Monthly Archives: March 2009

Blog visitors from around the world

Astute readers of this blog may have noticed a new item I’ve put on the sidebar, a ‘Flag Counter’.  This little widget attempts to identify each unique visitor to the blog by country.  As may be expected, the vast majority of the visitors are from the US, but there are many visitors from around the world.  My recent favorite is this one:

And, if you click on the ‘Palestinian Territory, Occupied’ link, you get this:
I’m not going to go all political on you, but it is nice to see that someone in this part of the world has an interest in Space Elevators…  Incidentally, all of the information on this site about countries and territories comes from the CIA World Factbook.  Click on the “Click for More” link on the flagcounter to visit the site and see where my readers are coming from.

Reminder – Next Space Elevator chat coming Tuesday, March 31st

The third in the series of the Space Elevator Spring Chats, hosted by Marc Boucher at the Space Elevator Reference site, will be tomorrow, Tuesday, March 31st at 2:30pm – Eastern Time. This week, Marc will interview Bert Murray, the head of the National Space Society (NSS) Climber / Power-Beaming team.

The topic: Discussion on the NSS Team efforts and the Space Elevator. Bert has 30 years experience working at Lockheed Martin.

I look forward to seeing all of you on Marc’s next chat!

Transcript of Space Elevator Reference chat with Ben Shelef now available

On March 17th, the inaugural Space Elevator Reference chat was held.  This is a series of chats that is being hosted at Marc Boucher’s Space Elevator Reference site.

The first guest was Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation, host of the Space Elevator Games.

The transcript of this chat is now available.  If you missed the chat, here is your chance to get the absolute latest information on the Space Elevator Games and hear Ben’s answers to other questions that were posed to him.

Call for Papers

A “Call for Papers” has been issued for the 2009 Space Elevator Conference.  From the document;

The Space Engineering and Science Institute Presents
2009 Space Elevator Conference
Redmond, Washington, USA
Sponsored by Microsoft Corporation

Call for Presentations and Papers

The 2009 Space Elevator Conference is a four day conference to be held in Redmond, Washington at the Microsoft Conference Center on August 13-16, 2009.  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. The evening of August 12 a public presentation on the Space Elevator will be held at the Microsoft Conference Center.

The effort to organize this conference started immediately after the conference last year ended and it promises to be the best ever.  If you have some expertise in a topic relating to the Space Elevator (it doesn’t have to be technical in nature, you can opine on the Legal, Business and/or Public Outreach matters relating to a Space Elevator), then by all means – come to the Conference and share your knowledge!

For the past two conferences, I’ve given a paper on who I thought might be the first entities to build a Space Elevator – perhaps I will do so again this year.

Even if you don’t want to present a paper, you should attend this conference if you have any interest at all in this subject.  This is THE definitive conference about building a Space Elevator and most/all of the leading figures in the field will be attending.

You can view the entire “Call for Papers” document here (it’s in pdf format).  For the latest news about this conference, visit the Conference website.

Be there or be square!

More Space Elevator stuff on YouTube

It’s been a while since I’ve inflicted shown you Space Elevator related videos I’ve found on YouTube.  No, this is not the Jay Leno version of “Videos I’ve found on YouTube”, it’s mine…

This first video is of the ‘future history’ variety, talking about Space Elevators in the 31st century: (Note – updated on 03APR09 at the request of the author of the video, Erich Stüssi.  He emailed me to tell me that the video I had posted was just the ‘rough cut’ of a school assignment.  The one below is the final version.  Thanks for the update Erich.)

This second video is of YerbY, another musician singing about a Space Elevator.  This YouTube version is the ‘solo acoustic’ version of his song, Space Elevator (on the album called “Space Elevator”). He also has a website where he has an orchestral version of this song plus some clips of other tunes on the album.  From his website:

My album Space Elevator is the culmination of the writing I did during most of 2008. On the album, I sought not to write your average pop songs. There are no repeating choruses or verses. Every word of the lyrics was stated with care. I arranged the instruments with the goal of letting each song unfold gradually from beginning to end, hopefully taking the listener through the same journey I went through in writing it. Also, there is no “filler” on the album; I worked tirelessly on each song until I felt it expressed the idea I intended to convey. I posted the few songs above to provide stylistic samples; I wrote Space Elevator hoping for it to be heard as a complete work.

