Monthly Archives: January 2008

Or, we could invest in Space Elevator technologies…

This article says it all…

Propulsion Technology Mostly Unchanged After 50 Years

Although it’s been a half century since America entered the space age, the basic propulsion concepts used to push Explorer I into space will be the same type of propulsion that the nation will use to begin the next half century of space exploration…

Sigh…

E-T-C Video now on YouTube

Someone has put together an “Earth Track Controller (E-T-C) Montage” video and posted it on YouTube.  For those of you who don’t know, E-T-C is a joint Japanese-American team that competed in last year’s Space Elevator Games (and is scheduled to do so again this year)…  I don’t know if this video is “officially sanctioned” by the E-T-C team or not, but here it is…

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I definitely do NOT like the lyrics in the accompanying music…

TRUMPF

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. Diode lasers
  2. CO2 lasers
  3. Diode pumped solid state lasers – here you have basically another three options – see slide:

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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:

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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.

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Another big obstacle will be the receiver efficiency at the different wavelengths.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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):

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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.

The return of MClimber

The University of Michigan’s MClimber, an entrant into the 2006 Space Elevator Games – Power Beaming competition, had the distinction of being the first entrant to make it all the way to the top of the ~50m ribbon.  They were not able to do so in a prize-winning time, but it was an impressive showing nonetheless.  They intended to compete in the 2007 Games but due to various internal issues they could just not get ready in time.

However, they are raring to go in this year’s Games.  I asked their team captain, Andrew Lyjak, for his thoughts on the upcoming Games and received this reply:

Space Elevator Blog [SEB] What factors will be most important to you and the M Climber Team in deciding what power source you’ll be using in this year’s Games?
[MClimber] The MClimber team went through a very rigorous analysis of whether we wanted to proceed with a Microwave or a Laser power beaming system. As you may know, our initial plan was to go with a Microwave system, but due to a variety of factors we have instead proceeded with development of a Laser system. Some of the considerations that lead us to reach this decision were:

1)Team experience with Photovoltaic cells. While we have been using photovoltaic cells to power our climber for the past couple years, Microwave rectenna design was a new field to us. The price of development for similar rectenna and photovoltaic systems was calculated out to be a lot closer than we had originally anticipated and so we chose to stick with what we know, choosing a photovoltaic receiver array over development of a rectenna receiver.

2) Safety considerations: We are a student project, and so when our occupational safety department advised us to stay away from developing a microwave power beaming system, we listened. Lasers are not new to the U of M campus, which made it a lot easier for us to get the go ahead from the safety department for a laser system.

3) Cost: Originally we believed that a laser capable of producing the power that we needed was way beyond our budget, but now we believe that the cost of a laser system is something that we can afford, albeit with a lot of work. Subsequently we now have a full time business team to work with the engineering community and get our name out, and get some sponsors. Our business plan is modeled after the highly successful U of M solarcar team.

[SEB] Will the M Climber Team be attending the Photonics West show and will you be “interviewing” with TRUMPF for possible use of their equipment?
[MClimber] MClimber would like to attend the Photonics West show but does not have the budget at this time to afford the trip. Currently we have plans to talk to TRUMPF in a Detroit location.

[SEB] What are the M Climber Team’s goals for this year’s competition?
[MClimber] MClimber will be demonstrating a rugged climber system in 2008, capable of ascending and descending the 1km tether many times without risk of failure, and will be testing controls systems for the climber. We plan competing in 2009.

[SEB] And one more question.  After M Climber’s great showing in the 2006 competition, we missed you, very much, in the 2007 competition.  What happened – what caused you not to compete last year?
[MClimber] MClimber ran into prototyping issues in the summer, that spiraled out of our control and resulted in us losing too much time to consider competing in October.

Thanks Ted!

