Monthly Archives: January 2009

Team LaserMotive’s new laser…

The latest post on the LaserMotive blog gives an impressive indication of how powerful the laser they will be using this year is.  From the blog:

“These images just reinforce that the level of power we’re using for power beaming is beyond “just” eye danger and well into the realm of immediate skin danger – at the peak in the center of the beam, the power density was probably greater than 300 normal solar intensity. Our lasers from 2006 were powerful but the brightness was not as high as the new laser. Dilas has done an impressive job in increasing the brightness of the laser, and as a result the beam is much better collimated, so it stays very intense over a much longer distance. That is part of what enables us to beam adequate power over a kilometer away.”

Check out the post on the LaserMotive blog.  It just reinforces the fact that this year’s competition at the Space Elevator Games is going to be truly exciting.  And, just as an aside, why do hardware engineers always like to break things?  In the software world, we liked to make things work… 🙂

(Picture from the LaserMotive blog.  Click on it for a slightly larger version or visit the LaserMotive blog post)

Reminder – Bryan Laubscher to be on The Space Show tonight

As I posted a few days ago, Bryan Laubscher will be on The Space Show tonight, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm Pacific time, to talk about all things Space Elevator.

From the show bio:

Bryan E. Laubscher received his Ph.D. in physics in 1994 from the University of New Mexico with a concentration in astrophysics. Bryan has just returned to Los Alamos National Laboratory from a year-long Entrepreneurial Leave to Seattle. There he started a company to develop the strongest materials ever created. These materials are based upon carbon nanotubes – the strongest structures known in nature and the first material identified with sufficient strength-to-weight properties to build a space elevator. At LANL he is a project leader and has worked in various capacities for 16 years. His past projects include LANL’s portion of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey , Magdalena Ridge Observatory and a project developing concepts and technologies for space situational awareness. Over the years Bryan has participated in research in astronomy, lidar, non-linear optics, space mission design, space-borne instrumentation design and construction, spacecraft design, novel electromagnetic detection concepts and technologies, detector/receiver system development, spectrometer development, interferometry and participated in many field experiments. Bryan led space elevator development at LANL until going on entrepreneurial leave in late 2005.

I should note that Bryan is also a founding member of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) and is on the ISEC Board of Directors as well as being head of the ISEC Technical Pillar Committee.

Listen to Bryan tonight and phone/email/chat in your questions. Listeners can talk to Dr. Laubscher or the host by calling toll free 1 (866) 687-7223, by sending e-mail during the program using dmlivings [at], drspace [at], thespaceshow [at], or chatting on AOL/ICQ/CompuServe Chat using the screen name “spaceshowchat.

“Ten-X Stimulus Projects”

The DaVinci Institute’s Thomas Frey has given his opinion on “What projects can the U.S. government invest in to provide at least 10 times return on Investment?“.

One of the projects he supports is the Space Elevator;

“The space elevator is a proposed system to transport material from the earth’s surface into space.  Many variations of this idea have been proposed, but the primary idea involves an elevator-type car that travels along a fixed cabling system held in place by a geostationary satellite orbiting the earth.  The space elevator is intended to replace our present system of using rockets to transport people and equipment outside of the earth’s atmosphere.  Current technology is not capable of manufacturing a cabling system that is both strong enough and light enough to make this connection.  Most of the recent efforts have focused on the use of carbon nanotube-based materials for the tether design, since the strength of microscopic carbon nanotubes appears great enough to make this possible.  A functional space elevator will become a primary driver of space commerce, enabling travel beyond earth’s gravitational pull for a fraction of today’s cost.”

Nice to know we’re on the list but he’s not emphasizing the main advantage of a Space Elevator, it’s scalability.  There is really no limit to how big you can build this thing and thus how much capacity it can carry.  Yes, the price per kilo has to be reasonable, but if you can’t carry hundreds or thousands of tons per day into space, the commercialization of space will be a very slow and painful process, no matter how inexpensive it is.

Freight cars, think freight cars to space…

(Picture of Freight Car from here – click on the thumbnail for a larger version)


And now on Flickr, we have a picture of;

“The Space Elevator’s temporary low altitude support balloons, photographed here looking down from the construction shuttle at 15 miles above the Earth. The ballons provide additional stability/lift to the carbon nanotube ribbons in the lower 20 miles as they are unreeled from the international space colony transit station, sitting in geo syncronous orbit at approximately 200 miles above ground. The carbon nanotube material was first used commercially in the first decade of the 2000’s for DVD shrink wrapping….proving it’s worth then as a virtually impregnable material and frustrating thousands of consumers.After damage from several incidents involving homemade comets the Space Elevator program is currently stalled pending litigation against ‘Sprockley Space Toys’ and their ‘Comet Creation Kit’.”

The ‘author’ of this picture (Bruce Lemon) also goes on to tell us that;

“The elevators run 24 hrs Mon-Sun Jumahl, as long as it’s not too cloudy..(clouds interfere w/ the laser powered shuttle cars). Fee is $35,000 US dollars per 20 pound/1 cf payload, with a 50% discount for elevator construction consortium governments. 2 buttons currently, w/ an additional planned for the moon at an unknown future date. No smoking, and meals are an extra $10.”