And, without further ado, here ’tis…

Finally, saving the best for last, is the Space Elevator Games recap / teaser put together by the Chicago video production company Bitter Jester Creative, Inc.  If you were at the last Games, you undoubtedly saw this group, filming everything in sight and interviewing almost everyone in site.  They are putting together a video about the Space Elevator Games with an emphasis on the human side rather than the technical side (though that will be shown, too).I really, really like this video and I can’t wait to see their final product.

More lasers in the news…

Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates, sent me a pointer to this story.  An excerpt:

In recent test-blasts, Pentagon-researchers at Northrop Grumman managed to get its 105 kilowatts of power out of their laser — past the “100kW threshold [that] has been viewed traditionally as a proof of principle for ‘weapons grade’ power levels for high-energy lasers,” Northrop’s vice president of directed energy systems, Dan Wildt, said in a statement...

The next step is to start trying out the ray gun, outside of the lab. The Army is planning to move the device to its High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range. Testing is supposed to begin by this time, next year.

Brian says that this laser should “…take care of whatever Ben has in mind.  ‘Ben’, of course, is Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation, host of the Space Elevator Games.  This year’s Games are using an 8-kW laser to propel climbers a full kilometer high.  A 105 kW laser like the one in the story should do considerably better.

In a post I put up in June of last year, I wrote how Brad Edwards said that passing the 100kW threshold for solid-state lasers was an important step in having the technology in place to build a Space Elevator.  That makes this story potentially very significant.

And, in other laser news, it looks like they now may now have another use.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Jordin Kare, the ‘laser guy’ behind the LaserMotive team is trying to use lasers as a weapon against mosquitoes.  The real target here, of course, is malaria, a deadly disease carried by mosquitoes.  From the article:

In a lab in this Seattle suburb, researchers in long white coats recently stood watching a small glass box of bugs. Every few seconds, a contraption 100 feet away shot a beam that hit the buzzing mosquitoes, one by one, with a spot of red light…

“We’d be delighted if we destabilize the human-mosquito balance of power,” says Jordin Kare, an astrophysicist who once worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the birthplace of some of the deadliest weapons known to man. More recently he worked on the mosquito laser, built from parts bought on eBay.

If mosquitoes ever develop immunity to lasers, like they have to DDT, then we’ll all be in trouble…

(Picture thumbnails are from their respective articles.  Click on them for a larger version.  There are several pictures on the ‘Mosquito Laser’ story page.)

Reminder – Next Space Elevator chat coming Tuesday, March 24th

The second in the series of the Space Elevator Spring Chats, hosted by Marc Boucher at the Space Elevator Reference site, will be tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24th at 2:30pm – Eastern Time.  Last week, Marc interviewed Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation.  This week, Marc himself will be on the hotseat as he talks about his Space Elevator Open Wiki & Developer Wiki and how to get involved.

I look forward to seeing all of you on Marc’s next chat!

Happy birthday Captain Kirk!

All true trekkies (I’m not one, but I sure do like Star Trek and it’s offspring) know that today is William Shatner’s birthday.  The list of TV series and shows and movies that this Canadian-born actor has appeared in is truly impressive, but for I, and I suspect most people my age, he will always be “Captain Kirk”.

However, my two favorite YouTube clips of him show him outside of his Captain Kirk role.

First is his immortal rendition of ‘Rocket Man’;


And, of course, here, acting in the role of Denny Crane, is his absolutely classic defense of guns and the right to self-defense;


Happy Birthday Captain Kirk – live long and prosper!

Check out the new wheels for the Kansas City Space Pirates!

I received the following note from Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates team which will be competing in the upcoming Space Elevator Games.  Check out his new wheels!

We have a new ship. One of the requirements for logistics this year is a self contained system. I had put off getting a new trailer until I knew what the requirements and budget would be. I was also just trying to delay the expense. This is a used trailer but has most all the features that we were looking for. Heated, cooled, window, dual axel and v-nose. After we started putting in all of the stuff I was thinking that perhaps a bigger one would have been better. But if needed we can still take the old 20 footer in addition.

And it looks like the competition date has slipped again. We are now in that in between stage where the April date is obviously unreachable but a new date has not been set. More on that later.