Andrew Lyjak
andrew.lyjak [at] gmail.com
(734)604-6163
MClimber team lead
http://mclimber.org

I look forward to their entry this year.  Their 2006 entry was compact, elegant and well-built.  I expect nothing less from this year.  And, as they’ve been down this road before (i.e., they are an experienced team), they will be someone to reckon with in the competition (either this year or next).

Comments from TXL

TXL is a new entrant into this year’s Space Elevator Games Power Beaming Competition.  They are planning on using lasers to power their climber, but not in the “conventional” sense, i.e., beaming the lasers onto photovoltaic cells and running their motors off of the resultant electricity.

I emailed David Nemir, the fearless leader of team TXL to ask him what they planned to do.  Here is his reply:

“TXL Group is a start-up company that was founded in 2007 to refine and produce a high efficiency thermoelectric generation technology that has been under development for several years. Thermoelectric devices generate electrical power from a thermal differential. As TXL migrates from theory to lab to field, we are interested in venues where we can showcase our technology and “make a lot of noise”.

There will be substantial waste heat with any laser powered application and thermoelectric generation represents a means to recover some of that energy. We have been watching the space elevator competition since its inception, with an eye to donating thermoelectric cells to one or more teams in exchange for press and PR coverage. However, at the present time, since TXL does not have a finished product and is not yet prepared to release proprietary information, the company decided to field its own entry.

Our concept is to use a combination of phase change and thermoelectric technology to provide energy to the climber. Maintaining the “cold side” temperature is a major challenge and we will likely use a closed cycle radiative heat exchanger as part of the system.

Because our approach is based upon heat, we are not concerned about the wavelength of the laser and so the 1020 nm laser that Trumpf has so generously offered seems like a good fit. The TXL Team will be attending the Photonics West show and will be talking to TRUMPF at that time.  During the show, we would like to also meet with others in the Space Elevator community. Jan Beck and I will be at the show on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning and we can be reached by cell at (915) 449-1907.   Give us a call — we’ll buy the coffee.”

So there you have it.  If you are a member of another Power Beaming team or a member of the press and you are attending the show (I’m jealous if you are), give Jan or David a call.

It occurred to me that some other Climber entries have also tried to power their entry via heat by using Stirling Engines – none successfully so far.  I looked up Thermoelectric Effect in Wikipedia (sorry, Dr. Edwards) and found that it is quite different.  I will be very curious to see how well they do this year.  Good luck to them!

Press Release – TRUMPF to help Space Elevator Games

Here is a Press Release hot off the press and, in light of the series of postings this week I’m doing on the Photonics West show, is particularly timely:

PRESS RELEASE – SPACEWARD 2008 $2M BEAM POWER CHALLENGE: TRUMPF TO SUPPORT COMPETITION TEAMS

Ted Semon
Spaceward Foundation, Mountain View, Calif.
ted [AT ] spaceward.org
(630) 240-4797

2008 Space Elevator Beam Power Challenge Gets Helping Hand.

Mountain View, CA; January 21, 2008 – The Spaceward Foundation is thrilled to announce that TRUMPF will be supporting Space Elevator teams in the upcoming 2008 Space Elevator Power Beaming competition.

TRUMPF will be providing a top of the line TruDisk 8002 laser for use by participating teams, including on-site operation and full safety and engineering support.

The TruDisk laser is a diode-pumped commercial laser source used for industry laser processes such as cutting and welding. It offers exceptional beam quality at high power which easily enables the 1-km range, as well as an innovative fiber-optics based beam distribution system that allows multiple teams to use the same beam source.

For power beaming applications, the beam is expanded over a large area so that its intensity is reduced by several orders of magnitude. The beam is then directed at a photovoltaic panel similar to solar panels used on rooftops as a clean electrical energy source.

Competing teams as well as Spaceward personnel will be available at the TRUMPF exhibit at the Photonics West tradeshow on Thursday, January 24, at the San Jose Convention Center, booth #6130.

