But WordPress still can’t handle whitespace very well.  The pre 2.0 releases handled it just fine - if you wanted a couple of blank lines in your post, just hit the Return bar a couple of times and there you go.  Now, all of the extra whitespace is automatically deleted by the editor, an attempt, I suppose, to force everyone to modify the .css files instead.  Of course that complicates future upgrades…  WordPress has now also made Widgets the preferred method of maintaing the Sidebar (Widgets used to be available as a plugin, now it’s part of core code).  I could have kept all of my old sidebar hacks, but did want to upgrade to the new method, and that, of course, also complicated things.  They have Widgets called “Text Boxes”, basically places where you can plug in HTML code and place them on the sidebar where you want.  But Text boxes can’t handle php.  For that you need a plugin (Execphp), so I had to install that, too.  But at the end of the day it all seems to work and, I hope, future upgrades will be less lengthy…

I’ve also upgraded to the current release of the WordPress theme I use, Blix Krieg.  It is an offshoot of the original Blix theme, one which does not seem to be maintained anymore.  Blix Krieg is maintainted by theDuck, an Aussie who seems like a nice chap.  And the theme works flawlessly.

I’ve also dumped Sitemeter - it was just so unreliable.  It lost several days of statistics for me on more than one occasion, and I’ve long suspected it if undercounting my site visitors.  In it’s place, I’ve installed StatCounter.  Perhaps it’s just a busy day today, but already my site stats are higher than before.

Finally, I’ve also fixed (I hope) my RSS feeds.  I was using Feedburner but discovered, much to my dismay, that somehow I was burning two Feedburner feeds.  Perhaps this is why they weren’t working properly.  I’d like to thank all of my readers who took the time to either drop an comment or email to me to let me know how my RSS feed was working (or not) for them.  Hopefully, this is a solved problem now, too.

As always, if you run into something on my blog that doesn’t work, please let me know.

Now all I have to do is to get the long delayed photo gallery up and running and I’ll be all set…

3 comments June 26th, 2007

We’re upgrading again…

I’m upgrading to WordPress 2.2.1 and Blix Krieg 2.2 today, Monday, June 25th.  So, if things look funky when you visit, check back in in a couple of hours and all should be set right.

I’m also re-doing my Feedburner Feed (it got messed up somehow) and adding a few more.  So the results will be, hopefully, “the latest and greatest”.  Finally, I’m dropping my Sitemeter stats - they’re just too unreliable - and replacing them with Feedburner stats.

Thanks for your patience…

Add comment June 25th, 2007

A “Lunar Space Elevator”?

Some fine photography from Hernan Hernandez.  Click on the thumbnail or visit his flickr page to see a larger version (his flickr page also has his explanation of how he accomplished this shot).

Very cool…

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(Hat tip to Andy Price)

1 comment June 24th, 2007

The BBC visits LaserMotive

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

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

All I can say is “way cool”…

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

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

Add comment June 23rd, 2007

Upcoming LiftPort-Tethered Towers Demo

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

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

Add comment June 22nd, 2007

“Space Doughnut”

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

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

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

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

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

1 comment June 21st, 2007

“El-cheapo Space Elevator”

The only word to describe this is: BAD…

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It needs some cheesy sound effects to actually be funny…

Add comment June 20th, 2007

Second Life and LiftPort

According to the LiftPort Blog;

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

You can read the full blog entry here.

1 comment June 19th, 2007

LiftPort June, 2007 Art Newsletter released

Click here to view this newsletter (which I received via email).  For some reason, the photos didn’t make it, but if you click on where they should have been included, you’ll see that the links are live and will take you to the appropriate spot on Flickr (where LiftPort has been posting their photos).,

1 comment June 18th, 2007

Space Prizes Blog

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

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

Add comment June 17th, 2007

“The Moon is Red”

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

A very interesting read…

1 comment June 16th, 2007

Model a Space Elevator

CPAN now has some Perl Libraries which allow you to model a Space Elevator (these modules posted by Daniel Brooks).  I’m not a Perl programmer, so am not sure if I’m going to mess around with it, but if you’re into both Space Elevators and PERL, this is probably a pretty nifty tool.

If anyone wants to set this up and report on their results, I’d be happy to post them here on my blog.

And, if you want to know what CPAN is, Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation…

Add comment June 15th, 2007

KC Space Pirates appear on Walt Bodine Show

On June 11th, KC Space Pirates captain Brian Turner and team member Frank Smith were interviewed on a one-hour long show by Kansas City broadcaster Walt Bodine.  Walt’s website is here and you can listen to the interview here.

In the interview, Brian mentioned that he and his team was also going to be featured in the July 1st edition of the NY Times, so I’m looking forward to that also.

Add comment June 13th, 2007

The return of Punkworks?

