Monthly Archives: March 2008

Dr. Brad Edwards speaking engagement

As noted in some recent news reports, this coming Friday, April 4th, at 6:30pm, Dr. Brad Edwards will be giving a presentation entitled “Extreme Engineering: The Space Elevator”.

This event will be held at the Walb Student Union Ballroom at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

So, if there are any Hoosiers interested in this idea, this would be a fine event for you to attend…

How do you say “Space Elevator” in different languages?

A recent post I put up had as it’s title “Weltraumaufzug” – the German translation of “Space Elevator”.  I recently discovered a website that had the Croation translation: “Nebesko Dizalo“.

It occurs to me that a worthwhile exercise would be to translate “Space Elevator” (or perhaps “Elevator to Space”?) into as many different languages as possible.  I think that doing so might help us to internationalize the concept and broaden it’s appeal.

To that end, I am making a request of all of my readers:  If you know how (or can find out how) to say/write “Space Elevator” in a language other than English (or German or Croation), can you please email it to me at:

(Ted [AT] SpaceElevatorBlog.com)

When I get a respectable number of these (at least 30 to start, I would think) I’ll put up a web page with them and link to it in my sidebar.

Please, only send me something that you’re fairly sure of – I don’t want the page to become a subject of ridicule.  We all know and love Babelfish to be able to give us a quick and dirty translation of something, but it’s not anything that we would use for serious work.

Thanks everyone!

(Beautiful picture of the earth from here – click on it for a larger version)

(Update: I decided to not wait until I have 30 translations before I put them up on the blog – by the time I have that many, it will be a big project and I’ll find an excuse to put it off. :)  Also, rather than make it an entry on the sidebar (which is getting pretty crowded), I added it as a page to the top of the blog – you can now click on “Translation Project” and see where we stand with this.)

Space Elevator ribbon harmonics or “Don’t go all wobbly”…

In the most recent issue of Acta Astronautica, Lubos Perek (of the Astronomical Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences) writes of his concerns with the stability of a Space Elevator.  From the abstract:

“The size of the Space Elevator and its lack of resistance against buckling or bending require a detailed study of its stability, both in its initial phase as a geostationary (GEO) satellite as well as in its operational phase as a “sling”. Lunisolar perturbations and other minor forces may affect the stability in the initial phase and will cause oscillations in the operational phase. Station-keeping thrusters will have to be mounted at selected points along the cable in order to maintain stability. In addition, the thrusters will perform local maneuvers for avoiding collisions with passing space debris. The control system of thrusters has to be adaptive, reacting fast to actual situation and rectifying the attitude of the Elevator whenever necessary. A further advantage of the thrusters is a possibility to locate the Elevator at any longitude, possibly looking for a region with minimum traffic at GEO distance. Extensive numerical simulations will have to be performed in order to determine elements of the thrusters and their control system.”

Columnist David Shiga writes about this study in the latest issue of NewScientistSpace (available here).  Rather than just sensationalize this study, David checks with others who may have an opposing point of view.  Both Anders Jorgenson and Dr. Brad Edwards comment in Shiga’s article saying that a) Perek’s study does not definitively quantify whether or not thrusters would be needed on the ribbon to stabilize it and b) these thrusters would introduce their own problems.

In addition Blaise Gassend (via Andy Price) comments on the study as follows:

A rather disappointing paper as it makes plenty of claims but substantiates none. As far as I can tell, the author considers the elevator to be identical to a geosat and applies results from geosats to the SE (though he doesn’t actually detail where his numbers are from). However, the elevator’s North-South mode is a bit less than 24 hours, which limits how much the resonance with the moon and sun can build up. I had run a back of the envelope a couple of years ago and the steady state oscillation was far from alarming (though I don’t remember precisely what it was anymore).

Of course I’m sure that neither Jorgenson nor Gassend nor Edwards think that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, but rather it’s just one of those engineering issues which will have to be examined and, perhaps, dealt with.  The Tacoma Narrows tragedy is certainly a cautionary tale to engineers who neglect seemingly insignificant factors:

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And, perhaps, such a “wobbly” problem might look like this in a ‘real’ space elevator…

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(A ‘thank you’ to reader rb for ensuring that I knew about this story)

And the Germans say no…

It looks like the German WARR team will NOT be competing this year.  Today, I received this email from Andreas Hein, WARR team member:

Hi Ted,

Nice to hear from you! We already studied the rulebook for this year and unfortunately we don’t see a chance to participate successfully. This is due to the significant increase of the climbing height and the changed geometry from a ribbon to a rope.

In 2008 we’ll continue to optimize our system and conduct extended testing. There is also a study on its way to investigate whether we may participate in the competition in 2009 from a energy transmission point of view.

We’ll try to give you further information as soon as our future planning is set and hope to stay in contact with you!

Kind regards,

Andreas Hein

Damn – I would have loved to see that 30 meter emitter.  If I make it to the 2nd European Workshop on Space Elevator Design, maybe I can arrange a side trip to check it out…

Let’s hope we can see this team compete next year.

