Monthly Archives: August 2009

Videos from Japan’s first Space Elevator Games

What does the above screenshot (which I absolutely LOVE) have to do with the Japan Space Elevator Games?  Bear with me…

One of the items which recently popped up into my RSS Reader was a story discussing Japan’s first Space Elevator Game competition (JSETEC).  This competition took place just a couple of weekends ago (August 8th and 9th) and I had previously posted about it (here) and included some pictures that Shuichi Ohno, President of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) had sent me.

This news story (from – addicted to Japan!) had a video from the competition, a very interesting one which gave a climbers-eye view of the winning entrant.


When I saw this video, I immediately thought of the similar-type video that was shot from the Kansas City Space Pirates’ Climber during the 2007 Video Games.


The video of the climber from the Japan Space Elevator Games was from the winning entrant, WARRSETEAM, a team from Germany.  I think I’ve posted about this team before, but I’m not sure it’s them – when I click on the link in my previous posting to their team website I get the infamous ‘404‘ message.  Anyway, the WARRSETEAM video in this post shows them climbing 120 meters in 25 seconds, about 4.8 meters / second.  To be eligible for the $2 Million prize in the US Space Elevator Games, the climber has to travel 5 meters / second.  Yes, I know, it has to be over a full kilometer and it has to be beam powered (the Climbers in the Japanese Games were battery powered), but it’s very instructive to see what nearly 5 meters / second looks like.  The Climber is zipping right along, no doubt about it…

Anyway, if you go to YouTube and do a search on WARRSETEAM, you see that they have their own channel with 5 videos in it.  The first three show their climber in various stages of development while the other two show competition runs.

Now, to relate this back to the Moose, before I got smart and searched on WARRSETEAM, I first tried using “weltraumaufzug” (the German translation of “Space Elevator”) as my search term and turned up this gem;


This is apparently a German-language news show, which gives a quick overview of several subjects.  One of the was the Space Elevator and Space Elevator Games and they showed a) where the competition is being held this year and b) a photo of the winning USST team from the last Games.  The lead-in to the story was the picture at the beginning of the post.  Next to the moose and his girlfriend is the term “Weltraumaufzug”, which is German for “Space Elevator”.

So you see?  It all relates.  Incidentally, there are several other “Weltraumaufzug” YouTube videos, so I’ve got some more stuff to search.  And it occurs to me that I have the translation of Space Elevator in several other languages so I can do even more searches…

Finally (and totally off topic), I’m adding this blog to my RSS feeds – there is some really cool stuff on it.  They have a video of two teenage girls “popping”.  These girls can dance!

CNN Money profiles the Space Elevator Games and teams

This is cool. has posted a 4 part series (Steps toward space) about the teams in the Space Elevator Games.  They have individual profiles of the three qualifiers for the Climber / Power-Beaming Competition, the Kansas City Space Pirates (KCSP), the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team (USST) and LaserMotive.

They also have a profile of DeltaX, a team that entered the previous Strong Tether Competition.  We had every indication and hope that they would have competed in this year’s competition, but they declined. did not do a profile of the Japanese team from Shizuoka University but, as they entered at the very last moment, that’s not surprising.  I didn’t know about them either.

In any case, the four part series is very interesting and contains some excellent team photos.

EuroSpaceward’s 3rd Annual Conference coming up in December

On December 5th and 6th of this year, EuroSpaceward will hold it’s third annual conference.  This year it is titled “Space Elevator, CNT Tether Design & Lunar Industrial Challenges“.  Though the conference has been advertised on the EuroSpaceward website for some time now, the official flyer for it is just now available.

It can be downloaded here or from the EuroSpaceward website.


One of my favorite Sci-Fi authors is Jerry Pournelle.  I like the stuff he writes on his own but when he and Larry Niven collaborate, they create some of the best Sci-Fi ever written (IMHO, of course).  Chief examples are Footfall, Oath of Fealty, Inferno and, of course, The Mote in God’s Eye.