Team registration is open, and the latest revision of the competition handbook is available at http://www.spaceward.org/elevator2010-pb.html

Building on the results of the 2007 Space Elevator Power Beaming Challenge, the goals of the 2008 challenge have been set at 1 km height, 5 m/s minimum speed, for a prize level of $2M. An intermediate prize level of $900k is set for a speed of 2 m/s.  Teams that can reach an altitude of 1 km at between 1 and 2 m/s will be awarded a prize of up to $50k.

Illustrations of the 1 km challenge over two hypothetical sites are shown at www.spaceward.org/elevator2010-pb.html, showing the challenge as it would look if held over Meteor Crater in Arizona, and if held over the 2007 venue. The latest revision of the competition handbook as well as a registration link are also available there.

“Power beaming is about transferring power through light beams, and TRUMPF’s know-how allows it to take a leading role in these games” says TRUMPF VP of Laser technology, Holger Schlueter, and adds: “Including myself, many of us here at TRUMPF have never lost our excitement about space exploration, and my organization is thrilled to help shape the future of space travel”.

“We could not have asked for a better contributor” says Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation. “with a 1-km beam power demonstration, we will have taken the Space Elevator competition to the next level.”

“Personally I’m looking forward to 2008 to be the year Space Elevator research and development really takes off” says Brad Edwards, who’s developed what’s known as the modern Space Elevator design. “with recent results in the fields of Carbon Nanotubes and Lasers, and with progress like we’ve been seeing in the Space Elevator challenge, we expect the perception that the Space Elevator is a near-term project to become more prevalent”.

Clayton Ruzkowski, USST team leader (first place 2007): “I am very proud of how our team preformed at the 2007 competition. Our system has barely scratched the surface in terms of what we can achieve. With TRUMPF’s laser, we expect to be able to greatly increase the speed of our climber.”

BACKGROUND:

The Space Elevator games concentrate on two far-reaching technology concepts that will enable NASA to enhance its space program – power beaming for wireless power transfer, and Nano-materials such as Carbon Nanotubes for strong structures.

Ken Davidian, program manager for Centennial Challenges: “I am excited and impressed with the evolution and level of technical maturity demonstrated by the teams in both the Tether and Beam Power Challenges. Over the past 24 months, individual teams started from scratch, have grown continually, have coalesced into communities, and are on the verge of accomplishing substantial achievements worthy of a Centennial Challenges prize.”

Dr. Bradley C Edwards, the leading Space Elevator researcher and science advisor to the games: “The Space Elevator games, with their emphasis on strong tethers and power beaming, represent the road to building the Space Elevator. We hope their cumulative effect on the engineering community will enable further effort in this direction.”

The Space Elevator is a revolutionary Earth-to-Space transportation system proposed in 1960 by Yuri Artsutanov and enhanced in 2000 by Dr. Bradley Edwards, then at Los Alamos National Labs. The system is comprised of a stationary cable rotating in unison with the Earth, with one end anchored to the surface of the planet and the other end in space. Electric cars then travel up and down the cable, carrying cargo and people.

For more information on the competitions, visit: http://www.spaceward.org, email ted@spaceward.org, or call (630) 240-4797.

Press resources are located at http://www.spaceward.org/press.html

The Spaceward Foundation is a public-funds non-profit organization dedicated to furthering space science and technology in the public mindshare and in educational curriculums.  We believe that expanding mankind’s habitat is essential to its survival, and that the most effective way to induce long-term change is through education.

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A pdf of the Press Release is available here.

DILAS – The Diode Laser Company

Teams competing in this year’s Space Elevator Games are sure to beat a path to the DILAS booth at the Photonics West Exhibition.  Both USST and Lasermotive, the two laser-powered teams in the 2007 Space Elevator Games, used Laser Diode products from DILAS to power their climber and many more are certainly considering using them this year.

Dr. Georg Treusch from DILAS has kindly consented to answer a few questions for the Space Elevator Blog:

Space Elevator Blog [SEB]:Before being approached by USST and Lasermotive, were you aware of the concept of the Space Elevator?
[Dr. Treusch]: Yes, I have been in contact with Brad Edwards since the Games in Albuquerque.