So this is way cool – when can I book a ride?

(Click on the picture thumbnail for a larger version, or visit Bruce Lemon’s photostream on Flickr.  He has several hundred pictures loaded, the last one, as of the writing of this post, was of one scary looking goose…)

Upcoming AIAA Space conference to have a “Space Tethers” track

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) hosts several conferences each year.  In this year’s Space 2009 Conference and Exposition, being held in Pasadena, California in September of this year,they are having a track on ‘Space Tethers and Technology’.  From the conference flyer:

Space Tethers and Technology

Space tethers show great promise for enabling a variety of future space missions, both as engineering components and as scientific components. Applications of space tethers include propulsion, space structures, remote sensing, and artificial gravity, to name a few. To date, several tethered missions have flown and many more have been proposed for flight. This track will focus on the missions enabled and the technologies necessary for exploiting the use of space tethers.

Technical topics include:

  • Missions Enabled by Space Tethers
  • Technologies to Support Space Tether Missions

For questions, please contact:
Sven G. Bilén
AIAA Space Tethers Technical Committee (STETC)
The Pennsylvania State University
E-mail: sbilen [at]

The track is mentioned on Page 7 of the conference flyer.

While this is not specifically a ‘Space Elevator track’, any research/work done with Space Tethers will directly or indirectly benefit the concept of a Space Elevator.

One other note: The former NASA liason to the Space Elevator Games, Ken Davidian, is a co-chair of the Commercial Space Track in this conference.

(hat tip to @marckboucher)

Bryan Laubscher to appear on The Space Show

In today’s ISEC board meeting, we learned that Bryan Laubscher will be appearing on The Space Show this coming Thursday, January 29th, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm Pacific time.

Bryan will be talking about the latest developments in the Space Elevator ‘world’, the upcoming conference and answering questions from listeners.

Take this advantage to listen to what Bryan has to say and ask him questions.  All of the shows are kept as podcasts so if you miss it, you’ll be able to listen to it later on.

(Click on the picture of Bryan for a larger version)

“Space elevators needed for space solar power?”

In Short Sharp Science*, a Science blog from New Scientist, Paul Marks discusses using a Space Elevator to facilitate the creation of Space Solar power satellites.

Peter Swan, a member of the Board of Directors of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is quoted:

“Half the cost of everything you put in space is down to the launch cost,” former spaceflight engineer Peter Swan told the International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow, UK, in October 2008. “The economics of space-based solar power don’t work with current launch costs. So we have to figure out how to do it without chemical launch.”

Long-time readers know that I’m personally skeptical of Space Solar Power (SSP) ever being more than a niche-application provider of power; there’s just too darn much stuff you have to put into space to supply more than an insignificant amount of our planet’s needs.  But if your serious about SSP, then I think you have to be a supporter of the concept of a Space Elevator; nothing else has a chance of being scalable to the order of magnitude necessary to make the idea of Space Solar Power feasible (IMHO, of course)…

Vibrating your way to space?

I’m sure many of you saw the BBC News Article about using vibrations to power a Space Elevator Climber (along with a very short video clip demonstrating the effect via using a broomstick).

On YouTube now, there is a longer video where the engineer who has proposed the idea at the recent EuroSpaceward conference, Age-Raymond Riise, talks about how this idea works and some of the problems it introduces.

Frankly, I’m a bit skeptical of this idea.  There is already, IMHO, too much going on with the tether (having to move it to avoid potential collisions as well as just the natural vibrations which will already be in the tether due to the Climbers, the sun, the moon, etc.) and introducing this will just muck up the works even more.  But I’m not a physicist, perhaps I’m wrong.

One of the things we hope to do with ISEC is to launch a ‘rapid-response-team’ which will look at ideas like this and say if they are feasible or not.  It will be nice to catch the news cycle these stories appear in and give them a bit more credibility if they past muster, or point out the obvious flaws in them if they do not.

(Picture of parking space from here – click on it for a larger version)

The Times Online and Cambridge nanotube efforts

EuroSpaceward’s Markus Klettner today sent me a link to a new article about the Space Elevator in the Times Online.  The focus this article is the work being done at Cambridge University by a team headed up with Professor Alan Windle.  From the article:

“The Cambridge team is making about 1 gram of the high-tech material per day, enough to stretch to 18 miles in length. “We have Nasa on the phone asking for 144,000 miles of the stuff, but there is a difference between what can be achieved in a lab and on an industrial level,” says Alan Windle, professor of materials science at Cambridge University, who is anxious not to let the work get ahead of itself.”

I must admit to some scepticism about NASA really making enquiries about this; it’s always been my understanding that they sponsor the Space Elevator Games because of their interest in Power-Beaming and ultra-strong materials, not because they plan on building a Space Elevator.  It’s certainly not on any of NASA’s roadmaps and neither presidential candidate spoke about it – not even to win the Speculist competition! 🙂

I have emailed Professor Windle about this and will post his reply when I receive it.