Dr. Pournelle also maintains his own website, Chaos Manor, and a few days ago, a writer wrote to him about using Prize Money to advance technology.  This is what the writer had to say, along with Dr. Pournelle’s response;

Competition and prizes win big,


I know you are a big fan of prizes to advance technologies. Dig this:

“For several decades, the U.S. Department of Defense has been trying to build a robotic vehicle. But in early 2004, the Department of Defense decided to try something different, and give enterprising civilian organizations a chance to show what they could do. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) held the DARPA Grand Challenge. Put simply, the first robotic vehicle (moving completely under software control, with no human intervention) that could complete a 240 kilometer course, would get a million dollars for its designers. No one even came close. But a second Challenge, held in late 2005, yielded several finishers, and the first one picked up the million dollar prize for navigating a 212 kilometers cross country course in just under seven hours. All vehicles operated under software control, as true robots. The third “Challenge” race was held in late 2007, and had a two million dollar prize for the first vehicle to complete a 60 kilometer course through an urban environment (an abandoned air force base) in under six hours.”

After several iterations of this competition:

“Earlier this month, two T2 vehicles equipped with sensors and control equipment, successfully passed realistic tests. One of the test subjects, controlled from a Stryker wheeled armored vehicle, successfully approached a village (equipped with mannequins set up as pedestrians along the streets), did a perimeter sweep at speeds of up to fifty kilometers an hour, then patrolled the streets, avoiding the pedestrians, and finally departed the area.”

“The DARPA Challenge races have been a bonanza in terms of advancing the state of the art for robotic vehicles. For less than $10 million in prize money and expenses, the Department of Defense has created new technology that would have otherwise cost more than $100 million, and taken a lot longer to perfect.”

It would never work in space, of course. We have to use the NASA monopoly. Of course..


(Dr. Pournelle’s response); I have never understood why prizes are not popular. They cost almost nothing — perhaps a million a year total to fund a commission that determines if a prize should be awarded — and you know the total to be paid. A ten billion prize for a Lunar Colony Prize (keep 31 Americans alive and well on the Moon for 3 years and one day) would either get us a Moon Base or it would cost nothing. A reusable space ship prize of 5 billion (send the same ship to orbit 13 times in one year) would again get us a space ship or would cost nothing. We spent more than half that on the X-33 fiasco.

I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment, although I think the writer is unfamiliar with the NASA-run Centennial Challenge program.  Look at what has been accomplished so far with the Centennial Challenges, specifically the Space Elevator Games.  From a standing start in 2005, we now have multiple systems capable of directing and tracking 8kw lasers so that they can beam power to a remote climber which will ascend/descend a kilometer long cable.  The representative from the Laser Clearing House who came to inspect and OK the competitor’s equipment commented that the teams had systems which were better than some she had seen in our own military.

So far, these competitions have cost NASA very little (just the costs of administering the competitions).  Even when NASA does have to pay its $2 million prize in the Climber / Power-Beaming competition, they’ll still have received a tremendous bargain.  If they want this technology, they can purchase it (they have 3 options), rather than have to develop it on its own…

(Thanks to the tip for this story from Space For Commerce)

New Brad Edwards interviews now available

Dr. Brad Edwards, co-author of The Space Elevator and Leaving the Planet by Space Elevator, has appeared in two new interviews.  These interviews discusses the Space Elevator somewhat, but concentrate much more on nanotechnology in general.

In the first interview, Dr. Edwards briefly discusses the Space Elevator before the conversation turns to developments in nanotechnology.  I must disagree with Dr. Edwards on one issue though.  When asked why a Space Elevator hasn’t been built yet, he said that it was because a) society is distracted by other things (swine flu, the war in Afghanistan, etc.) and b) NASA is afraid of failure.  While both of these may or may not be true, IMHO I think the reason a Space Elevator hasn’t been built yet is the fact that carbon nanotubes just aren’t strong enough yet.

In the second interview, Dr. Edwards states that a carbon nanotube “1/8 inch in diameter could hold 20 tons”.  Again, I must disagree with the optimism here.  I don’t think such a tether exists.  Someday it may (and it better if we ever want to build a space elevator), but it’s not here yet.

But the interviews are interesting and a lot of very futuristic nano-technologies are discussed.

