Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Spaceward Press Release

And here is the text of the official Spaceward Press Release about the upcoming Space Elevator Games:

2009 Space Elevator Games to take place on July 14 at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in California’s Mojave Desert

June 1, 2009 (Mountain View, CA) NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, and the Spaceward Foundation are announcing that the 2009 Power-Beaming Challenge, part of Spaceward’s Space Elevator Games, will be held at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at the Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert on July 14, 2009.

We are very pleased that we can host this year’s Climber / Power-Beaming competition at our facility” said John Kelly, Deputy Mission Director for Exploration at the Dryden Flight Research Center. “Dryden has a rich history of research into the technologies of tomorrow, reaching back to the first supersonic flights and then later to the Apollo lunar missions. The Space Elevator can revolutionize our ability to travel to space, and it is only natural that testing of the concept will take place at our facilities.

The Space Elevator is a revolutionary space transportation system based on a tether that extends from the surface of the Earth upwards to a counterweight located well beyond geosynchronous orbit and kept taut due to the rotation of the Earth. Electric vehicles, called climbers, ascend the ribbon using solar power and power transferred from the ground using a laser beam.

Centennial Challenges explores high-risk, high-payoff ideas using technology prize competitions to encourage and reward innovation”, said Andrew Petro, manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program. “We’re happy to see that the Power Beaming challenge has matured to its current level, and anticipate technology innovations in power beaming that may be useful for NASA’s exploration missions and in other applications”.

This is the fourth year for the Space Elevator Games and each year the competition has grown more sophisticated.  The first competition required teams to ascend a 50 meter tether at an average speed of 1 meters/second.  The climbers were powered by spotlights provided by Spaceward.  This year, to be eligible for the $2,000,000 prize, the competitors will be required to race their laser-powered vehicles up the 1 kilometer vertical steel cable at an average speed of 5 meters/second.

We are thrilled to be working with the people at NASA HQ and Dryden” said Ben Shelef, Founder of the Spaceward Foundation, host of the Space Elevator games. “NASA is a symbol of mankind’s quest to explore space and Dryden is the symbol of beyond-cutting-edge technology development. The people and atmosphere here are everything the ‘Right Stuff’ was all about.  This year’s challenges will feature several teams from the US and Canada competing for $2,000,000 of prize money, and it promises to be a spectacular race.  Most of the teams competing this year are veterans of past competitions and they are now the experts in this field.

The Space Elevator will make access to space easy, safe, scalable and affordable. The quality of the ride is comparable to a train ride, and since the Space Elevator does not carry fuel, it is inherently safe. Space Elevators can be made to lift 10, 100 or even 1,000 tons at a time.

The Space Elevator was first proposed by Yuri Artsutanov, a Russian engineer. The scientific principles underlying it are well understood and the fundamental materials and technologies required for its construction are within reach. The Space Elevator games concentrate on two of the most important ones —Nano-materials such as Carbon Nanotubes for strong structures, and power beaming for wireless power transfer.

The Spaceward Foundation is a public-funds non-profit organization dedicated to furthering space science and technology in education and in the public mindshare. Spaceward Foundation intends to bring together leaders from the academic, commercial and educational worlds and create a series of challenges, exhibits, and educational activities that will re-invigorate the nation’s interest in space.

NASA’s Centennial Challenges promotes technical innovation through a novel program of prize competitions. It is designed to tap the nation’s ingenuity to make revolutionary advances in technology of value to NASA and the nation. NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program Office manages the prize program.


News media wishing to obtain credentials to cover the Power Beaming Challenge must submit a request for accreditation to the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center public affairs office by the following deadlines:

•    Foreign nationals and U.S. citizens representing foreign-based media June 05
•    U.S. citizens and aliens with permanent residency status representing domestic media July 07

Media representatives seeking credentials must work for a legitimate, verifiable newsgathering organization. Accreditation requests may be e-mailed to for media representatives who have been accredited by NASA Dryden within the past year.

Otherwise, requests on company letterhead may be e-mailed to the above address or faxed to (661) 276-3566. Requests must include a phone number and business e-mail address for follow-up contact. No substitutions of non-credentialed media representatives will be permitted.

U.S. citizens must furnish: full name, date of birth, place of birth, media organization, the last six digits of social security number and driver’s license number, including issuing state.

In addition, foreign nationals must furnish: current citizenship, visa or passport number, country of issue and expiration date. Foreign nationals representing domestic or foreign media with permanent residency status must provide their alien registration number and expiration date.


Spaceward contact:  Ted Semon (630) 240-4797

NASA Centennial Challenges contact: Andy Petro (202) 358-0310

Dryden Flight Research Center contact: Alan Brown (661) 276-2665

For more information about the Spaceward Foundation, please visit:

For more information about the Space Elevator Games, please visit:

For more information about the Centennial Challenges, please visit:


A pdf version of this press release is available here.

It’s on!!

Finally!  The Space Elevator Games are ON!  The Climber / Power-Beaming competition will be held at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center located at the Edwards Air Force Base in southern California.

The date of this competition will be July 14, 15 and 16 (of this year!)

