Archive for October, 2008
As promised in my last post, I’ve found some new Space Elevator graphics that I’ll share with you. I found this first set via the website io9, a ‘different’ site I’ve posted about before. The title of the post was “Imagining the Chuck Klosterman Space Elevator“. Chuck is a writer for Esquire magazine and he published a future history of the 21st century. In this history, he predicts;
“JUNE 22, 2043: As predicted by Arthur C. Clarke in 3001: The Final Odyssey, the orbiting luxury hotel is connected to Earth by a massive space elevator. Hyperstrong cables anchored to the earth near the equator (as required by physics) stretch 100,000 kilometers into the sky, rising into the hotel’s lobby.”
Of course he also predicted that McCain would win the election next week and, among other things, that on ”MAY 8, 2030: A deathbed confession by George W. Bush reveals that JFK was, in fact, assassinated by the CIA.” and on ”OCT. 19, 2071: An army of panda bears attacks Beijing, killing twelve hundred people and wounding thousands more during a bloody four-day onslaught.” The CIA assassinated JFK? Maybe, but I’m not buying the Panda Bear thing…
Anyway, back to the graphics I promised. These first two graphics in this post were shown with that ‘Chuck Klosterman…’ story and credited to artist Bruce Irving. They came from Flickr, posted by “Flying Singer”. The first is the earth-based Elevator rising to a Space Hotel while the second is an Elevator on Mars. If you visit the Flickr site, you’ll see that the earth-based Elevator graphic is an ‘active’ one with various call-outs as you mouse around the picture. A visit to Flying Singer’s Flickr site is highly recommended - lots of cool photos and graphics to peruse…
This next graphic comes from Arie Wijaya’s website. On this site, he discusses the Online Times article (he’s the 5,259,027 blogger who has picked this up ). He doesn’t give credit for the graphic, so I don’t know where it came from - might even be from the LiftPort archives.
Finally, from the LaserMotive blog, we see this picture of ‘horribles’ being perpetrated on a gold-plated mirror. Visit the LaserMotive blog for the rest of the story on this travesty…
And that, truly, catches us up with all of the backlog in my Search Engines.
(As always, click on the picture thumbnails for a larger version)
October 30th, 2008
Continuing from the last post, here are a few more odds ‘n ends relating to the Space Elevator which have occurred lately…
And what is this, you might ask? It’s how you write “Space Elevator” in Armenian. At the July Space Elevator conference in Redmond, I had the pleasure to meet Karen Ghazaryan. He gave a talk on Sunday entitled; “Stability of Superconducting Cable Used for Transportation of Electrical Current from Space“. In the lunch period afterwards, I chatted with him and took the opportunity to ask him to add Armenian to my Translation Project. He graciously consented and now we have it. Oh, by the way, the pronunciation is “Tiyezerakan Verelak”. Thank you Karen!
The Space Elevator skeptics are having their say… Recently I linked to an article on Discovery Space from Spaceward’s Ben Shelef, discussing benefits that a Space Elevator will bring. Discovery Tech has now posted an ‘opposing viewpoint’ from Italian professor Nicola M. Pugno. His objection is that inherent defects in carbon nanotubes will prevent it from ever being strong enough to create a Space Elevator tether (he’s weighed in on this before). But he’s not an opponent of the idea as he says that his team has come up with a plan to build a ‘flaw-tolerant’ tether. Professor Pugno is my kind of skeptic - find an objection and then find a way to overcome it.
Here is a posting from another skeptic, tech-archive.net (‘Space Elevator’ idea almost as stupid as the ISS), in which the author gives no reasons it won’t work - just quotes one of the of the articles which came out of “Japan is building a Space Elevator craze” and says that we need to restart Project Orion if we really want to get to space. And in the same vein, here’s a skeptic who argued that a Laser powered climber isn’t practical, only to then have a REAL laser expert (Dr. Jordin Kare - a member of the Lasermotive team, among other distinctions) disagree. Dr. Kare’s money quote: “There are certainly reasons to be skeptical about space elevators, but the laser power transmission system really isn’t one.” Read the whole exchange and make up your own mind. I don’t mind skeptics, I just mind those who haven’t bothered to do their homework.