Alan Boyle and the Space Elevator ‘Reality Check’

I have a number of feeds in my RSS reader.  Periodically I go through and clear out a bunch that are no longer of interest to me.  One that I’ve never cleared out and always enjoyed reading is Alan Boyle’s Cosmic Log.  Alan always finds the most interesting bit of information to pass along.  If you don’t subscribe to his blog, you’re missing a treat…

Alan has also been an avid follower of the efforts to develop a Space Elevator and has been to most of the competitions and most of the US conferences, including this year’s US Space Elevator Conference.

Here is his take on this year’s conference and the Space Elevator in general.  The picture with the tether that the Japanese team brought to this year’s Strong Tether competition shows that tether draped over yours truly’s fat fingers…

Alan refers to Ben Shelef’s Space Elevator Feasibility Condition paper and I’m glad he does.  As I’ve opined here before, I think this is the most significant paper that has come out of the space elevator community in quite some time.  It’s most important point states that unless some sort of unforeseen breakthrough can happen in the development of carbon nanotubes, we’re going to have to live with a tether that is no stronger than ~50 MYuris.  A tether / Space Elevator is still possible with this strength, but it gives us less leeway than we thought we had in the past.

I hope Ben is wrong about this (so does he), but if a ~50 MYuri tether is all we’re going to get, then we should start designing towards that.  This will be the subject of a future post.

Climber / Power-Beaming competition updates

It’s ‘fire season’ in California / western US and that has bad consequences besides the obvious.  For the Climber / Power-Beaming competition of the Space Elevator Games, we need a helicopter to hold up the racetrack.  All of the helicopters are now being used to fight these fires so none are available for our testing.


So, we’re weather-dependent again…  If it gets really rainy where the fires are burning, then, hopefully, the helicopter we want will free up.  Until then, we’re all waiting as fast as we can…

A couple of the teams have posted updates.

Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates, sent me this email a few days ago:

This Fortune Small Business Magazine has a nice article about the competition. I have not been able to figure out if it is in the print edition just yet.  It is online at

As for the competition date. The testing with the new helicopter looks to get slated for the end of fire season. Apparently most helicopters of the size we need are reserved for that work this time of year.  So we are looking at an end of Sept. date at the soonest.

I have been using the extra time for getting caught up on work and family time. Doing things I used to take for granted like mowing my own lawn and changing light bulbs. We have also been working a bit on improving the reliability of the climber system.

Brian Turner
KC Space Pirates

And, on the LaserMotive Blog, Tom Nugent has updated us with this;

As you probably know by now, the Power Beaming competition was delayed again due to problems with helicopter operations. It seems that the earliest the competition can now happen is late September or October. We’re staying in close contact with Spaceward to keep up with developments, and taking advantage of the extra time to tweak our system. We’re also taking it easy – everybody had been working long, hard hours leading up to the competition, and now we need to rest and reacquaint ourselves with our families while we have some time to breathe…

There’s more – check out Tom’s blog post for the full story…

Finally, USST did post their summary of how the testing went at Dryden, too.  They’ve got some good pictures and it is well worth checking out.

(Picture of California fire status (the ‘Lockheed fire’) from here – click on it for a larger version)

Results from the Japan Space Elevator Games

Last weekend, the Japan Space Elevator Association  (JSEA) sponsored their first Japan Space Elevator Technical & Engineering Competition (JSETEC).

Shuichi Ohno, president of JSEA, sent me the results of the competition as well as some photographs.  My favorite picture is the middle one in this post – a tether going up into the sky.  Unfortunately the picture is a bit blurry, but it’s still cool nonetheless…

This event looked like a lot of fun – I wish I could have attended, perhaps next year.

Competition Goals:

Participants competed to see whose battery-powered Climber would be the fastest to ascend a 50mm wide 150m long tether elevated by a helium-filled balloon.


Despite the somewhat uncooperative weather and some strong wind, teams were able to test their respective climbers once on each day of the competition.  Sporting a variety of styles and unique engineering, hopefully the climbers brought out some insight into what a real Space Elevator Climber may be.

I’m not surprised they had weather / wind issues.  It wouldn’t be a Climber competition without them 🙂

Refer to the Press Release to see the detailed results of the competition.