Now we just need to put a real big hole in the roof of this trailer for the laser to come out. I am considering naming the trailer so feel free to send me any suggestions. Right now it goes by the ominous name of “the trailer” The old trailer is probably suffering from an inferiority complex.

Most everything else is going well. We did add Asphericon ( ) as a major new sponsor and I am quite happy about that. We will now have a complete optics system second to none.

Brian Turner
Team Captain

In the last competition, only the team from USST had a trailer like this, complete with its self-contained laser system.  This year, everyone will.

This is going to be so cool…

(Click on the picture thumbnails for an enlarged view)

Update – Brian wants a name for his new ‘Pirate ship’.  Perhaps he should visit this website and use one of its suggestions.  Personally I like “The really, really mean minnow”… 🙂

First test of the JSEA Balloon-Tether competition track is successful

Shuichi Ohno, Chairman of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) sent me an email about their first test of the Balloon-Tether system that they will be using in their upcoming Space Elevator competition (JSETEC):

Last Monday, our first balloon-tether system experiment took place in Chiba, near Tokyo.  We used a 4.5m diameter helium balloon, 50mm seat-belt tether, battery and a climber.  The Climber successfully climbed tether up to 40m high.  We have received authority to hold the competition.

Next test is with many additional pieces of equipment ( ie. gravity tether tensioner, 3point anchor, more climbers…) and will be held in May.

Ohno-san sent these pictures for us, too.  Click on any of them to view a larger version.

Congratulations to Ohno-san and the Japan Space Elevator Assocation!

Omedetou Gozaimasu!

Weekly series of Space Elevator chats begins this Tuesday

Over at the Space Elevator Reference, THE original Space Elevator website, host Marc Boucher will be hosting a series of online chats dedicated to the topic of the Space Elevator.  Each week, Marc will have a different luminary from the Space Elevator effort on the chat.

Spring Chat Series Starting March 17 and running every Tuesday for at least 4 weeks.

Our first guest will be:

Ben Shelef, Co-founder, The Spaceward Foundation & the International Space Elevator Consortium
Join the Chat: March 17 @ 2:30 PM Eastern Time/ 11:30 AM Pacific Time

Topic: The Space Elevator concept including an update on the Space Elevator Challenges

So, join the chat and learn, first-hand, the latest goings-on in the Space Elevator effort.  You can also send questions to Marc before the show at:

Marc.Boucher [at]

Hope to see you on the chat!

Japan Space Elevator Assocation to host its own Space Elevator Games

I received this word from Shuichi Ohno, Chairman of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA):

We at JSEA have institutionalized from private organization to Aggregate Corporation in this month, and now, we are planning to hold a new type of space elevator climber competition in Japan on August 8-9.

This competition is focused especially on climber mechanism, a mechanism for faster climbing speeds.  We will use 12V battery for power, making it easier to join than the Power Beaming competition in USA.  Entry fee will be $100 (and insurance fee) for 1 team.

We already have started promotion of this competition in Japan, and 3-4 teams from 2 universities have already expressed their interest.  Another several universities are now considering.

We have to start small due to our limited budget, but we will try to hold a competition every 6 months. Perhaps, we will not have any prize except the honor of “The fastest climber in Japan or world”…

We will support 150-200m tether by 4.5m diameter helium balloon.  Next Monday, we are going to have the first field balloon and tether test.

So, this is great news, of course – it’s wonderful to see Japan get more involved in this type of endeavor.

An official announcement of this competition, the “1st Japan Space Elevator Technical & Engineering Competition” is on the JSEA Website.  The announcement is in Japanese of course.  An English translation is in the works and, when ready, will be posted here.  In addition, I will post any and all information I receive from the JSEA on these Games.

KC Space Pirates March, 2009 update

The latest from Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates:

Well I have not been sending out updates because “next week” we were going to have a finalized date for the competition. It’s been going that way for 5 weeks now. The date is still listed as tentative. But since everyone watching closely for leaking information knows the date I figure that I can tell my friends.

But the tentative location is really rather exciting and I would hate missing having fun chatting about it. The date is the last week in April or only 7 weeks from today. We also are trying to get in some laser test time before then to give the system a final shake down so we have only a few weeks to get it all together.