Speaking of Dr. Kare, he was recently a speaker at the Space Solar Power conference in Florida. Some of his remarks were captured (by blogger Transterrestial Musings) along with other, relevant, power-beaming comments.
And for our final “skeptic” note, here’s someone who is not a skeptic that Space Elevator can be built, but is afraid that it won’t be we Americans who do it. I hope he’s wrong - he might not be.
I’ve already talked about the swell of publicity that surrounded the Online Times story about the Japanese “building a space elevator’, but one more article, this one from the Russian media, is worth noting. The author, Yuri Zaitsev, talks about the Space Elevator, in general, (and notes that it’s a Russian invention) and he also talks about tether experiments in space - which I found interesting. I love to hear what the Russians have to say about the Space Elevator. In some ways, their space program equals or exceeds ours. They have everything they need to build a Space Elevator (except the tether, of course, which we’re all waiting on). I’ve previously posted about the ‘Russian perspective’ (here, here and here) which is very valuable, of course, but who can forget the travesty that they visited on Madonna…
And, moving from Madonna to Dr. Bryan Laubscher, Bryan recently gave a talk at the Bellevue Community College about the promise and challenges of building a Space Elevator. Let’s hope that he has inspired at least one or two people to join this effort.
Finally, here’s an article from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.com asking the public which of five proposals would they support for a ‘destination center’ (a Canadian euphemism, I think, for ‘tourist stop’). One of the possibilities is; “Innovation showcase: U of S is interested in partnering with the museum and creativity centre in one connected space. The university is looking at showcasing the innovative projects students create, such as components for the space elevator, for example.” ‘U of S’ is, I’m sure, the University of Saskatchewan and THAT means the USST team.
And that nearly catches us up. My next post will have some cool new space-elevator graphics that I’ve found - along with a few other bits and pieces that have showed up in my search engines…
(Picture of Madonna from here. Picture of Dr. Laubscher from here. Picture of Professor Pugno from here. Click on any of them for a larger version.)
October 25th, 2008
I’ve gotten a bit behind on all Space-Elevator related news, so I’ll combine a few items in this post;
There have been several news reports recently (a few of them are here, here, and here) about the unmanned ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1. This mission is designed, among other tasks, to more thoroughly map the moon. A dozen instruments are on board; half from ISRO and half from other countries. What does this have to do with a Space Elevator? It’s just another step in the maturation of the Indian Space Program and India, as I have written before (here and here) is a prime candidate to actually ‘do it’ when it comes to building a Space Elevator (IMHO, of course)…
The Speculist is running a competition to, well, let them tell you: “As we announced on the most recent edition of FastForward Radio, we will be awarding the presidential candidate who outlines the most speculicious program — that is, the plan with the most Speculist appeal — with a FastForward Radio coffee mug…And a reminder to both Senator Obama and Senator McCain — if either happen to be reading this — any use by either of you of the phrase “space elevator” ought to just about clinch this thing. So don’t be shy.”
I have already commented on the incredible amount of press generated by the Times Online story saying that the Japanese have now begun work on building a Space Elevator (oh, if it were only true). However, one blog post about this (from The Rogues Gallery) is worth commenting on. The author states that whoever builds the first space elevator “owns space - game over.” I must disagree. Let’s assume that my prediction of a Dubai-India Joint Venture comes true and they go out and build the first one. Does this mean that the US (or the Russians) couldn’t go out and build one themselves? They certainly could. It would be expensive (I don’t know if Dubai-India would sell space on their Elevator for a competitor), but we could certainly do it. And if we Americans built one first? The Russians (or Chinese or whoever) could build one for national security concerns. The cost of building one of these ($10 Billion?) is a lot of money, but there are several entities with this kind of resources. So, building one of these gives you a leg up, that’s for sure - but ‘game over’? I don’t think so…
Finally (for today, anyway), the TV Tropes Wiki has a list of places where the Space Elevator has appeared in fiction. There are several I’ve not heard of (my favorite is “Bubblegum Crisis”) and, will give me something else to look at in my ’spare’ time…
More bits ‘n pieces tomorrow…
(Knight Sabers picture from here - click on it for a larger version)
October 23rd, 2008
Over the past several days, I’ve put up posts relating to both the KC Space Pirates and the National Space Society (NSS) Power-Beaming / Climber teams and their ongoing tests. Both teams (along with 3 others) are recipients of an extraordinarily generous offer from TRUMPF - an offer to provide an 8kW laser (with crew!) for their entries in the upcoming Space Elevator Games.