Future Plans:

Each year we will look toward increasing the height 2-fold and refining the regulations and categories which will be evaluated. JSEA looks forward to participating in other areas related with Space Elevator development.  Please see our Home Page for details.

Congratulations to the Japan Space Elevator Association and its president, Shuichi Ohno, on a successful competition!  We’re all looking forward to what you will accomplish next year.

(Pictures provided by JSEA – click on the picture thumbnails to see a larger version)

The 2009 Tether Competition

Well, the 2009 Tether Competition, one of the two Space Elevator Games, is over and it was a) very educational and b) a lot of fun.

Only 1 team competed, an entrant from Shizuoka, Japan.  They brought a carbon nanotube tether with them to a) compete against the ‘House Tether’ (the first hurdle) and, if they succeeded, to then try and beat the 5 M-Yuri mark which would make them eligible to win the NASA-donated prizes.

Alas, they did not succeed in beating the House Tether, so they did not qualify to try for the prize money.  But they did a very important thing; they showed up and they showed up with a carbon nanotube tether.

I don’t have the exact numbers of when/where their tether broke.  Ben Shelef (CEO of the Spaceward Foundation – the group that organizers the Space Elevator Games)  had developed a table of this for a 2 meter, 2 gram tether.   The Japanese brought a tether which was both longer and lighter than required.  This put them at a serious disadvantage.  When Ben calculates the exact ‘strength numbers’, I’m sure he’ll put them on the official website of the Space Elevator Games,

The tether the Japanese brought was very different from other tethers we’ve seen, it looked like VCR tape – other tethers (especially competition tethers) look like thin ropes.

The nanotubes in their tether were not spun together, they were held together strictly and solely by Van Der Waals force.  The reason they did this was their belief that spinning the nanotube strands ultimately weakens them.  I’m not qualified to speak to that, but time will tell if their approach is superior or not.  They are going to try and use covalent bonding forces (it’s been a long time since High School chemistry) to strengthen their nanotube product.

I’ve included some more pictures in this post – pictures are always interesting 🙂

The topmost picture is a side view of the Japanese tether – as you can see, it looks like a tape from an old VCR Cassette.

The second picture is of this tether after it has been mounted on the “Torture Tether Rack”.

The third picture shows the Rack with the Japanese tether and the “House tether” mounted, side by side.  On the left is the House tether and on right is the Japanese tether.  As you can see, the Japanese tether is quite a bit longer.

The fourth picture shows the Japanese tether after it broke -you can see the end of it laying against the bottom of the Rack.

The last picture is of the Japanese team (Yoku Inoue is in the middle) being congratulated by Andy Petro (on the right), the head of the NASA IPP (Innovative Partner Program).  Andy thanked the team for coming and gave them both NASA Pins to commemorate the event.

I’m sure the Japanese will be back next year, and this time with a year’s experience under their figurative belt – they will be much, much, better…

(Click on any of the picture thumbnails to see a larger version of the picture)

Space Elevator Games – Strong Tether competition is imminent

In less than an hour, we should see the Strong Tether competition.  As I wrote yesterday, only one team has showed up, a Japanese team from Shizuoka University.  They’re giving a presentation as I write this post.

I’ve got some pre-competition pictures which I wanted to share with you.  The first one is of Yoku Inoue (on the left) of Shizuoka University and Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation, host of the Space Elevator Games.  In between them is the scale which will be used to weigh the tethers (note the Microsoft cup in the scale as an homage to our sponsors (thank you again Microsoft!).  Behind Yoku and Ben is the “Tether Torture Rack”.

The second picture is of Andy Petro, the head of NASA’s Centennial Program (these are the people putting up the 2 million US Dollar prize money) and Ben examining the “House Tether” – this is what the carbon nanotube tether brought by the Japanese team must compete against.