More news from the Queen’s Space Engineering Team

Jonathan Boulanger, President of the Queen’s Space Engineering Team, has graciously consented to answer some questions I emailed him:

[Space Elevator Blog – SEB] – What got you and your team interested in the idea of a Space Elevator and the competition itself?
[Jonathan Boulanger – JB] – I first became interested in the idea of a Space Elevator through a project in my second year applied physics class.  I personally took a unique interest as carbon nanotubes fascinated me (and they still do). Just over a year ago I stumbled upon the Elevator2010 website.  After telling a few people about the competition support for creating a team was huge and before you knew it, here we are. Moral of the story, cutting edge ideas sell.

[SEB] – Is your team comprised of all University students or do you plan on partnering with anyone outside of the University (outside of TRUMPF)?
[JB] – The Queen’s Space Engineering Team (QSET) is primarily composed of university students; however, we are no stranger to outside consultation.  Several Queen’s Alumni have contributed time, experience, and funding to our project. Presently, QSET has begun a partnership with TRUMPF. Our partnership with TRUMPF will go a long way towards bridging the gap between our relatively new team and more founded teams, such as USST or LaserMotive.  We hope to give everyone a run for their (or rather, NASA’s) money.

[SEB] – How many members – what kind of skill sets do you have on your team?
[JB] – QSET consists of almost 25 members.  These members belong to seven different engineering disciplines, commerce, as well as arts and science programs.  I’m sure you can imagine the bulk of our members belong in the first group.  The skill sets that these people bring to the team are quiet diverse.  We have people specializing in robotics, mechanical design, physics, etc.

[SEB] – What are your team’s goals for this year?
[JB] – Our team’s primary goal for this year is to make a run for top spot and make it an enjoyable and educational experience for everyone involved.

Thank you Jonathan.  Also of note is their spiffy new logo – shown at the top of this post. 

News from Germany…

A couple of weeks ago, I alerted my readers to an episode of Quarks which was recently shown on German TV.  This show had a segment about the concept of Space Elevators and also a segment about a team of German students who were in the process of designing an entry into the Space Elevator Games.  Thanks to Markus Klettner, head of EuroSpaceward, I was put in touch with Andreas Hein, former team leader of the WARR elevator team (which, before that was known as Team Telsa and before THAT was known as Team Ramco I).

She has kindly emailed me what she says is a translation of an article about Space Elevators which appeared on the Quarks TV site.  In her email she also said: “Regarding our future plans, we will decide this issue on our next meeting end of April. We hope that we are able to answer all questions about our planning by this time.”

The article (shown immediately following) says that they are planning on having Microwave-driven climber, using an antenna which is 30 meters in diameter!

“With the elevator through the galaxy

Will we travel into space with a space elevator in the future?

The idea to build a space elevator was made popular through the science fiction novel “Fountains of Paradise” by Arthur C Clarke. In the meantime former NASA members, different scientists and amateur space enthusiasts actually work on this idea. And that’s the vision: The space elevator consists of an anchored platform in the sea, a counterweight in space and a ribbon, which connects both. Due to the rotation of the earth, the ribbon is hold tight through the centrifugal force. Along it, elevator climbers climb up. In an approximate height of 36.000km, in the geostationary orbit, a space station is erected. From there, it is possible to reach even further into space. The elevator itself is fed with energy through a gigantic laser from the ground. It transports goods and also passengers much cheaper and safer than is done till now with the Space Shuttle.

A competition for space elevators

To promote the idea of a space elevator to the public and to get as many people as possible involved, a competition was founded in 2005: the Space Elevator Games. The American space agency NASA donated the prize money. Since then, every year hobbyists and student groups from all over the world meet in New Mexico or Utah and let their mini space elevators climb up and down for the bet. The so called “climbers” have to go up along a ribbon and have to be fed only by energy from the ground – for example, through a laser or reflected sunlight. In 2007 there were 20 teams participating. In order to win the prize money of 500.000 dollars, the climbers should have climbed 100 meters within 50 seconds. However, this wasn’t accomplished by anyone yet. For the next games in autumn 2008, the conditions were even raised further: A distance of one kilometre has to be handled.

A group of German students has also set the goal to participate in this competition. 25 engineering and physics students from the Technical University of Munich have started to construct an own space elevator a year ago. For the energy transmission, they count on microwaves. Lasers were not effective enough for them. But to send the climber a kilometre high into the air, they need an emitter with a diameter of 30 meters. They are not able to finance this at the moment. If they actually participate in the competition one day depends also on possible sponsors.