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

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

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

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

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

1 comment June 11th, 2007

“The concept is not of interest to NASA”

This quote is taken from Dr. Brad Edward’s PowerPoint presentation posted on the Rutgers Symposium on Lunar Settlements website.  This presentation, titled “A Space Elevator for the Moon”, proposed that two, earth-based Space Elevators be built to supply the materials needed to do Lunar exploration in a robust way.  It’s quite persuasive, with the only caveat being the technology: “Immature but quickly developing”.  The advantages are clear; greatly reduced launch costs and greatly reduced launch risk.

You can find the PowerPoint presentation here and the abstract of his speech here (Bob Munck alert - it’s a pdf file.  Dr. Edwards abstract is on page 62).

Hopefully all is not bleak, though.  A new administration will be elected next year and, while I have no reason to believe that they would encourage NASA to be more innovative, they could hardly make it worse…

Add comment June 10th, 2007

Micrometeorites…

I subscribe to Marc Boucher’s daily emails from his SpaceRef.com site.  They are very interesting and I almost always find something in every email which fascinates me.

In his Friday, June 8th edition, there was a link to a NASA site showing some micrometeorite damage suffered by the ISS.  I’ve posted a thumbnail here and you can click on it to view a larger version (warning; it’s a 1.6MB file).  The NASA URL also has links to that image and a lower resolution one.  They don’t post a “credit” for the photo, but the story leads me to believe it’s one of the Russian astronauts currently up there.

Anyway, I’ve posted this here as this hazard, along with others, will be something that a Space Elevator ribbon and Climber will have to deal with.  The picture shows a hole poked in an insulation blanket - I’d have liked to find out what kind of damage, if any, was suffered by the module itself.

And, if you don’t already subscribe to these emails, I’d highly recommend you do so.  Just visit SpaceRef.com and sign up.

3 comments June 9th, 2007

KC Space Pirates Saturday demo is off…

From Brian Turner, fearless leader of the KC Space Pirates;

Well during the demo Friday we shelled the tranny, broke the anti-rotation rod and de-laminated some of the mirrors. The climber is in for several hours of repair. And we also burned up most of our personal energy setting up the whole thing. So rather than have everyone come to a static display of a wounded climber we decided to cancel.

The good new is that the weather was beautiful. The audience was patient and the New York times got some good shots. The artical is slated for the July 1st Sunday edition of the New York Times. The paper should be available in local book stores. The magazine is an insert in the regular Sunday paper. The article is about the NASA centennial challenges and we were the team picked for coverage of the Beamed Power Competition. They also will be covering the space suit glove competition and the Moon dirt digging challenges.

More good news, We have been asked to be on the Walt Bodine Show on Monday Morning. 89.3 FM 10 to 11 AM http://www.kcur.org/waltbodine.html

Talk to you more later.

Brian
Captain,
Kansas City Space Pirates

Wow, it sounds like the Romans gave Archimedes all he could handle…

Add comment June 8th, 2007

Demo of Archimedes Death Ray (aka KC Space Pirates mirrors) moved…

As I had blogged about earlier, Brian Turner and the Kansas City Space Pirates are providing a demonstration of their system for interested observers.  I had noted that the location might be changed and, indeed, it has.  From Brian;

We had to change the location of the demo this weekend. It is no longer at  the polo club location.
We are now at Tri-Lateral Sales (TLS for short).  This is the back yard of a warehouse located in the river bottoms south of Worlds-of-Fun. This is our usual test field.

The address is
3801 NE Kimball Dr.
KCMO 64152
My cell
816-716-7077

The times remain the same
Fri Noon to 3:30
Sat Noon to 3:30
Myself and some of my teammates will be there earlier. We will be out back.

This location is a little odd in that everyone needs to sign a hold harmless agreement as part of the owners giving us permission to demo there. Find me when you get there to sign in.  The business there will be in operation Friday so try not to block the trucks and park a bit away from the front door.  You might want to bring a lawn chair.

Brian

Add comment June 7th, 2007

Jerome Pearson interview on the Space Elevator

Kevin Coglin (I hope I’m spelling his name right) has posted several videos on YouTube, interviewing various participants and presenters at the currently ongoing symposium on Lunar Settlements at Rutgers University.  The one he’s posted which is of most interest to Space Elevator fans is this one (below) with Jerome Pearson.  I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting or even listening to Mr. Pearson, so this YouTube video was a real treat.  Thanks, Kevin…

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I had posted about this symposium earlier here.  Also at this symposium, Dr. Brad Edwards is scheduled to present his proposal on using earth-based Space Elevators to satisfy NASA’s lunar settlement requirements.  I hope I get a chance to post on his presentation soon…

Add comment June 6th, 2007

“A Space Elevator for Carbon Dioxide”

No, not really, but I liked the title :)  The author is talking about an idea of UCLA physicist Alfred Wong to use a laser to alter CO2 molecules so that they would leave the earth’s atmosphere at the pole’s , i.e. creating a “Space Elevator” so that our excess CO2 would be dumped into space.