[SEB]: What do you think of the idea of a Space Elevator?
[Dr. Treusch]:Very challenging to accomplish. In general it is a very good idea and at the same level and beneficial for the world as the solar car competition in Australia which will lead us away from burning our resources.
 
[SEB]: What are you and DILAS offering this year to teams who want to use your equipment?
[Dr. Treusch]: We are talking right now to more than 5 teams about using our new design which has to be finalized after we have solicited all needs from the teams. It will be a 2.5kW base module with all the optics to generate the beam for the 1 km distance and a motorized optic to match the beam to the panel size at various distance.

[SEB]: In the 2007 Games, both USST and Lasermotive used DILAS laser diodes.  For the uninitiated (including myself), what is the difference between a “laser diode” and a “laser”?
[Dr. Treusch]: A laser typically generates one beam with high brightness using a gain medium and two mirrors. A laser diode does the same on a miniature scale. The emitting area is about 1 um high and typically 50 – 200 um wide the cavity length (distance between the mirrors) is about 1 – 3 mm with an output power of 3-5W. To get to more power those emitters are arranged on a laser diode bar (10mm wide, up to 50 emitter) with >100W power. The bars are mounted on high efficient heat-sinks which can be stacked for even more power. By combining multiple emitters the power can be increased but not the brightness. A fiber laser or disk laser with > 1kW power may have a beam quality of less than 3 mmxmrad (beam size x divergence) whereas the diode laser stack has a 10x higher value and therefore a lower brightness.

[SEB]: Telling us as much as you can divulge, how would you compare the approaches between Lasermotive and USST in using DILAS equipment?
[Dr. Treusch]: USST used the approach for an optimized optical system for the maximum distance required and matched the beam size at lower altitudes to the panel with optics.  Lasermotive used stacks with lower brightness and did spread out the beam already at ground level (more optics needed and hard to control and to keep the stacks protected).

[SEB]: I know you attended last year’s Space Elevator Games.  Are you planning on attending the Games this year too?
[Dr. Treusch]: For sure and I will be available at the Photonics West show in San Jose next week at our booth #6073.

Thank you Dr. Treusch!

The Photonics West Exhibition

Beginning this week, the Photonics West Exhibition is going to be held in San Jose, California.  From their website:

“SPIE Photonics West is the most important North American exhibition on optics, lasers, biomedical optics, optoelectronic components, and imaging technologies. Located at the center of the world’s hottest technology market, Silicon Valley, Photonics West is a can’t-miss exhibition.”

I truly wish I could attend, but prior committments prevent me from doing so.  Though I won’t be there, I’m going to do a series of postings about the show, some of the exhibitors and some of the attendees (long-distance blogging as it were).  Ben Shelef of the Spaceward Foundation will be attending and will hopefully send me some photos which I can post too.

Several of the teams who have registered for this year’s Space Elevator Games will be in attendance, visiting the various laser vendors (and other suppliers), looking for a leg-up in this year’s competition.  They will certainly be visiting DILAS, the laser vendor for the two laser-powered teams in last year’s Games (USST and Lasermotive).  They will also be visiting TRUMPF, another laser vendor.  Both vendors are trying to entice teams into using their equipment this year by “stepping-up” with offers of help and support.

The Space Elevator Games have come a long way in just a few short years.  Starting in 2004, running a 25m racecourse with Spaceward-provided, hand-aimed searchlights as a power source, it has now evolved to a competition where the competitors must complete a 1km racecourse using lasers as their power source and with an automated tracking system.

I love it!

Skronk, Greezle and Commander Skippy have much to be concerned with :)

Want to buy the Apollo 13 Engine?

The next time I’m in the Los Angeles area, I’m going to visit Norton Sales.  Here, for a quarter-million dollars, you can buy part of the Saturn 5 and, if you’re willing to spend over a million dollars, you can buy the actual Apollo 13 Engine.