I thought it would be interesting to see the ‘other side’ of the tests; i.e. what TRUMPF had to say about them. I asked Dave Marcotte, TRUMPF’s point man in this project, what he could tell me. Here is what he had to say:
TRUMPF recently completed three days of testing with two of our Space Elevator teams, the Space Pirates and NSS. Two days of testing were held outdoors and one day indoors.
The three days of testing were somewhat high pressure for the TRUMPF crew. The schedule of the “road show” would not allow for any equipment malfunctions. Three days, three startups, and three decommissions were required to meet the needs of the teams. It was unusual for us to move a pre-assembled laser system across the state on a soft sided flat bed truck and startup the 8kW laser system outside, in cold weather, powered from a portable generator.
For the three days of testing, TRUMPF supplied both teams with clean dry compressed air, chilled re-circulating water, 8kW of laser power through a 30 meter long fiber optic cable, an EStop Button and a “laser on/off” switch.
The first day of testing was with the Space Pirates. After accommodating a few forgotten items we were underway. Outside testing was very controlled to ensure absolute safety. The Space Pirates tested on the first day until after dark.
On day two of testing we woke to a bit of a surprise. At 7 a.m. we came out of the motel and found Ice, not frost, Ice on the trucks. With the cooling water left in the laser from the first day of testing, we had visions of a frozen laser, burst laser pumping chambers and expensive repairs. With high hopes, we returned to the outdoor test site and connected the generator. Tension was high while we waited for the laser to come up to operating temperature. Everyone was relieved when over 8kW laser power was generated without issue.
Day two of testing was with the NSS team which continued until dusk. That evening when decommissioning TRUMPF removed every drop of water from the laser and chiller – just to be safe.
Day three was the easiest and most exciting of the three. The truck driver left the outdoor site at about 4 a.m. Just prior to 8 a.m. he pulled the tractor trailer into the interior of a large building near Detroit. The Space Pirates team pulled inside next to the flatbed. The cold temperatures of the early morning trip from the outdoor test site to the indoor test site resulted in a slight delay in laser start up because the Freon in the chillers was too cold to circulate. Once up and running, the equipment performance was again “per specification”. Using a block and tackle and a couple of steel tri-pods anchored to the floor, we suspended a 3/16″ diameter cable horizontally for the length of the building. The suspended cable provided an additional testing resource for the team.
We decommissioned our road show at about 7 p.m. and went to our homes, very tired, and very happy. Both the Space Pirates and NSS are great teams. TRUMPF looks forward to the start of the Space Elevator competition.
In an update, Dave informed me that “…all testing was in Michigan. Equipment assembly was in Plymouth Michigan. We traveled about 4 hours to the Northern Michigan site, then south to the Detroit site and then back to Plymouth.”
Thank you to Dave and his team (Sheila LaMoth and Rolf Biekert) for this update and special thanks for what you and TRUMPF are contributing! It’s due, in part, to efforts like this that I feel our chances of awarding prize money this year are better than ever.
October 22nd, 2008
Over at the Discovery Channel’s DiscoverySPACE section, Spaceward’s Ben Shelef gives us a feel for what a Space Elevator tether might look like at ground level and discusses the benefits we might expect when these come into existence…
“…payload size is practically unlimited because space elevators can be built to any scale. Replace the quarter-inch tether with a 2.5-inch tether, and the elevator could lift 100 times the weight. That’s more than 1,000 tons in this case — about 40 shipping containers or three complete International Space Stations (ISS) — per day!”
Currently the assembled ISS components weigh 300,214 kg - about 300 metric tons.
3 of these per day? That’s what I’m talking about…
The question arises, of course, who would want to ship that much stuff up into space… To answer that question, take a look at the history of railroads in this country (or in any country). As soon as the freight capacity was there, people came up with all sorts of things to send from Chicago to Oregon or New York to Los Angeles. Once this capability was put into place, people began shipping stuff cross-country that once seemed fanciful; everything from refrigerated food and automobiles to raw materials, people and livestock. And now that energy efficiency is becoming important again, railroads are becoming more important than ever.
