Monthly Archives: September 2009

Desperately seeking amusement…

And now we see our intrepid explorers playing a fun game of “Marco Polo”.


I had no idea what “fish out of water” meant until I read the official Wikipedia entry on ‘Marco Polo’ – I guess I must have had a deprived childhood…

See all of our explorer’s activities on their official website.

New USST Video on YouTube

Anne-Marie Cey, the Communications and and Public Relations Strategist for the University of Saskatchewan (home of the USST team), sent me an email to let me know that a new video, touting the USST team, has been posted on YouTube.  I watched it – it’s pretty neat and am including it in this post.

The video was created by a Saskatoon based company, Juxtapose Productions.  Thanks for the tip Anne-Marie!


With all due respect to Mark Boots, who is quoted as saying that the chief advantage of the Space Elevator is that it “…would make access to space way more inexpensive and way more affordable…“, I believe that the chief advantage is that a Space Elevator is scalable.  You can build one that can lift many tons to space EVERY DAY.  This is the way that you colonize space – having a carbon railway to the stars.

Anyway, enjoy the video – I certainly did!

Everything is looking good…

This past weekend, the second test of the new, improved Climber / Power-Beaming raceway was held.  As with the first test, everything went really well.  Here is the update from Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation and organizer of the Space Elevator Games:

Hi folks.

I wanted to update you on the results of the second test in Olympia this past weekend.

As you recall, we made several changes after the tests at Dryden – we changed the helicopter vendor, we mandated use of the GPS hover-aid, and we swapped out the winch with the Virtual Bob (R) motion-arrestor system. We tested everything for the first time with a 1000′ cable two weeks ago, and everything worked very well.

This second test was a general rehearsal for the games – we used the full length cable (total of 4300′ above ground level) and had a battery-powered climber run up to the the top while we checked that tracking was feasible within the parameters we’ve set – not exceeding a 15 degree half angle cone, and not coming too close to the helicopter.  We were able to do all of this successfully.   We also practiced pull-up and set-down of the system several times, and really, there’s nothing much to it anymore.

This is the place to give Keith Mackey his due credit, since without him this would never have come to fruition, to NW Helicopters who have been more than tremendously helpful, and to Doug Uttecht who flew the helicopter for us oh so beautifully.

I’ll be blogging about the details in the next couple of days,


I’ve included some photos that Nic DeGrazia (from the Chicago video production company Bitter Jester Creative, Inc.) sent me.  The topmost one is unbelievably cool (IMHO) – it shows the Kansas City Space Pirates climber ascending the ribbon.  This picture is the closest thing we have yet to being able to show what a real Space Elevator is going to look like.  I don’t know if Nic composed the shot to show the sunshine spilling into the right half of the picture or not, but it’s a really cool effect.

The second picture is also of the KCSP Climber, this time not too far above the top of the Pyramid.

The third picture is of the pyramid itself while the fourth picture shows the Pyramid, too, this time with some of the base being lifted up by the helicopter.  As Nic mentioned in his email to me that accompanied this picture, “The base of The Pyramid (this was the helicopter’s anchor … you see it here doing it’s job – it plopped back down a moment later)“.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, with the “Pyramid” and all, check out the official website of the Space Elevator Games for the details.

Thanks for the pictures Nic!

The Lasermotive Blog and Tweet log also has some information sent out during the testing.

So, now all we need is a date for the competition.  It certainly looks like it will be sooner rather than later.  Stay tuned to this blog or the official site of the Space Elevator Games for the latest updates.

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

Next Space Elevator Games testing coming up

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

We are off to Seattle to do some testing with the new helicopter and cable arrangement this weekend.

The new helicopter is about 3 to 4 times smaller and more precise than the old one. I am quite happy about that. The preliminary tests that Spaceward ran 2 weeks ago were a roaring success.

One of the downsides is that after rethinking the cable system we have had to eliminate the part where we walk up and attach the climber to the bottom of the cable while the helicopter holds it up.  That means that we have to come up with a system that lets the little, fragile climber get picked up off of the ground and set back down by the helicopter while we stand a safe distance away.

I like the safe distance part. The old system had us attaching the climber to a cable that might move up or down suddenly with enough force to take off a finger. Or if was locked in position so it can’t move up and down might snap and hit us in the head. Probably not, but this is better. However the climber gets a much more harrowing ride.  So we are going to test that and a bunch of other stuff.

As some of you may remember. At the last competition the ribbon snapped several times. One of those times was as we were walking up to attach the climber. If that had happened about 30 seconds later it could have gotten my fingers. So perhaps I am a little too focused on that particular scenario.