Carbon atoms as the hope

The space elevator is already thought through by the planners into detail. For the many technical details, the visionaries have already found solutions. So the development of the machine which climbs along the ribbon into space should, with all the difficulties involved, only be a matter of time. The biggest problem is the proper material for the ribbon. It has to be enormously stable and insensitive against outer influences. Such a material doesn’t exist so far. Steel would be destroyed through its own weight. The hope lies on carbon atoms. It is known since a long time that they form strong connections among each others. In this way diamonds, graphite and Fullerene are formed. Ten years ago it was moreover discovered that carbon atoms also form to tiny tubes. These carbon tubes have an enormous resistance, are much more stable and lighter than steel. They even exceed the resistance of steel about a hundred times. For the planners of the space elevator, this is the optimal material for the elevator ribbon. However, these tubes only have a diameter of a millionth millimetre and a length of a thousandth millimetre. So far, there are no tools in the nano world to produce long ribbons out of them. Least of all, if these ribbons should be thousands of kilometres long. If they have the wished properties then at all is also uncertain.

From dream to reality

At the moment, nobody knows if there will ever be a space elevator. Optimists, like the former NASA advisor Brad Edwards, who has committed himself to this idea, believe that they will experience it themselves. They dream of a chain of interconnected space stations and of the conquest of the near planets. Yet everything seems unbelievable but there were other visions which made their way. The author Arthur C Clarke had an idea in his novel about the space elevator, which also many thought was incredible: communication with the help of satellites. This was in 1945.”

I hope they are successful in competing for several reasons:

  • We need and want input from the Europeans – they and their ESA could play a vital role in constructing a future elevator
  • We’ve never had a successful microwave-powered climb in the Games – it would be nice to see one that actually worked
  • A 30 meter antenna?  That would be uber-cool.

Let’s hope that their planning and search for a sponsor is successful.  Incidentally, if you haven’t watched that Quarks TV show yet, treat yourself and do it.  Even if you don’t speak German, what they are doing is very clear and understandable.  The show is well put together and they use many graphics/animations which I think are new.

1st Japan Space Elevator Conference

Akira Tsuchida, captain and fearless leader of team E-T-C, recently sent out an email stating that the first Japanese Space Elevator Conference was going to be scheduled for sometime in November of this year.

The exact dates have yet to be decided but when they are, they’ll be posted on the Japan Space Elevator Association website and, of course, here.

So, if you can handle the atrocious Japanese Yen – US Dollar exchange rates, I’m sure this will be a very worthwhile experience… :)

Search Engines…

I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that Search Engines are “funny things”…

Here’s an example of story that showed up in my “space elevator” bucket.  Note that I specified that both the words ‘space’ and ‘elevator’ had to appear, that the words had to appear together and that the word ‘space’ had to preceed the word ‘elevator’…  Maybe now I need to specify that ‘space’ cannot be immediately preceeded by a hyphen :)

(Outstanding picture from here – I LOVE Photoshop – click on it to see it in all it’s glory…)

Cosmic Clean-up…

One of the issues that a real Space Elevator is going to have to deal with is Space Debris; garbage / junk / stuff that is in orbit around the earth due to past Space missions.  My thinking is that the only real to deal with this is with lasers; just zap anything that gets close enough to endanger the ribbon.  And, if it happens to be a still-functioning satellite?  Just tell the owners “Oh, sorry about that.  To make up for it, we’ll offer you two free launches of your satellites anytime in the future.”  It’s hard to imagine that offer being turned down.  I know, I know, that’s a bit simplistic – you can’t just unilaterally interrupt services like that – but my point is this – certainly there should be some way to make arrangements with owners of still-serviceable satellites which will make everybody happy…

In a recent article on Space.com, writer Jeanna Bryner addresses the topic of Space Debris and some of the various schemes that have been hatched to handle it.

My favorite is the giant nerf ball.  Who cares if it would work or not – the idea is cool.  One wonders if Parker Brothers ever considered cleaning up Space Debris as an application for their toy…

At the end of the article, there is a link to another website; the “10 Most Memorable Pieces of Space Debris“.

(Picture from Wikipedia – click on it for a larger version)

Call for Papers for 2008 Space Elevator Conference

Today I received an announcement about a Call for Papers for the upcoming 2008 Space Elevator Conference (’08 SEC):

The Space Engineering and Science Institute Presents
2008 Space Elevator Conference
Redmond, Washington, USA
Sponsored by Microsoft Corporation
Black Line Ascension and Industrial Nano

Call for Presentations and Papers

The 2008 Space Elevator Conference is a three day conference to be held in Redmond, Washington at the Microsoft Conference Center on July 18-20, 2008.  The conference, focusing on all aspects of Space Elevator development, will engage an international audience of scientists, engineers, educators, managers, entrepreneurs, enthusiasts and students. This conference will feature topical discussions in all of the Four Pillars of Space Elevator Development: Science/Technical, Political/Social, Legal, and Economic. In addition, we anticipate technical and speculative presentations on the topics mentioned below. We invite you to present a paper on a topic of your interest.