Items traveling up the Space Elevator will be inside standardized shipping containers. Individuals and companies who want to move into space, or visit other places, or put satellites into orbit or manufacture things in space, etc. will use these containers. You won’t have to worry about things shaking loose or having to be subjected to crushing g-forces. There will be a shipping depot on the ground (or in the ocean) to load and one or more depots in space to unload. Shippers will be given a bulk rate and a container size to work with - the rest will be up to them.
And, shipping will work both ways. Once material can be gathered in/from space (be it raw materials or items that are manufactured/grown in space), the Space Elevator can bring them back down. Return items will also be in those same standardized shipping containers - no “Shuttle tiles” necessary to stand the heat of re-entry.
We cannot possibly imagine all the uses of the Space Elevator, but only the truly unimaginative can fail to see how it will benefit mankind.
October 21st, 2008
Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, the BBC Video with the National Space Society (NSS) Space Elevator Team is now available (I blogged about this earlier, here).
The theme is that the Space Elevator would make a wonderful vehicle for lifting Solar Power Satellites into space. The video is in two parts;
It’s nice to see Matt Abrahms (from the old StarClimber team) again - Hi Matt!
Oh, and the quote in the title of this post? That comes from the narrator of these videos, James May. He also has that wonderful pronunciation of our state of Maryland (”Mare-eee-land”).
October 20th, 2008
The most recent entry in the LaserMotive blog discusses how they are constructing their travelling laser road-show; specifically the box/trailer that they will be bringing their laser-setup in for the next Space Elevator Games. They needed to modify their trailer by (among other things) cutting a hole in the ceiling for their laser-beam to be aimed through.
From their blog entry:
“Since the power beaming competition rules specify that teams must bring their power beaming source in some form of ‘big box’ (a trailer or cargo container) from which they aim their beam roughly vertically, once we bought a trailer, we needed to modify it.”
Last year, LaserMotive suffered from having to construct their power source on the launch pad (which I blogged about here). This year, even if the rules hadn’t required it, I’m sure LaserMotive would be planning on bringing an already-put-together-rig…
Click on the picture for a larger view - and visit the LaserMotive blog for more pictures and more details…
October 15th, 2008
I received an email from Markus Klettner, head of EuroSpaceward, informing me that the upcoming European Conference on Space Elevator and CNT Tether Design can now be registered for online.
Just go to their main website and, in a popup (actually a ‘drop-down’ ) advertising the conference appears. Click on it and you will be taken to the registration page.
I had previously blogged about their upcoming program here.
October 14th, 2008
I’ve received two updates from Bert Murray, captain of the NSS Space Elevator team.
The first is about a BBC TV show that their climber was featured on. The show series is “James May Big Idea: Power to the People“. I had blogged about the making of this show, before, in April - and it’s finally made it to the small screen. Unfortunately, you can only see it if you are a UK resident. If you are, drop me a line / comment to let me know what it looked like (or send me the YouTube link ).
From the show notes:
Continuing his journey to the US, James encounters a group of dedicated aerospace engineers who are planning to make a lift that will reach 20,000 miles into the skies. Their idea is to build a power station in space. James watches enthralled as they take their first tentative steps towards their goal - and a crack at a $2million [£1million] prize.
Their second item concerns recent laser testing they have done. Hot on the heels of the KC Space Pirates announcing that they were successfully able to beam useful power for a full kilometer, NSS announces that they, too, can do this:
“The NSS Team has completed four Laser tests with Trumpf. The last test was long range and outside shooting over 1Km. Attached is an IR photo of powering a “test array” from 1000 meters.”
You can view the picture online or click on the thumbnail for the full-size version.
October 13th, 2008
The 59th International Astronautical Congress was recently held (Sep 29 - Oct 3) in Glasgow, Scotland. I have been to Glasgow and other points in Scotland - it is a beautiful place - and would have loved to attended this congress. But I’m already spending too much money and time on this ‘hobby’ and have to pick my spots…
However our own Dr. Peter Swan (co-author of Space Elevator Systems Architecture) attended (and presented) and has emailed out these notes from the Congress:
The sessions at the International Astronautical Federation Congress in Glasgow were very successful and exciting with its presentations. The one I really enjoyed was the reporting on the success / problems of the YES2 tethered Space Mail flight. Real space tethers with modest success is always a delight to see in our industry. (Note - I blogged about this here). In addition, we had the 6th annual Space Elevator Luncheon.