I also liked the quote from Spaceward’s Ben Shelef;

“We are talking about something totally different from the conventional concept of space travel,” says Ben Shelef, chief executive officer of the Spaceward Foundation, NASA’s partner in the project. “This is not about three astronauts on a special mission, it is about hundreds of tons a day being lifted into orbit. I often say that we shouldn’t be dealing with NASA on this, we should be dealing with the US Department of Transportation.”

It’s an interesting article and worth the read…

(graphic from the Times Online article – click on it (or visit the article) to see a larger version)

News from the McGill Space Elevator Team

I guess my RSS reader (FeedDemon) has some issue with the McGill Space Elevator Team’s website – it’s not picking up the updates reliably.  Since my last update on them in October, they’ve posted a few more updates which I’ve missed and failed to pass along…

Anyway, from their three latest updates we learn that;

The composite panels have been completed for the 2 climbers we plan to make. Construction of the frame will begin shortly after we receive the proper drill bits to make the necessary holes in the composites.


Despite having only the smaller of the two drill bit sizes, we have drilled the necessary holes to make our first climber. The entire mechanical construction will be done in January.

and (just two days ago)

We recently discovered that our antennas aren’t synchronizing with the correct gain. Development will still progress on the communication front, but debugging will be delayed.

Spaceward to appear at the Photonics West Exhibition

I have just been informed that Spaceward, the organization hosting the Space Elevator Games, will have a booth at the Photonics West Exhibition – yet another reason to go see the show.

Ben Shelef, the CEO of Spaceward, tells me that the Photonics show people have been enormously helpful to him and Spaceward in getting things set up.

If you are in the San Jose, California area January 27th, 28th or 29th and would like to help Ben at the Spaceward booth, please contact Ben via email; ben [at]

Finally, if you have any experience or knowledge about real-time mixing of video via a PC, please contact Ben at that same email address.

The 2009 Photonics West Exhibition

This year’s Photonics West Exhibition will be held in San Jose, California, from January 24th through January 29th.  The actual exhibition dates are the 27th through the 29th with seminars, courses, workshops, etc. being held on the 24th, 25th and 26th.

DILAS and TRUMPF, the laser vendors for the Climber / Power-Beaming teams in this year’s Space Elevator Games, will be exhibiting there, along with many other vendors.  From the conference website:

See the latest innovations in:

 • IR Sources and Detectors 
 • Cameras and Displays
 • Electronic Imaging Components
 • Fiber Optic Systems
 • Optics, Filters, Coatings
 • Optical Components, Detectors, Fibers, Materials
 • Optics and Photonics Manufacturing
 • Sensors and Systems

The Exhibition itself is free, but it appears from the website that you must register to attend it.

If you’re in the San Jose area at that time, this would be a great event to visit.  There’s a good chance that you’ll run into one or more members of the Climber / Power-Beaming teams attending the exhibition too.

Michael Laine and a short history of LiftPort

On the Liftport blog, Michael Laine put up a post detailing (in a very abbreviated fashion) his adventures (to date) with trying to get a Space Elevator built.  This post; 6 years condensed to 2 pages – LiftPort in hindsight, is very interesting and well worth your time.

Michael has also commented about his views on the Social Media; Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc…  And, as he is now in charge of Public Outreach for the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), you’ll be seeing ISEC being promulgated in many of these new web 2.0 platforms.  Michael has been nominated for a Twitter Shorty Award – if you want to vote for him, you can do so here.

Finally, it’s just nice to see the LiftPort blog active again…

Updates from LaserMotive…

On the LaserMotive blog, they have recently posted two updates.

The first is a continuation of their “Meet the team” series and introduces us to Joe Grez.

Joe Grez has a jumble of education. It includes a BS in physics, a minor in music and art, a few years of architecture studies, half of a yacht design associates degree, coursework in various engineering disciplines, industrial design (IDEO), and manufacturing process, plus a seriously healthy dose of project management coursework, some of which stuck.

He really does have a very interesting biography – check out the post!

The second update talks about their newest sponsor, Brion Toss Yacht Riggers.  What does a ‘Yacht Rigger’ have to offer a Space Elevator Power-Beaming / Climber team?  From the blog:

“Early on, we tried making our own continuous loop cable, but the quality was not stellar, and the cable eventually wound up fraying and breaking. After much searching, we found a local company that still practiced the old art of making long splices in steel cable. As you can see, the results are pretty nice.”

The competition racetrack in this year’s Space Elevator Games is a steel cable (as opposed to the ribbon used in previous years).  To create a cable that can run continuously on a treadmill requires that you be able to splice it into a continuous loop – something that the Brion Toss group does.  Perhaps they should also talk to DeltaX, the MIT Tether competition team, about how to splice together their tether…

Check out the posts…

(Picture of the steel cable from the LaserMotive blog – click on it for a slightly larger version)