Conference to include:

  • Space Elevator Overview Presentation – the popular conceptual design
  • Space Elevator Impact – transformations enabled by the SE, including exploration, using space resources to solve problems here on Earth, extraterran bases and colonization
  • Roadmap Workshop – focusing on the four pillars of development, get engaged!
  • Presentations on the Space Elevator – design, construction, deployment and operation
  • Shotgun Science Session – science ideas not ready for prime time: rapid sequence, 5 min

Abstract and Presentation Guidance

Abstracts must be in English, one page or less, and summarize a presentation suitable for the conference. We plan on collecting presentations in PowerPoint or PDF format, and to offer them for sale on CD after the conference. In addition we encourage, but do not require, authors to submit papers, in pdf format, that will also be included on the CD. The nominal length of the final paper should be about 6-10 pages. Abstracts will be evaluated as they are received and authors will be notified of acceptance. The preferred procedure and format for abstract submittals for this conference is given on our web site: http://www.SpaceElevatorConference.org.

For all submittals, please include the title, authors and affiliations, mail address, e-mail, and phone number of the corresponding author, and up to 10 key words.  Abstracts are due by April 22, 2008.  All acceptance notices will be sent by May 07, 2008. Final drafts of the presentations and any accompanying papers, in specified formats will be due one week before the conference, July 11, 2008.

2008 SPACE ELEVATOR CONFERENCE abstracts and technical program inquiries to:
Technical Chairman:
Dr. Martin Lades
hml [AT] SpaceElevatorConference.org
(925) 606-9756

And, as noted above, there is now an Official Website for the Conference.

Discovery Channel 2057 show about the Space Elevator now on YouTube

Early last year, a new series from the Discovery Channel aired.  One of the episodes was a fictional account about how a Space Elevator might be used / integrated into our future and how it may play a part in future scientific development.  I blogged about this show here.

Now, thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can view this show again (or, for the first time if you missed it before).  It was posted in five parts.

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Enjoy!

Sir Arthur C. Clarke; 1917 – 2008

Today we received the very sad news of the passing of one of Science-Fiction’s and Science-Fact’s true giants, Sir Arthur C. Clarke.  Sir Clarke recently celebrated his 90th birthday (chronicled here and elsewhere).

He introduced millions (including this blogger) to the concept of a Space Elevator through his blending of fiction, prediction and fact in the brilliant book, The Fountains of Paradise.  He became a household name with the release of the movie 2001 – A Space Odyssey and his coverage of the Apollo moon missions along with Walter Cronkite.  He invented the idea of the Communications Satellite and had Geosynchronous orbit unofficially named after him (Clarke orbit).  His other literary accomplishments are too numerous to list and his fans are legion.

Though his body became feeble in his later years, his mind stayed alert and active.  I eagerly await the publication of his final book (‘The Last Theorem’) which he co-wrote with Frederik Pohl.

We will miss you Sir Clarke, I will miss you.  When Space Elevators become reality, I’m sure that one of them will be named after you.

Rest in Peace…

(Picture from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation website)

(PS – thank you to the numerous readers and friends who emailed me about this event)

43 years ago today…

On March 18th, 1965, Soviet Cosmonaut Alexsei Leonov became the first human to ‘walk’ in space.  What does this have to do with the Space Elevator?  Lots…

A current scenario for building a space elevator is to lift it’s 80 ton (initial weight) into Low Earth orbit via four Shuttle launches.  Once it’s there, it’s going to have to be assembled.  This will take humans in space suits to complete.  Once the Space Elevator is then lifted to Geosynchronous orbit,  it will take humans in space suits to maintain it – being able to work in space is a CRITICAL skill for constructing and maintaining a Space Elevator.

So, congratulations Alexsei!

From the Wikipedia entry about this event:

“He was outside the spacecraft for 12 minutes on March 18, 1965, connected to the craft by a five-foot tether. At the end of the 12-minute spacewalk, Leonov’s spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not reenter the airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit’s pressure to bleed off, and was barely able to get back inside the capsule.”

(Picture from Britannica.com)

Odds ‘n Ends…

Some additional news / updates:

One of the members of the press which attended last year’s Space Elevator Games was Paul Verhage, from the Nuts & Volts magazine.  He’s written a two part series about the Games.  The first one is now out and available here (note; subscription needed, or you can just pick up this copy at your newstand), in the March, 2008 issue.  Paul tells me that Part II of his report will be in next month’s issues.

I am informed by Lasermotive’s Tom Nugent Jr., that their team member Jordin Kare was recently quoted on Fox News.com.  The title of the story; “There’s No Easy Way to Get to Alpha Centauri” discusses ways to explore other star systems, including Bussard Ramjets, Orion (old ‘bang-bang’) and Solar Sails boosted by lasers (which is where Jordin comes in).

Finally, the Queen’s Space Engineering Team, having just successfully filled team positions VP Finance, VP Marketing and VP Sponsorship, have now announced that they are “still in the progress of looking for more members to be on the design team. We’re hiring executive design positions as well as looking for general members to be on the team.”

UC Santa Cruz engineering students win national robotics competition

In addition to the annual Space Elevator Games, put on by the Spaceward Foundation with prize money supplied by NASA, there is also the annual “Junior Space Elevator Games”.  Last year, they were held in conjunction with the 2007 Space Engineering and Science Institute workshop (which this writer attended and blogged about here, here, here, here and here).