But the super cool site is KSC as in Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

If it were not for the trees you could see the Vehicle Assembly Building where the space shuttle gets it’s oil changed every 10 million or so miles. The site is a “for real”, high power, Kilometer long laser test range. The part where Spaceward wants to stand it on end and hook it to a helicopter is creating a lot extra paperwork and that is why it is still listed as tentative. It also happens that such a place would be used for some of the secret kind of testing and we want to drag in about a bunch people, the press, and show what we are doing to the whole world. I can understand that causing some pause.

I did get to go down and check it out first hand. It is not real spectator friendly but then the heightened laser safety standards are not real spectator friendly anyway. If you want to come watch, there is an RV/baseball park about 2 miles south. If you get bored you can hit Coco beach only a couple miles further south. But there is a rumor floating around that we might get on NASA TV or at least be streamed on the Internet.  That will make it all the way back to most of your living rooms. And if nothing else, there is always Ted’s excellent (Thanks, Brian…)

I also went to Photonics West Trade show in late January to try to pick up a sponsor to build a high dollar part that we want real bad. 

It was interesting at the show as more and more of the vendors know what I am talking about when I say I am working on the Space Elevator competition. I still mostly get the polite “Is this guy crazy?” blank smile but then that is generally what I expect. After all, it’s not like I would take us seriously at first glance either. You have to build up to this thing or it might give you whiplash.

Prior to this date announcement, the team and myself had been focusing on improving our system’s questionable weak points and kinda ignoring the stuff that was no big deal but just needed to get done. So now we are buried in grunt work. Stuff we have planned but have not actually got done. Everything from laser stops to spare parts to trailer improvements. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you say things like “Wow, this is a lot of work!” and “Wow, this is a lot of money!”

On a personal note. My neighborhood is getting sewers put in and the spring rains have turned half of my yard and most of the streets into mud. When it’s dry, there is dust everywhere. It’s tracking inside and it’s been a real pain to keep the optics clean. I also slipped on the ice a week ago and cracked a rib. Not a big deal, just hurts whenever I have to lift something.

That’s all for now. Looks like I need to go lift something that we just spent a bunch of money on. 😉

Talk to ya later

Brian Turner
Team Captain
KC Space Pirates

Yeah, what he said…

Competition team updates…

The arrangements are still progressing but not finalized for the upcoming Space Elevator Games – stay tuned to this blog or the Spaceward website for the latest, accurate information about the Space Elevator Games…

In the meantime, two teams have posted updates about their activities.

First up is the McGill Space Elevator Team.  Their blog has a short article and a picture about their new motor controller power supply.



And the LaserMotive blog has the answer to the question; “What does duct tape, security cameras, multi-kilowatt laser sytems and Harley’s have in common?”  We can all sleep a little easier tonight…

Nothing new…

No, there’s nothing wrong with me (outside of a nasty cold that had me bed-ridden for a few days), there’s just not much going on in the “Space Elevator World” at this time.

Work still continues on finalizing arrangements for the next Space Elevator Games.  It has been reported in many places (but NOT this blog) that the Games are scheduled for April 26th-30th, or alternatively, April 27th-May1st.  This may yet happen but is NOT yet certain.  When the dates and location are set, you’ll hear about it first here on this blog and, of course, on the Spaceward website.  Several of us, including some team representatives, visited the Kennedy Space Center in late February to meet with people from ISTEF, the Kennedy Space Center, NASA, and several other groups to discuss logistical problems and find solutions.  This is no small task.  What Spaceward and the teams are attempting to accomplish this year is truly quite astonishing; creating a laser-powered climber speeding along at an average speed of 5 meters/second up a kilometer-long steel cable racetrack held up by a hovering helicopter.  Because the teams are beaming class-4 lasers essentially straight up into the air, flight restrictions must be observed so that aircraft, especially low-flying aircraft, are not allowed in the area during climbs.  Also, the actual scheduling of the runs must take into account overhead satellite passes as it is might be possible for these lasers to affect some satellite optics.  In addition, because reflections from these lasers off of the climbers can be potentially dangerous, procedures and ‘safe’ areas need be designated so that the “6 year old albino kid who never blinks and has both a 12″ Celestron telescope and a litigious mother” are taken into account and kept safe.  All these problems are solvable, but many parties are involved and all have to be satisfied that the plan is a sound one.

Speaking of lasers, LaserMotive’s Jordin Kare recently appearedon Dr. David Livingston’s Space Show.  Jordin really knows lasers and the show is quite informative – tune in and enjoy…