Because of the logistics involved, mainly the use of high-powered lasers and the competition’s location at a secure facility, it will not be open to the public.  At, which is the official site of this competition (or on this blog, of course) you will be able to follow all of the events as they are happening.  The competition will be televised, live, on NASA TV.  There will be webcasts and interviews.  There’s going to be all sorts of cool stuff going on.

Yes, it’s been a long time coming, but the wait will be worth it.  It appears that we have six serious competitors – all with laser-powered climbers and all ready to rock.

An ‘official press release’ will be sent out early next week.  Stay tuned to this blog or the official Space Elevator Games website for more details.

The benefits of sharing…

Our intrepid elevator riders are back with another two episodes.  Someone has, evidently, pressed all the buttons, so it appears that this trip is going to take some time.

In episode 4, we learn that “Rappaport” is a jokester and in episode 5 we learn the alleged benefits of sharing…



All of their videos can be found here

Please don’t press all the buttons…

Reader Sean Keane sent me a link to 3 new Space Elevator videos that he and his friends have produced.  The theme is pretty self-explanatory and the videos definitely made me laugh.

It looks like these videos are the first in a series and I’m looking forward to future releases.  My personal favorite of these is Episode Two…




The home website for these videos is and at this site we will, presumably, see future episodes.  I’ll be posting them here, too, when they appear.

Thanks Sean – I look forward to future efforts from you and your cohorts – I think there is a definite chance that the four of you can become cult heroes…?

The LaserMotive team welcomes a new sponsor

On the LaserMotive blog today, there was a post about a new team sponsor, 4D Optical.  From the blog post:

The guys from 4D Optical have a deep background in optical engineering, including some great expertise in long-distance beam alignment. They’ve been doing a great job helping us out with our optical alignment procedures as well as providing some extremely useful hardware, all of which has enabled us to redirect (as it were) our energy towards other high-priority tasks.

Read the blog post for all of the details.

And really, really and truly, really and truly and absolutely, there is an announcement coming up very soon now about this year’s Space Elevator Games.  Really there is, really…

The latest from the KC Space Pirates

I received this email today from Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates:

And the winner is “The Black Diamond”. That will be the name given to our new ship/trailer. The most suggested name was “Black Pearl”  followed by “Queen Ann’s revenge”. We also had other fun suggestions like “The Really Really Mean Minnow” and “Red Eye Roger”. It was all fun and we also collected good names for the climber. Additionally we named the laser beam director the “ARGH” for Automated Robotic Glow Hurler. Oddly, they want a name for the laser on safety forms and such and just calling it the TRUMPF Trudisk 8000 does not differentiate it from the other teams. I am curious to see it the officials can bring themselves to calling it that. Or if they just keep calling it the Space Pirates beam director.

The upside in the competition date getting delayed repeatedly is that all the testing that we said we would do we are actually getting around to. And that is a good thing as we keep finding and fixing numerous problems. In the winter we often got pinned inside by the cold and could not test. Now, it’s the rain. But I would rather be wet then cold and there is something naturally optimistic about the springtime.  But we still have gotten in enough testing to make me comfortable that we will be ready in time for the competition. At this point all of the long lead time items that we worried about getting done in time are no longer a problem. And we have gone through a few cycles of test, fail, fix. There are still items that could use improvement, but then, I think that is always the case.

I have tired of taking pictures and video that we can’t share with anyone yet. And I know that after the competition most of those pictures and video will be somewhat out of date. I will release some of it once we have a firm date for the competition.

The t-shirts are designed and available. I owe a few to some of you on this list, so now is good time to remind me. You can buy them directly from

We have raised more funds to the point where even with the delays, we are not in danger of running completely dry before the competition.  The testing itself is eating up money and looks like it will be even worse before the competition. Looks like we can get time on the helicopter for something north of $3000 or $1 per second. With costs like that, you know you are playing with the big boys.

With spring coming to a close, we will also have to work in the heat of summer. Glad we got that A/C on the new trailer.

See you laser… I mean later.

Brian Turner
KC Space Pirates

Thanks for the update Brian.  I voted for the “The Really, Really Mean Minnow” and I’m glad to know that it was at least considered… ?

And, really and truly, there will be an announcement about the date of the Space Elevator Games coming out ‘Real Soon Now’.  No, really, truly, really, I mean it, really…

This could work for a Space Elevator too…

An interesting article appeared today on entitled “More ‘Star Trek’ than ‘Snuggie’: Student Design to Protect Lunar Outpost from Dangerous Radiation“.  It seems that “…a group of students at North Carolina State University has developed a “blanket” of sorts that covers lunar outposts – the astronauts ‘ living quarters – to provide astronauts protection against radiation while also generating and storing power.

Something like this ‘blanket’, if truly feasible, could work for a Space Elevator too:

“The “lunar texshield” is made from a lightweight polymer material that has a layer of radiation shielding that deflects or absorbs the radiation so astronauts are only exposed to a safe amount. The outermost surface of the shield includes a layer of solar cells to generate electricity, backed up by layers of radiation-absorbing materials. The advantages of the materials used in the design include flexibility, large surface area, ease of transportation, ease of construction and the ability to have multiple layers of independent functional fabrics.”