The papers that were presented were:
- What if? Space Solar Power was Enabled by Space Elevators (this was Dr. Swan’s presentation)
- Sling-on-a-ring: A realizable space elevator to LEO?
- Cost Effective disposal of Geosynchronous Satellites by Means of Tethers
- Survey of GEO Debris Removal Concepts
- Space Debris & Space Elevator
- Mid-Earth Orbit Momentum Transfer Tether for Reduced Space Access Costs
- Dynamics of a Partial Elevator with Multiple Climbers
- Tethers as sustainable space transportation: Implications from the YES2 tethered SpaceMail development and flight results
- Improving Stability of the Space Cable
- The partial space beanstalk: its applications to space migration and commerce.
There will be one session on Space Elevators in the Korean conference in October of 2009. As this location is near the activities in Japan, I would hope for much interest and many abstracts turned in prior to the deadline in March.
I have finally made it back from Scotland… what fun and great scenery. I now know why the Scottish have a mystic feeling about them. The Ilse of Skye was remarkable and full of stark beauty.
Oh well, the conference over there went well and the topic of Space Elevators kept coming up thanks to the announcement of the Japanese right before the activities. Many people asked about status and when the space elevator games were being scheduled, so I had a chance to fill them in on the European and US games… as well as the Japanese and European conferences. Maybe some of them will show up. The next International Astronautical Federation Congress will be in Korea in Oct 09 and will just be around the corner from the Japanese efforts. Maybe we can have a great Asian showing at that one.
It sounds like it was a very interesting conference and I look forward to being able to access the proceedings.
As noted above, the 60th IAC will be held in Korea, and it is scheduled for Oct 12-16, 2009.
October 10th, 2008
I received this latest email from Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates:
“We just completed another round of testing with the TRUMPF laser. Although not without problems the important tests were successful.
The most important test was the full range 1km power beam. This test was successful and even exceeded expectations. Beaming useful amounts of power 1km is something that few have done. I can’t say yet exactly how much power we beamed, but enough to make our 5 meters per second goal.
A scientific milestone has been passed.
KC Space Pirates”
5 m/s over a full kilometer would make for some GREAT footage…
October 8th, 2008
The 1st Japan Space Elevator Conference is coming up very quickly, only about 5&1/2 weeks away. The Times Online story about this conference has been picked up by EVERYONE.
It is going to be a noteworthy event, one well worth attending. The Japan Space Elevator Association website has now been translated into English as well as the conference flyer (available here and also on their website, of course).
From the conference flyer:
“Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) will hold the first Japan Space Elevator Conference 2008 (JpSEC2008) where ”the Space Elevator”, the space vehicle having a potential to drastically change the future for mankind, will be discussed.
The program details are described as below.In this first conference, in addition to the technical sessions for scientists and engineers in the field, noticeable scientists and guests from both home and abroad will deliver lectures to widely introduce the Space Elevator to the public and provide the audience an opportunity to think about and discuss the future of Japan.”
As with the December European Space Elevator conference (recently mentioned here on this blog), a veritable list of “Who’s who” will be giving presentations. If you are at all interested in this idea, you should make every effort to attend one or both of these conferences.
With the American Space Elevator Conference (held in July), the Japan Space Elevator Conference (coming in November), the European Conference on Space Elevator & Carbon Nanotube Tether Design (coming in December), the upcoming Space Elevator Games (coming up in the first quarter of 2009) and the growing knowledgebase regarding the manufacturing and handling of carbon nanotubes, the momentum is clearly building. Every day I grow more optimistic that I may actually get to see this thing built and that is the number one item on my “Bucket List“.
See you in Japan!
October 7th, 2008
One of my very favorite comics is xkcd.com. Their view on things is, well, to say the least, unique.
A few days ago, they had a comic which showed “Height“…
Now they have one which shows “Depth“…
The authors of these cartoons love to draw in little “in the know” bits. Note the “Edge of Federation Sector 0-0-1″ in the “Height” image and Peter Norton shooting down a bacteriophage and the “IPOD Femto” in the “Depth” image.