Visit the OnOrbit post about this store to see a video of it.

Maybe 50 years from now, you’ll be able to visit this store and buy some used parts from a real Space Elevator.  “Yes, this was part of the original cable, now replaced due to meteorite damage.  It’s only $1,000 per linear foot.  And over here, we have one of the gripper wheel sets from one of the original Climbers.  It’s a steal at only $25,000.”

Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah…

(Picture from the Norton Sales website)

But first, an announcement…

Over at the Space Elevator Reference, Marc Boucher announces the launch of:

SpaceRef Interactive Inc. the company that owns and operates this site today launched a new social space news and networking service called On Orbit.

For space elevator enthusiasts and professionals the service includes a Forum dedicated to the Space Elevator. Notable space elevator figures including but not limited to Spaceward’s Ben Shelef and Brad Edwards will be contributing to the forum.

These forums join others already in existence, among them being the Yahoo Groups Space Elevator Forum, the Liftport forums and the National Space Society Space Elevator Chapter.

Correction and future posts…

As has been pointed out to me (several times), the original numbers I posted (here, here and here) for the strength of the Carbon nanotube fibers announced during the recent EuroSpaceward event  are wrong; the correct number should be ~9 GPa – 9 N/tex.  This is still a very significant achievement and if anyone shows up at the upcoming Space Elevator game with a tether this strong, they will blow the house tether completely away.

I will put up a post in the near future about how tether strength is measured and how I went awry.  It turns out to be a bit more complicated than I thought (gee, why I am not surprised?)…

However, for the next week or so, and in conjunction with the Photonics West Trade Show which begins tomorrow, I will be doing a series of post on a) some of the Climber teams who are going to be competing this year and b) TRUMPF and DILAS; two vendors who are really stepping up to further the concept of a Space Elevator.

Stay tuned…

(Homer pix from here)

“Building a tug-of-war machine”

In the current issue of Machine Design, there is an article about building the tether-pull machine which was used in the most recent Space Elevator Games.  It’s an interesting article – here’s an excerpt:

“The tether machine is a rectangular box about 12-ft long and 18-in. high on each side. Using bolttogether connectors from Bosch Rexroth Linear Motion and Assembly Technologies, Buchanan, Mich., the tether pull structure easily assembles without special tools or skills. The extruded aluminum framing looks clean and attractive without painting or other finishing. The team could also choose from numerous accessories to extend the machine beyond a simple frame and base to a complete multifunctional structure. And, every aluminum structuralframing component is reusable, which made it simple for the team to make changes as designs developed.

You can access the entire article here.

The picture is from the website and was taken by yours truly – it shows the defeated DeltaX tether draped over the tether-pull machine while the tether from Astroaraneae is still wrapped around the rollers.

Spaceward Press Release

The Spaceward Organization today sent out a Press Release detailing the goals of the 2008 Space Elevator Games Power Beaming competition.  Those of you who pay attention to the Spaceward website or read this blog will already know what they are :)

PRESS RELEASE – SPACEWARD 2008 $2M BEAM POWER CHALLENGE: GOALS ANNOUNCED

Ben Shelef
Spaceward Foundation, Mountain View, Calif.
ben [at] spaceward.org
(650) 793-4987
http://www.spaceward.org/PR-2008-001.html (includes support images)

2008 Space Elevator Beam Power Challenge – Goals Announced

Mountain View, CA; January 16, 2008 – The Spaceward Foundation announces the goals for the 2008 Space Elevator Power Beaming Challenge.

Building on the results of the 2007 Challenge, the goals for 2008 have been set at 1 km height, 5 m/s minimum speed, for a prize level of $2M.

An intermediate prize level of $900k will be given for a speed of 2 m/s. Additionally, teams that can reach an altitude of 1 km at between 1 and 2 m/s will be awarded a prize of up to $50k.