The third and final picture is of the raw materials that the “House Tether” is made of.  On the left is a spool of Zylon thread while on the right is a can of 3M Super 77 adhesive.  To make this tether, Ben just wraps several strands of the Zylon around a couple of posts.  Once the tether is of the proper weight (3 grams), Ben sprays the looped strands with the adhesive. The adhesive is used to help keep the tether unraveling, but the main source of strength (outside of the strength of the material of course), is the friction holding the strands together.  The adhesive insures that the friction will happen.  When the tether begins to fail, you can hear the ‘ping’ as the individual strands making up the tether begin to separate.  Once enough of them have separated, the tether then suffers a catastrophic failure; i.e. it snaps.

I won’t be able to blog during the competition (coming up in the next half hour) – it’s just too difficult.  However, I will be Tweeting…

Log on to to stay up-to-date.  After the competition is offer, I will put up a blog post giving details of the results and some more photos.

(As always, click on the picture thumbnails to see a larger version of the picture)

Space Elevator Conferece – First Morning

We’re all here and more or less awake.  Several sessions have already been completed.  I just finished listening to Karen Ghazaryan presenting on “Dynamics of a compound elastic cable for the Space Elevator“.  Karen came here all the way from Armenia to present his paper.  His paper sparked a lot of interest and a lot of questions – the most so far.

Now I’m listening to Ben Shelef present his paper “The Space Elevator Feasibility Condition“.  I’ve written before that I think this is one of the most important papers released in the Space Elevator field in the last year or two and anyone who wants to see how strong a tether has to be and how realistic a Space Elevator is needs to understand this document.  Ben’s pessimistic (but not totally gloomy) viewpoint is sure to spark a lot of questions afterwards too.

Good stuff so far today and I expect it to continue.

One note on the Strong Tether competition; there is only going to be one competitor this year, and yes, they have brought a carbon nanotube tether.  It’s a new team, from Japan, from Shizuoka University.  It will be very interesting to see what they have brought.  Unfortunately (very unfortunately) the MIT/DeltaX team which competed in the last Tether competition will not be here this year.  But we still will have a competition – the Japanese tether against the house tether.

Stay tuned!

Space Elevator Conference starts this week

The 2009 Space Elevator Conference, being held at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington, begins this week.  This is the same location as the conference was held in last year and I can personally attest to the wonderful facilities that this conference is being held in.  Once again, we owe Microsoft a very large “Thank You” for helping to make this possible.

Following is the official Press Release for the conference:


Space Elevator Conference 2009 Set To Open August 13

Researchers and the public will convene in Washington State to explore building the first “Stairway to the Stars”

Redmond, Wash. (July 28, 2009) –Scientists, researchers and space enthusiasts from throughout the world will gather on the Microsoft campus August 13 – 16 for Space Elevator Conference 2009, an exploration of the technical, legal and social issues and challenges of building an Elevator to Space.

A variety of events are planned for the public, as well as the scientific community, on this revolutionary way to send cargo and humans into space. Events include:

•    A four day technical conference discussing the issues and challenges of constructing an Elevator to Space
•    Space Elevator 101, a half day public information event geared towards the layperson
•    A special showing of the film “Orphans of Apollo”
•    The NASA Centennial Challenge Strong Tethers Competitionfor a possible purse prize of up to $2 million.

Space Elevator Conference 2009 will kick off on Wednesday, August 12 with a free Space Elevator overview presentation and Q & A session open to the public at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Wash.

Space Elevator Conference 2009 is sponsored by the Space Engineering and Science Institute (SESI), JPL Space Foundation and Microsoft Corporation.  Dates are as follows:

•    Space Elevator overview presentation Wednesday August 12 from 7 – 8:30 PM.
•    Technical conference: August 13-16th from 7AM. – 8:30 PM. Thursday through Saturday, and 7AM. – 6 PM. on Sunday.
•    NASA Centennial Challenge Strong Tether Competition Friday August 14 from 9:30 – 11AM.
•    “Orphans of Apollo” Friday August 14, 7 – 8:30 PM
•    Space Elevator 101: Saturday August 15 from 9 AM. – 1 PM. and again from 1 – 4 PM

Pricing for the technical conference is $300 in advance and $375 after August 1 for the full four days, including breakfast and lunch daily.  Student pricing as well as one and two day passes to the technical conference are also available.  The NASA Centennial Challenge Strong Tether Competition is limited to conference attendees only and is included in the price of registration.  Admission to Space Elevator 101 is $40 in advance for 1 – 4 people or $50 at the door. Ticket prices for “Orphans of the Apollo” is $10 per person.  To register online or to purchase advance tickets please visit

Media Contacts:

Michael Laine
Space Elevator Conference
Telephone: 360-863-1417

Belinda Young
Telephone: 206-932-3145


It’s still not too late to register to attend.  Visit the official conference website for more details.  Hope to see you there!