This year, this competition was held in conjunction with the 2008 Earth and Space Conference.  A team from the University of California – Santa Cruz was the winner.  From the press release:

“A team of four students from the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz won the first-place trophy in a national student robotics competition for their design of a solar-powered robot that can climb up a vertical ribbon carrying a payload. Such a robotic climber would be an essential component of a “space elevator,” a concept for transporting material into space via a cable or tether extending from the surface of the Earth into space.”

Congratulations to the UC Santa Cruz team!

Read the entire press release here.

(Picture from the press release – click on it or view the Press release for a slightly larger version)

Nanotube composites

A paper, “The extraordinary reinforcing efficiency of single-walled carbon nanotubes in oriented poly(vinyl alcohol) tapes” recently published has this exciting abstract:

“This paper reports on oriented poly(vinyl alcohol)/single-walled carbon nanotube (PVA/SWNT) tapes that were prepared by a mild processing route, involving the use of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) as a solvent. Composite films with homogeneously dispersed SWNTs were cast from solution and drawn into oriented tapes using solid-state drawing. The obtained tapes showed the extraordinary reinforcing effects of the SWNTs, as the addition of 1.0 wt% SWNTs tripled the tensile strength of the PVA tapes. Micromechanical analysis showed that the nanotube contribution to the composite strength was as high as 88 GPa, which is very high when compared to other data reported in the literature, and for the first time begins to exploit the theoretical strength of nanotubes.”

The exciting, operative number, of course is “88 GPa”.  Now I know that this doesn’t mean that they’ve created a structure which has a tensile strength of “88 GPa”, but it does show how carbon nanotube developments are proceeding at an ever increasing pace.

You can get the full paper, but you either have to be a member of IOP or pony up $30.00 as a guest to read it. 

An article on netcomposites.com talks about this development.  However, I’m not sure where they get the statement; “The work shows for the first time the true reinforcing potential of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with effective properties of nanotubes in composites, which are close to their theoretical values.”  The theoretical limit of carbon nanotubes is, I believe, ~300GPa, not the 88 GPa discussed in the article.  But never mind all that – this is still a very exciting development.

(Hat tip to reader Yakov for pointing out this development)

The Space Elevator Reference Launches the Twitter Community

Yesterday, The Space Elevator Reference announced the launch of a new Twitter Community dedicated to the Space Elevator.  Marc Boucher, the force behind all things at The Space Elevator Reference, asked me if he could feed my posts into this Twitter community and of course I agreed (I’m flattered :) ).

Up until now, I’ve not used Twitter but I know that its one of the ‘hot new things’ – maybe I’ll have to give it a try (according to Wikipedia, “Prominent Twitter users include U.S. presidential candidates Ron Paul, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton”).  If you’re into using Twitter and like the idea of a Space Elevator, this seems like a ‘must-join’ for you…

The Space Elevator and Our Future

On July 20, 2007, Bryan Laubscher gave a talk about the Space Elevator at Microsoft.  It has just (I think) been posted on the web.  You can access it here.

This is an hour and 23 minute presentation, exploring the concepts, history, potential uses and current status of the Space Elevator development.

If anyone is looking for a primer (or refresher) about the Space Elevator and its benefits to humanity, this is the video to watch.

(Pictures are screenshots of the presentation.  Click on them for a larger version)

A favor from my readers, please…

See comment at the end of this post – now I feel stupid…

Most of you know of or have heard of Liftport – the company that audaciously went into business to build a Space Elevator.  The company was composed of some occasionally paid people and many volunteers – people who worked on this project because they believed in the dream.

One of them is Brian Dunbar – the system administrator / webmaster / all around tech-guy for Liftport.  If you’ve ever had any dealings with Brian, you know that he is gracious, kind and a pleasure to work with.  In addition to his ‘day job’ and his work at Liftport, he also has a blog, a good one, one which is in my RSS reader so that I can always stay up to date with his musings and commentary.

Today I was shocked and saddened to learn on his blog that Brian’s wife has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  Melissa has been a huge supporter of all things Tolkien and has been waiting expectantly for the production and release of THE HOBBIT.

Brian has come up with the brilliant idea of petitioning New Line (the producers of THE HOBBIT) to cast Melissa as an extra in the movie.  As he puts it;

“We don’t know the course her disease will take, so she worries that she won’t be around to see the movies in theaters, so this was the next best thing. Even being a non-speaking crowd-hobbit in the background of one scene would still mean the world to her. It would be her reason to hang on.”

We all get unceasing mail appeals asking us to contribute money and we all see the emails circulated to support this and that.  Well I am asking all my readers to sign this petition; it will cost you no money and only a little of your time and it is for a great cause.  After all, this is one of our own.

If you have a blog or a way to further this information, do so – spread this as far and wide as you can.

I’m signature # 1,424.