The 1-km climb will be supported by a unique pyramid-anchored balloon system, providing the teams with a stable tether to climb on. Illustrations of the challenge over two potential sites are shown at www.spaceward.org/elevator2010-pb.html, showing the challenge as it would look if held over Meteor Crater in Arizona, and if held over the 2007 venue.

Team registration is open, and the latest revision of the competition handbook is available at the above web page as well. The venue has not been selected yet, and the tentative date for the competition is the week of September 8th, 2008.

Starting this year, TRUMPF, Inc. has joined the games and will be supporting teams with Laser hardware and know-how. More details will be made available at the upcoming Photonics West tradeshow in San Jose, January 22-24.

“The 1 km challenge really takes us to next level” says Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation. “The point of power beaming is that it can work over any distance, and this challenge will illustrate the promise of this technology.”

The Spaceward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public funds non-profit organization (EIN: 34-1997639) dedicated to the advancement of space technology in education and in the public mindshare. For more information, please visit http://www.spaceward.org

“Personally I’m looking forward to 2008 to be the year Space Elevator research and development really takes off” says Brad Edwards, who developed what is known as the modern Space Elevator design. “with recent results in the fields of Carbon Nanotubes and Lasers, and with progress like we’ve been seeing in the Space Elevator challenge, we expect the perception that the Space Elevator is a near-term project to become more prevalent”.

BACKGROUND:

The Space Elevator games concentrate on two far-reaching technology concepts that will enable NASA to enhance its space program – power beaming for wireless power transfer, and Nano-materials such as Carbon Nanotubes for strong structures. Total prize money provided by NASA for the games is $4,000,000.

Ken Davidian, program manager for Centennial Challenges: “I am excited and impressed with the evolution and level of technical maturity demonstrated by the teams in both the Tether and Beam Power Challenges. Over the past 24 months, individual teams started from scratch, have grown continually, have coalesced into communities, and are on the verge of accomplishing substantial achievements worthy of a Centennial Challenges prize.”

Dr. Bradley C Edwards, the leading Space Elevator researcher and science advisor to the games: “The Space Elevator games, with their emphasis on strong tethers and power beaming, represent the road to building the Space Elevator. We hope their cumulative effect on the engineering community will enable further effort in this direction.”

The Space Elevator is a revolutionary Earth-to-Space transportation system proposed in 1960 by Yuri Artsutanov and enhanced in 2000 by Dr. Bradley Edwards, then at Los Alamos National Labs. The system is comprised of a stationary cable rotating in unison with the Earth, with one end anchored to the surface of the planet and the other end in space. Electric cars then travel up and down the cable, carrying cargo and people.

For more information on the competitions, visit: http://www.spaceward.org,
email ted@spaceward.org, or call (630) 240-4797. Press resources are located at
http://www.spaceward.org/press.html

The Spaceward Foundation is a public-funds non-profit organization dedicated to furthering space science and technology in the public mindshare and in The Spaceward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public funds non-profit organization (EIN: 34-1997639) dedicated to the advancement of space technology in education and in the public mindshare. For more information, please visit http://www.spaceward.org educational curriculums. We believe that expanding mankind’s habitat is essential to its survival, and that the most effective way to induce long-term change is through education.

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The Spaceward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public funds non-profit organization (EIN: 34-1997639) dedicated to the advancement of space technology in education and in the public mindshare. For more information, please visit http://www.spaceward.org

News from the Kansas City Space Pirates

This morning, I received the following email from Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates:

The sails are up and the trade winds are a blowin’!

We have done some testing with low power lasers horizontally at 1km. We have lined up two different Solar cell providers depending on what laser we end up using. We have one or two answers for every technical challenge we have anticipated. We have a few parts for the ’08 climber in house that are awaiting testing along with some sketches of where to put them.

Our focus has been in making sure we have a viable plan, but the fund raising environment seems warmer than last year.

We have recruited some more expertise this year to make sure we have all the skills needed.