“Snagged again”

And, over at the official site of the Space Elevator Games, Ben Shelef has posted the definitive take on “What Went Wrong” during the latest round of testing.

Correcting the problem and moving forward (in Ben’s own words):

“We have engaged a new helicopter operator and are in the process of determining if they can do the job – we need to be more thorough on this aspect this time around. We are also pursuing other alternatives in order to make the next flight happen as soon as possible.  (But no sooner!)”

Note that this problem affected only the cable assembly testing, not the laser testing (which went splendidly).

And also note that this problem does not affect the other half of the Space Elevator Games, the Strong Tether competition, which will happen next week at the Space Elevator Conference (note that you must be a paid attendee of the conference in order to watch this competition – yet another reason to come to the conference!).

Stay tuned to this blog or the official site of the Space Elevator Games for all the latest news.

Space Elevator Game Updates

Over at the official website of the Space Elevator Games, Spaceward CEO Ben Shelef has recently posted some updates on events that occurred during the most recent week of testing at the NASA-Dryden facility.

These were posts that Ben started while the action was happening, but because his time get getting hijacked by mundane stuff such as getting things to work, he was unable to post them until very recently.  While some of these postings then are, in a sense, out-of-date, all are very interesting in that they show what the teams were doing (or not doing, as the case may be) during the testing week.

Check out his posts on the USST (here and here), the University of Alberta and the National Space Society (NSS) teams.

Please note that only 3 teams. USST, KCSP and LaserMotive, have qualified at this point to compete for the NASA-sponsored prize money.  I do not believe that any other teams will be added to this mix in the future as the qualification window for the Climber / Power-Beaming competition is now closed.

Space Tethers and Space Elevators

Michel Van Pelt has written a new book; Space Tethers and Space Elevators available at (but, unfortunately, not on Kindle).  I received my copy a few days ago, but will not be able to review it until after the upcoming Space Elevator Conference (coming soon – are you registered yet?  You should be…) – I’m just too busy preparing my two presentations.

I’m really looking forward to reading this book.  From the description:

“This detailed account of the possibilities of tethers in space, from very practical applications to (near) science fiction, gives an overview of the past, present and future of space tether development and presents the various concepts, ranging from those feasible in the near future to extremely innovative and challenging ideas. It shows how space tethers have already been used to stabilize spacecraft using tidal forces and to generate artificial gravity using a spinning system with a spacecraft connected to a counterweight via a cable. Tethers can also generate electricity by dragging spacecraft through the Earth’s magnetosphere, as was attempted with partial success during two Space Shuttle missions. Using electrodynamic forces, conductive tethers can also accelerate or brake a spacecraft. Probably the most exciting tether concept is the space elevator, consisting of an incredibly strong long cable that stretches from the Earth’s surface into space. Solar powered ‘climber’ machines, which are already under development, could use such a cable to haul cargo into orbit. The author also describes how space tethers can change the orbit of satellites, by effectively moving their center of gravity through the deployment of long cables. Tethers rotating at high speed can be used to accelerate or slow down spacecraft that briefly latch to them.”

Once I’ve read this book, I will post a review.

At The Space Review, Jeff Foust has just posted his review of the book.

Finally, here is an interesting website about tethers…

Whiling away the time on a Space Elevator

Our explorers are at it again, taking office humor to the Space Elevator…


Watch all of their adventures at

And, this has ‘Space Elevator’ written all over it – let’s hope they write it in to the script…

I think that designing (and testing!) a zero-g or low-g distillery would be a very worthwhile science effort.  I will present a proposal to the ISEC Board that we sponsor such a project.  Volunteers, please contact me at ted-public [at]…

(Picture thumbnail from here – visit their website to see it in context)