12MAR08 – Update.  I totally misinterpreted Brian’s blog post – this is NOT his wife, but rather he was passing this project and petition along as a favor to a fellow fan.  When I found this out, I was conflicted – should I just pull this post as it is so obviously wrong, or should I just leave it to spread the word.  I’ve decided to leave it, but I sincerely apologize to my readers for my mistake.  I guess I should not be making blog posts at 2:30 am…

Queen’s Space Engineering Team welcomes new members

The Queen’s Space Engineering Team welcomes three new people to help fill out their team;

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I’d like to congradulate our newest executive members:

VP Finance – Katie Sokalsky
VP Marketing – Anna Wu
VP Sponsorship – Monica Wang

I’d also like to thank everyone who applied for these positions.  There were many great applicants and we had to make several tough choices.

I’m particularly happy to see the VP Marketing spot filled – someone is now there that I can officially ping for news about their team’s activitivies this year…

Weltraumaufzug

Weltraumaufzug – this is how you say/write “Space Elevator” in German.  In the most recent episode of the German TV series ‘Quarks‘, the concept of the Space Elevator is explored.

I don’t speak German, so I can’t give you a word by word description of what the show was about, but for anyone who is at all familiar with the concept of a Space Elevator, most of the show will be very understandable.  IMHO, it’s really well done – the graphics and animations, some of which I’ve not seen before, are first-rate.

It’s not on YouTube (at least not yet :) ), so I can’t link to it that way.  However, you can view the show here.  Maximize the screen size.  You can watch the entire show (which covers many subjects besides a Space Elevator), or you can just click on the ‘Weltraumaufzug’ link on the left-hand side to go directly to the Space Elevator episode.

The show spends some time talking about a Climber vehicle being created by some German University students.  I don’t recognize the Climber – it wasn’t the TurboCrawler entry into the 2006 Games and there is no German entry into this year’s Games (at least not yet).  I’ve emailed the show’s producer to ask her about it – when I find out, I’ll either post an update here or else will put it on a separate post.

And by the way, the videos of the 2007 Space Elevator Games at the beginning of the TV episode were all taken by yours truly.  Many of the teams and their climbers are shown.

Watch the show.  Even if you don’t speak German, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

(The picture is a screen capture from the show – click on it for a larger version (or watch the show :) )

Meet Andy Petro – NASA’s new “Centennial Challenges” man

On last Sunday’s ‘The Space Show’, Dr. David Livingston interviewed NASA’s Ken Davidian (an event I previewed here).  Most of the interview was spent talking about ‘NASA culture’ and Ken’s new role in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) part of NASA.

Ken has also been heading up NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, the program which funds (among other challenges), the Space Elevator Games.  NASA’s  willingness to put up $4,000,000 (four million US Dollars) has been the driving force behind these games.  Anyone who has been at the previous year’s Space Elevator Games has almost certainly met (or listened to) Ken.  He has been a real pleasure to work with.

During the last part of the interview, however, Ken told the listening audience that he would no longer be involved with the Centennial Challenges program and that a new guy, Andrew Petro, would be taking his place.  I emailed Andy and asked him to write a few words about his background, and what he thinks of the idea of a Space Elevator (and the Space Elevator games in general).  He graciously answered me – here is is reply:

I’ve been working in the space field since 1978. I began with McDonnell Douglas in Houston working on Space Shuttle mission operations.  Then I joined NASA at the Johnson Space Center in 1985 in advanced project engineering, doing conceptual design and systems integration for numerous next-generation spacecraft, launch vehicles, space stations, lunar vehicles, lunar bases and Mars missions.  I did some early work on space debris mitigation.  I also worked with the Russians on adapting the Soyuz spacecraft for use with the Space Station.  For about seven years I worked on a magneto-plasma propulsion project and in particular, on the superconducting magnet systems for that type of engine.  I was briefly the Deputy Manger for the In-Situ Resource Utilization Program and most recently, Ares Launch Vehicle Integration Manager for the Mission Operations Directorate at JSC.  In late January, I joined the Innovative Partnerships Program Office at NASA Headquarters. 

My title is Program Executive for the Innovation Incubator which, in addition to the Centennial Challenges, includes a program to increase the availability of space environment testing opportunities for emerging technologies (such as parabolic aircraft flights and eventually suborbital flights) and a program to bring fresh ideas into NASA by allowing some employees to work for a time in outside organizations.  Some of these efforts are just getting started and we might be doing lots of other things as time goes on.  I am new to this office and most of what we are doing is new so the possibilities are really wide open, which is a pretty exciting position to be in. 

I have been interested in the concept of space elevators for a long time.  I was exposed to orbital mechanics (long before I studied it in school) through the non-fiction books of Arthur Clarke and I was intrigued by the possibilities offered by geo-stationary orbits.  Later I was amazed to find how much serious analysis of the space elevator had already been done.  The technical challenges of actually building a space elevator are daunting, and I think everyone realizes that, but I am thrilled to see that there are people actually taking the first steps and it is a distinct pleasure to now have a small role in encouraging this work.  I know that it can be tough to work on the fringe of what other people may consider realistic and I experienced that personally while working on magneto-plasma propulsion.  It takes imagination and persistence.  I think that the beamed power and tether challenges that NASA and the Spaceward Foundation support are a way to not only bring space elevators closer to reality but to also advance technology more broadly for applications we might not even imagine.