But the real prize in the “Depth” image is the carbon nanotubes and resulting Space Elevator. We’re everywhere! We’re everywhere!
This website / cartoon strip is HIGHLY recommended. Put it into your RSS reader - it really is worthwhile.
Wikipedia has an extensive entry regarding XKCD - very interesting reading…
Finally, let me link to an earlier post I did with an XKCD cartoon - one with James Bond and the centrifuge.
October 6th, 2008
On December 6th and 7th this year, the above-named conference will be held in Luxembourg. A flyer has been prepared and released and is available here (cover page) and here ( inside page). It is also available on the EuroSpaceward website.
From the flyer:
“The conference will bring together some of the world’s leading researchers and engineers on space elevator systems and carbon nanotube fiber production along with experts from the private elevator, laser, nanotechnology and space industries. The object of the event is to push the technology development by examining and discussing the status quo of designs of space elevator systems and super strong carbon nanotube (CNT) tethers.”
It promises to be an excellent conference and I’m looking forward to going - mark your calendars!
October 5th, 2008
To any CNN.com readers who found their way here via the Spaceward link in the Space Elevator story you read, welcome to the Space Elevator Blog! Here I try and keep everyone up-to-date with all things Space Elevator related - I’m glad you stopped by.
In case you’re wondering, the Space Elevator is NOT a loony idea. The physics are sound and the benefits of a Space Elevator, cheap and reliable access to space for huge quantities of just about anything you care to ship up there, are staggering. Yes, the engineering challenges are formidable and the key ingredient, carbon nanotubes of sufficient strength and in sufficient number are not yet available. But that’s what Engineers do with engineering challenges, they solve them.
The state of the art in engineering carbon nanotubes is advancing by leaps and bounds. People I know and trust believe that carbon nanotube fibers with the quality needed to create a Space Elevator will be available in the next few years.
In addition to the engineering challenges, there will be legal issues, political issues and, of course, business issues to be addressed. But where there are huge benefits and huge profits to be made (both possible with the Space Elevator), these issues can be overcome. Stay tuned…
If the idea of the Space Elevator intrigues you, I urge you to put this blog into your RSS feed. Two other sites which you should also check out are the Spaceward site (the home of the Space Elevator Games) and the Space Elevator Reference.
Finally, let me make you aware of the Space Elevator Games. This is a 5 year challenge, sponsored with 4 million dollars of money from NASA. There are two competitions, one in power-beaming and one in creating strong tethers. Both of these technologies will be absolutely essential to build a space elevator and the Spaceward Foundation has partnered with NASA to promote these technologies/competitions. This year is the fourth year of the challenge. If you are interested in learning more about this, visit the Spaceward Foundation website. If you’d like to see what happened at the games last year or the prior year, just do a search on this blog for 2007 Space Elevator Games or 2006 Space Elevator Games.
And thanks for reading…
October 3rd, 2008
That story put out a couple of weeks ago about how the Japanese are now working on building a Space Elevator has received more play than anything else I’ve ever seen Space-Elevator related, even more than the Space Elevator Games. I’ve blogged about how there really isn’t anything new in this article - but it sure seems to have taken off.
It’s now even on Indian (New Delhi) TV - a clip was recently posted on YouTube:
Just another piece of the puzzle falling into place for my long-predicted Dubai-Indian Space Elevator…
October 3rd, 2008
I use an RSS reader (FeedDemon) to try and keep up with all of the websites I follow. Occasionally I have a problem with it and it causes me to miss some postings from some sites. Evidently, this is what happened with the feed from the McGill Space Elevator Team site because they’ve been posting fairly frequently and I haven’t been paying attention. If I hadn’t seen an entry about this team on Ray’s Space Prizes blog, I might have neglected them for a while longer…
Anyway, they have several progress entries up on their blog, from making the decision to switch from Microwave power to Laser power to a redesign of their climber to the testing that they are doing. Their latest post reads:
“We will start climber testing around mid October on a 20m wire suspended from a staircase. Instead of using the laser outside, we plan on using 1 to 3 theatre spotlights to do some smaller climbs and more debugging.”
The last posting I put up about their team was last March, here. Their site’s home page is here and their blog home is here. Check them out - it looks like they’re moving right along…
October 1st, 2008