Other than the title, the link this posting has to a “real” space elevator is an email sent to me by reader Howard Katseff over a year ago, where he wondered if somehow a Space Elevator “tube” could be used to funnel a power plant’s emissions into space.  The problem with this idea (and with Alfred Wong’s proposal) is just the sheer mass of CO2 we spew into the atmosphere.  According to a couple of websites I’ve looked at, we, as a planet, generate well over 20 million metric tons of CO2 each and every DAY.  That’s a lot of gassified dry ice, more than we can deal with via Space Elevator tubes or lasers.

There’s another issue too.  Are we so sure we want to get rid of this stuff?  We, as a species, might need it some day.  It would be hell to have thrown it all away and then find out that we need it to solve another global problem…  Conservation, sequestration and zero-emission power plant and vehicles - I think that’s the only way to go (IMHO)…

(Photo credit: Nick Russill)

1 comment June 6th, 2007

“Average Human Height now less than 100 Nanotubes”

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

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

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

2 comments June 5th, 2007

Modern Archimedes (aka KC Space Pirates) to perform demonstration

From Brian Turner and the Kansas City Space Pirates, one of the entrants into both last year’s and this year’s Space Elevator Games;

The KC Space Pirates will be doing an “All up” demo this Friday and Saturday with the action happening from Noon to 3:30 each day. We will have a 50 ft crane rented for both days. This is for the benefit of a photographer from the New York Times Magazine, but I want to invite all of our fans and supporters out to take a look.

We will need volunteers to aim the mirrors and I need to get a count of how many will be there, So if you could please RSVP and state if you will be coming and if you want to aim a mirror that would be helpful. But feel free to stop by anyway.

We are planning a special treat at 3:00 PM on Sat. We will try the heliobeaming mirrors out as an Archimedes Death Ray. Surprisingly we have never had the chance to do this before. So it could be a historical event, or a bust. At over 500 square feet, our mirrors are bigger than the ones used on the TV show Mythbusters. We will try to set the focal distance to the “Standard” of 150 ft.

Location:
10016 NW Skyview Ave
KCMO 64154

When:
6/8 and 6/9 12:00 to 3:30 PM

Directions:
I-29 toward the airport
Exit Tiffany springs Take a right Toward Embassy Suites(East) Follow Tiffany springs parkway through 3 traffic circles heading east. (1st right then 2nd right then 3rd right.)  The former polo Club is on the NW corner of Tiffany Springs and Skyview. The driveway is right on the north edge of the 3rd traffic circle. Pull past the house and big barn to the parking lot on the right.  Park on the black part of that lot.  We have rented a crane but not a port-o-potty so take care.

Hope to see you all there.

Captain Brian Turner
brian [AT] kcspacepirates.com
Kansas City Space Pirates

This sounds very cool and is the first communication of many I hope to receive from the various teams detailing demos they’ll be doing of their equipment.

What they need to do is to focus this beam onto a lake or pond and have a model sailboat travel through the focal point.  Or, to update it to more modern times, get a model airplane and fly it through the focal point.  Seeing either do so and then spontaneously burst into flames would generate some great footage!

One note; Brian tells me the location may change.  So, be sure to check their website for the latest information if you plan to attend the demo.  Brian, you will be shooting some video and posting it on your site or on YouTube, yes?

2 comments June 4th, 2007

RSS - Is it working for The Space Elevator Blog?

For some funky reason, my blog doesn’t appear to show up in my RSS feeds - I don’t know why.  It used to, and then stopped.  It may have had something to do with WordPress’s Feedburner plugin.  I installed it and activated it and… zippo.  So I went back to the old (WordPress) feed, but that, too, is now… zippo.

So, I’ve reactivated the Feedburner plugin and we’ll see what happens.  In the meantime, if any of you use RSS aggregators, could you please send me an email or post a comment on this post and let me know if the RSS feed is working for you (or not)?  I would greatly appreciate it…

3 comments June 1st, 2007

More woes for LiftPort

Over at the Space Elevator Reference, Marc Boucher is reporting that the State of Washington issued (on April 18th of this year) a “Statement of charges and notice of intent to enter order to cease and desist, impose fines, and charge costs” order against Michael Laine and LiftPort.  Marc links to the Securities Administration document; you can also find it here.

I don’t know what the “record” is for these types of orders; how many of those that are issued which actually get enforced, but this certainly can’t be good news for LiftPort, whatever the outcome.

I’ve emailed Michael Laine to ask him for his comments on this; knowing Michael, I’m sure he’s not going to duck the issue…

2 comments June 1st, 2007


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