I am looking forward to the Space Elevator Games this year.  It promises to be the most impressive ever.  I look forward to meeting the competitors and others involved in the space elevator community.  Good luck to everyone!

So, so long Ken, it’s been great working with you (and if you’re bored in early September, come on out to the Games :) ) and Hello Andy – we all look forward to meeting you and working with you.

(You can access this episode of the Space Show from their website or directly from here.  Ken’s remarks about the Centennial Challenges is in the last 10 minutes or so of the show)

University of Michigan’s MClimber to use TRUMPF Lasers

The University of Michigan’s Space Elevator team became the latest to announce that they, too, have reached an agreement with TRUMPF to use their lasers in the Climber/Power-Beaming event of the upcoming Spaceward Games.  From team captain Andrew Lyjak:

Hi Ted,

We are extremely happy to be working with TRUMPF. We plan on making the most of this opportunity and are currently developing a wireless power beaming system around the TRUMPF TruDisk 8kW laser. In order to compete most effectively, we have decided to use the September 2008 competition window purely as a test for our system design. This means that our competition worthy run(s) will happen in 2009. We are also tremendously grateful to the guys at TRUMPF for their professional attitude, hospitality, and excitement about this competition.

Thanks,

Andrew Lyjak

This makes five teams which have now reached agreement with TRUMPF to use their lasers in the upcoming competition (and that will be all).  I emailed Dave Marcotte, TRUMPF’s man for this competition about this and this was his reply;

Hi Ted:
 
The TRUMPF interview process is complete.
 
Listed, not in any order of preference…
 
University of Michigan- Contact: Andrew Lyjak
TXL Group- Contact: David Nemir
Kansas City Space Pirates- Contact: Brian Turner
Queens University- Contact: Jonathan Boulanger
NSS Team- Contact: Bert Murray
 
We look forward to all our teams “racing” to the top.
 
Thanks,
Dave

So, out of the ten teams which have signed up for this year’s games, all but two (E-T-C and the University of Alberta’s Space Elevator Research Team) have now indicated that they will be powering their climbers via laser.

Think of how quickly all this has matured.  Just three years ago, in the inagural games, every team was powered by Spaceward-provided spotlights.  Now every climber (or nearly every climber) is going to be powered by laser.  In the inagural games, the climb was only several meters and now, this year, the goal is a full kilometer.  Teams are going to have to provide sophisticated tracking mechanisms to keep the beam focused on their climber – hand held mirrors just aren’t going to cut it anymore.

Only 187 days to go…

News from the McGill Space Elevator Team

Followers of last year’s Space Elevator Games may remember that team members of the McGill Space Elevator Team narrowly averted tragedy in a car/trailer accident which they were involved in on the way to the games.  The picture and story of the crash (chronicled here) looked awful and I think it was a miracle that a) no one was hurt and b) they were actually able to get their climber together to compete.  They “double-dipped” on their power-source, wanting to go with both solar and microwave power.  During the competition, however, they ultimately went only with a microwave beam, an attempt that was unsuccessful.  They were more successful, however, in the Light Racers competition, producting the car that was, by far, the fastest one in the competition.

This year, in addition to sporting a very spiffy new logo (shown above – click on it or visit their website to see the full-size version), they are planning on competing again in the Climber/Power-Beaming event.  I emailed some questions about their plans this year to their captain, Cyrus Foster.  Here is what he had to say:

[Space Elevator Blog – SEB] – What kind of power source do you plan on using this year?
[McGill Space Elevator Team – MSET] – We plan on purchasing a Dilas laser as it will output a frequency well matched to our photovoltaic array and allow for extensive testing at McGill.

[SEB] – Will you be using essentially the same climber mechanism or are you going to go to a “Mark 2″ version? If so, what kind of upgrades are you planning on doing?
[MSET] – We have designed a new climber to conform with the 2008 rules.

[SEB] – Is your team comprised of all McGill University students or do you plan on partnering with anyone outside of the University?
[MSET] – We’re only comprised of McGill University students and we don’t plan on partnering with anyone outside of the University.

[SEB] – How many members – what kind of skill sets do you have on your team?
[MSET] – We have 46 members representing the departments of Electrical, Mechanical and Software from the Faculty of Engineering as well as some students from the faculties of Arts and Science.

[SEB] – What are your goals this year?
[MSET] – Our goal is to engineer an effective power beaming system and compete at the 2008 Space Elevator games.

Cyrus, thanks very much.

So this makes at least seven teams (USST, Lasermotive, the TXL Group, the Kansas City Space Pirates, the Queens Space Engineering team, the National Space Society and the McGill team) that are planning on using lasers to power their climber this year.  This is uber-cool.

Only 188 more days to go…

2008 Space Elevator Conferance announced

This just in, from Bryan Laubscher:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I wanted to give all of you an early announcement for the 2008 Space Elevator Conference. We have not had a Space Elevator “only” conference for 4 years.