We are heading to a trade show called Photonics West in San Francisco. It is the biggest show of it’s type and all of the major Laser vendors will be there. As well as most of the optical suppliers we will need. It is looking pretty good that we will be able to secure the use of a $1 Million dollar laser for the competition.

We have decided to plan for the full $2 Million prize at a speed of 5 Meters per second.

Even with the shortened schedule this year we are ahead of where we were the last 2 years.

All in all, progress is good and this may be the best year to be a Space Pirate yet!

Thanks again for all of your support.

Brian Turner
Captain

I think the Space Pirates have to be considered one of the early favorites in this competition, even though they are moving to a new power source (lasers vs. sunlight). They have learned many lessons in the last two competitions (i.e. they now are an experienced team) and their climber was actually the fastest last year during the qualification climb.  If they had been able to sustain that speed during the competition run, they would have easily won it.  As it was, they came pretty close.

Yes, I know they have a whole new set of problems to worry about, among the most significant being the ability to have their laser track the climber during it’s ascent/descent.  But it’s a problem that’s been solved before by others and I’m confident the KC Space Pirates will figure it out too.

Only 8 more months to go!

More YouTube Videos…

There are a few more Space Elevator-related videos posted on YouTube that I would like to reference:

First is one from the Civilization IV computer game, showing a sped-up version of a Space Elevator being constructed:

The second is, I think, an animation intended to show how, in the future, space elevator travel will be routine.  At least that’s what I think the lame soundtrack of airline traffic is supposed to portend:

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The last two videos are two more postings from the Spaceminers team – entrants into the 2005 and 2006 Space Elevator Games:

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And now I think I’m caught up on YouTube vides…

Spaceminer videos now on YouTube

Spaceminers, an entrant in both the 2005 and 2006 Space Elevator Games, has posted four videos on YouTube.  As I did not attend the 2005 Games, and I arrived at the 2006 Games AFTER the Space Miners had attempted to qualify, these are all new to me so I’m very glad they have been posted.

The first is their “pre-qualifying attempt” from the 2006 Competition:

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This next one is a Solar Powered Space Chair, unveiled at the 2005 Games (I like the music in the background – we need to do this at next year’s Games!):

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These last two are from some internal testing (I don’t know when the tests actually occurred – the videos were just recently posted):

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Thanks for posting these guys…

Space Elevator Computer Games and Bungee jumping…

I’ve posted before about how Space Elevators are occasionally components in video games.  In addition to being in the new version of Halo they were also in Ex Machina (though a commenter said that this wasn’t a video game – I don’t really know) and Civilization IV.  I’ve also posted about how people have speculated / joked about Bungee jumping / skydiving from a Space Elevator (here, here and here).

I’ve now discovered that these two have been combined but, unfortunately, not in a readily-available manner.  On the Nuon platform, a game called Freefall 3050 A.D. was released some years ago.  One of the Amazon reviews summed it up thusly:

“Freefall by Total Arkade Software is one of the most unique titles to be released on any platform in recent memory, indeed, titles this far off the mainstream usually are frowned upon. That being said, TAKS has crafted what can best be described as a 360 degree free-falling joyride. As a member of the jump police of 3050 A.D., it’s your job to keep the skies clear of joyriders and trouble-makers, problem is that there are a lot of lunatics out there. Freefalling at top-speed, you must rotate in 360 degrees while blasting and manuevering, taking out targets to complete missions and ‘persuading’ criminals to see things your way. Dynamic control scheme, ground-breaking gameplay & techno soundtrack all contribute to a game that breaks the action shooter mold in every conceivable way.”

This sounds way-cool.  And, now I find a story about a concept created for another XBOX game, called Freefall/Gemini, with a similar theme.  Unfortunately it never made it off the ground.  If it had, my son and I would be battling for time on his XBOX…

The story links to a short video (here) of this proposed game.  The video, especially the music, ranks very high on my cool-o-meter…

(The picture thumbnails are snapshots of the video – click on them or visit the video for a larger version)