The students present their findings at the 2009 RASC-AL forum in Cocoa Beach.

(Picture of Linus from here)

Dr. Bryan Laubscher appears on The Space Show

I missed this one…

Last Monday, Dr. Bryan Laubscher appeared on David Livingston’s The Space Show.  Bryan and David discussed the state of Space Elevator ‘affairs’ and the upcoming Space Elevator Conference (Aug 13-16).

Dr. Laubscher’s bio:

Bryan E. Laubscher received his Ph.D. in physics in 1994 from the University of New Mexico with a concentration in astrophysics. In 2008 Bryan left Los Alamos National Laboratory to pursue new adventures in the Redmond, WA where he and his wife now live. In 2006 Bryan spent a year on 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 was a project leader and has worked in various capacities for 17 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.

And, thanks to the miracle of podcasting, none of us missed the show (though we did miss a chance to call in and ask Dr. Laubscher questions).  Click here to listen to the show or visit The Space Show’s website.

Why you should join ISEC – Part 4

In the 4th installment of this series, Ed Gray, the head of ISEC’s Business Pillar, tells why he thinks everyone who wants to see a Space Elevator built should join ISEC:

ISEC is the team that will be known in the future for catalyzing the scientific, outreach, legal and business work that give the Space Elevator to the world.  If it seems like Sci-Fi or magic, just think of the iPhone, social networking, remote surgery and other mainstays of our lives – a few decades ago.  All would have been considered magic, but they emerged through, creative thinking, experimentation, debate, audacity and through the teamwork of experts from many disciplines and from many parts of the world.

My first Space Elevator Conference in Seattle was life-changing.  If you go, you might see a theoretical mathematician from Armenia, a finance entrepreneur from Texas, a carbon nanotube scientist from Seattle or a playwright from San Diego.  You may also be like me – a new contributor to the work being done to design, plan and implement the Space Elevator.  The people and proceedings of the conference make it tough to resist getting involved.  The experts and enthusiasts of ISEC will be the steam that keeps this train moving – straight up…

Thank you Ed.  The Business Pillar of ISEC, as noted on the ISEC website, is charged with:

Space today is dominated by government business. But shipping and air travel isn’t. The Space Elevator may be built for security reasons or “national pride”, but its capacity can only be satisfied by a real space-based economy. The business pillar examines the economics of the Space Elevator.

Another focus of the business pillar are the stepping stones that lead from here to there – the ability to advance component Space Elevator technologies by building self-contained business cases around them even before the Space Elevator exists. Carbon Nanotubes are the obvious example, but not the only one.

As a specific objective, it is also important to analyze the connection and synergy between the Space Elevator and Space Based Solar Power. It may very well turn out that you can’t have one without the other.

To really exploit Space, we need a Space Elevator.  Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation (host of the Space Elevator Games) often jokes that we should be talking to the Department of Transportation rather than NASA about building a Space Elevator.

One other ISEC-related note; One of the benefits of joining as a “Standard” member is receiving an autographed copy of Glen Phillips CD, Secrets of the New Explorers.  This CD has, IMHO, the best Space Elevator song written so far – and the rest of the album is pretty cool too.  I reviewed this CD back in February of last year.  We received the first batch of autographed CDs from Glen today and they will be going out in the mail soon to those who have signed up.  For the rest of you who haven’t, I urge you to join ISEC today.  Momentum is building and you can be a part of it and help make a Space Elevator happen – JOIN!

Using a Space Elevator to generate 1g…

Someone commented with an interesting question on a YouTube video I posted last year:

“I wonder how far from the earth the end of the cable would have to be to allow for the equivalent of 1G due to centrifugal force.”

I didn’t know so I asked Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation (host of the Space Elevator Games) – this was his reply:

At any point on the tether, in your reference frame, you have two forces (accelerations) acting on you.  Gravity downwards, and the centrifugal acceleration outwards.

Gravity diminishes with distance square, so at a height of 6000 km, you’re at double the distance from the center of the earth as you were when you took off, and so the force of gravity is 1/4 what it was.

At ground level, the centrifugal acceleration is very small, but it increases linearly with the radius.  (a=omega^2*r)  [omega is the spin rate of the Earth].

At GEO, the two accelerations are equal. (and each is very small, basically 1/50g)

So as we move out, at some point, the outwards acceleration will equal 1g.  how far?   We can neglect gravity, since it diminishes even further.  The Centrifugal acceleration has to increase a factor of 50!  So 50 times as far as GEO – way beyond the end of a 100,000 km long tether.

Using numbers;

  • omega is 6.28/24/3600 = 7.3E-5 1/Sec
  • omega-square is 5.3E-9 1/Sec2
  • r = g/omega2 = 1.9E9 m, or 1.9E6 km – or ~20 times longer than the 100,000 km tether

The mean distance between the earth and the moon is ~384,400 km, so a tether long enough to generate 1g at its tip would need to be nearly 5 times LONGER than that mean distance between the earth and the moon!  I don’t think we’ll be seeing it anytime soon ?