This year the conference will be in Redmond, WA and will begin on Friday July 18th and will conclude on Sunday July 20th.

Please begin the process of spreading the word to your colleagues and Space Elevator contacts. The exact venue will be announced soon as will a suggested hotel in which to lodge.

Sincerely,
Bryan

I will also post more details as I receive them.  In the meantime, mark your calendars…

News from E-T-C; the Space Elevator on Japanese TV

A couple of days ago, I received this email from Akira Tsuchida; fearless leader of team E-T-C;

Ted, Brad and Ben,

I am sorry not to talk to you for a long time.  I am having hard time to get sponsor for E-T-C to join 2008 game.  Still I am not sure if we can join this year or not even I registered….

BTW, there is one good news from Japan today.  Space Elevator became popular today in Japan.  It was on TV Asahi from 8 pm to 9 pm on Sunday.  TV Asahi is one of major TV broadcasting network in Japan.  This program in not for Education purpose but unique.  That program has an audience rating of almost ten percent.  Ten percent is big number.

Anyway, HQ of Spaceward foundation was shown even I have not been there yet.  And Brad is also on the TV.  Also they made big globe and space station to explain about SE and they invited me to explain.

They broadcast around 30 minutes.  I hope SE becomes more popular in Japan.

I just want to tell you about this TV program.  Still I need to find sponsor but I am very happy today.

Regards,
Akira Tsuchida
Earth-Track-Controllers

10 percent IS a big number in viewer percentage – let’s hope this leads to a) more interest in the concept of a Space Elevator in Japan and b) some sponsorship help for team E-T-C.

The four pictures in this post are from Akira; they are from the show.  Click on them for a larger version.  The good looking guy just “above” the globe in the first picture is Akira.  And the large-version of the picture of Dr. Edwards is almost scary :)

And, as this team IS the Earth-Track-Controllers (for the International Space Station – ISS), the picture of the ISS in this group can be forgiven :)

TXL Group to use TRUMPF Lasers

And, no sooner than I put up a post about the National Space Society (NSS) reaching an agreement with TRUMPF to use their lasers, I get this email from David Nemir, the team leader of another new competitor, the TXL Group:

Hi Ted,

Team TXL is pleased to announce that TRUMPF Group will furnish the TXL laser powered beam source.   As the leading worldwide manufacturer of industrial lasers, TRUMPF Group represents a huge asset to TXL Group.    We applaud TRUMPF Group’s recognition of the importance of the space elevator.  We also applaud TRUMPF’s willingness to make such a significant investment in the Space Elevator Competition.

Yours truly,

TXL Group

David Nemir

This makes FOUR groups who have reached agreement with TRUMPF; the TXL Group, the National Space Society (NSS), the Kansas City Space Pirates and the Queens Space Engineering Team.  Add these four to the other two laser-powered teams, Lasermotive and USST, and you have at least six teams planning on powering their climbers with lasers this year.

Only 189 more days…

National Space Society (NSS) Space Elevator team to use TRUMPF lasers

I received this email from Bert Murray, captain of one of the new entries into this year’s Space Elevator Games, the National Space Society (NSS):

Hi Ted,

I thought I would let you know that the NSS team has made a deal with TRUMPF where they are a major partner in our effort. We have also obtain a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) educational, non-profit corporation status. This 501(c)(3) status we believe will make the team more attractive to sponsors

Cheers,

Bert

This makes THREE teams that have reached agreement with TRUMPF to use their lasers for this year’s Climber / Power-Beaming event in the Space Elevator Games; the Kansas City Space Pirates, the Queens Space Engineering Team and now NSS.  Lasermotive and USST also should be entering laser-powered climbers so that’s FIVE laser-powered teams we should see this year.

Only 159 more days…

03 March, 2008 – Correction.  I can’t count – that should have been 190 more days…

Ken Davidian to appear on The Space Show tomorrow

Tomorrow, Sunday, March 2nd, Ken Davidian, NASA’s man at the Spaceward Games (and other Centennial Challenges), will be interviewed on Dr. David Livingston’s The Space Show.  The show airs from 12:00 noon to 1:30pm Pacific Time.  Here is a short blurb from the show’s promo:

Ken is now the NASA ESMD (Exploration Systems Mission Directorate) Commercial Development Policy Lead.  Ken Davidian is a NASA contractor and the former Program Manager for Centennial Challenges at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.   Within ESMD, Mr. Davidian is charged with conducting and promoting commercialization efforts related to the Vision for Space Exploration and the Global Exploration Strategy. Mr. Davidian is also the principal driver of Centennial Challenges, NASA’s prize program modeled on past and ongoing prize competitions.

Ken’s interviews are always high-energy and a joy to listen to.  But “former Program Manager” for the Centennial Challenges?  I’ll be listening to the show tomorrow to see if Ken is still going to be involved with them.  I would be sad if he leaves – he’s great to work with and a lot of fun to be around.

As with all broadcasts on The Space Show, it will be saved as a podcast so you can catch it later on if you miss the show.