If these tests are successful, then a date for the competition can be set. It could be as early as a few weeks if the rest of the details fall into place.

Wish us luck, and I really hope it goes well because this is starting to feel like a pregnancy that has gone well past term. Even for an elephant we are past due.

Brian Turner
KC Space Pirates

We’re getting close, really we are…

(Picture from here)

“Who is screwing around with my head?!?”

For yesterday’s post, I attempted to find non-US Space Elevator related videos – and was notably  unsuccessful.  But then I remembered – Gundam!  This cartoon/anime series is always good for some Space Elevator ‘video’.  Lot’s of shoot-em-up action…


On a related note, the ‘Gundam Big Expo 2009’  just recently finished.

And if I’m looking a little desperate for Space Elevator material to post, well, you’re correct.  I’m in the middle of my yearly pilgrimmage to Arkansas and am a little out of touch…

More YouTube videos

So, based on the ‘discovery’ I made several days ago (i.e., putting in translations of the phrase ‘space elevator’ into the YouTube Search engine and coming up with interesting stuff), I decided to see what I could find in some other languages.

First of all, in Russian (??????????? ????)


This is pretty recent (August, 2009) and the beginning kind of reminds me of the Space Elevator toy that the Japanese Team (E-T-C) brought to the 2007 Games:


I would have liked the Russian video better had it been accompanied by some Russian heavy metal, or maybe someone like the Leningrad Cowboys…


Hmmm, no other worthy Russian Space Elevator videos.  Let’s try French (Ascenseur Spatial).  Nothing much there either.  Ok, Spanish (Ascensor Espacial).  Geez, nothing new there either.  Dutch?  Nope.  German?  No, just the one I posted plus some old Turbo-Crawler videos.  Swedish?  No.  Hindi?  No.  Finnish?  No…

Sigh.  Come on you non-USA types.  Let’s get creative!

“Dynon Avionics Stabilizes a Space Elevator”

One of the many challenges in the Climber / Power-Beaming event of the Space Elevator Games is keeping the helicopter that holds up the steel cable raceway in the proper position.  Keith Mackey, the aviation consultant that Ben hired to assist in all-matters related to the aircraft had devised a GPS-based system to be used by the helicopter pilot for this purpose.  Sadly, the original pilot hired by Spaceward proved unwilling to use this system and this contributed greatly to the failure of the initial testing.

On a more happy note, the pilot now contracted by Spaceward was ready and willing to use this system and it has proved to be a great success, as noted on the post at the Space Elevator Games website.

The equipment that is performing this very necessary task has been provided by the Dynon Avionics Corporation and they now have a post about it on their company blog – it makes for very interesting reading.

Thanks Dynon!

More updates from the official website of the Space Elevator Games

Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation and driving force behind the Space Elevator Games, has posted some additional information about the latest round of testing.

Truly, it went very, very well.  The system was stable and predictable and performed exactly as hoped.  Ben’s posts discuss several aspects of the new setup and gives you insight as to what the plan is now.

Additionally, Ben lets us know about a possible new (old) entrant into the Climber / Power-Beaming Competition in his latest post.

Visit his official site of the Games and check out the posts…

Space Elevator Games – testing updates

Over at the official site of the Space Elevator Games, Spaceward Foundation CEO Ben Shelef fills us in on problems that occurred during the first sets of tests, changes that have been made and where we are now.

His first post is Return to Blogging (welcome back!) while his second, Old Wrap-up and New Plan, is the definitive word on “what went wrong” and what has been done to fix the problem issues…

Quick update – 2

Yesterday I wrote about how the preliminary test of the new Climber / Power-Beaming ‘raceway’ was quite a success.  Here is the email that Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation, sent to the “inner circle” earlier today:

Hi folks.

A quick happy update.

We were talking with a new helicopter operator (in Washington state) who is not currently occupied by fire fighting when we realized (last Friday) that we have an opportunity to fly this past weekend.  We did a quick turnaround, got everything shipped out to them, and on Thursday Keith and myself arrived at their site. We put together the hardware on Friday (the tether setup and the helicopter instrumentation) and on Saturday morning met with the Washington Area volunteers (Dave Horn, Tony Rusi) and LM at the flight site.

Keith spent the first half hour with the pilot teaching him to fly the GPS system, (which worked perfectly) and then flew over to meet us at the site. We already had the tether setup (new and improved) ready, limited to 900′ AGL on this test, and they picked it up and flew it just perfectly.  The cable was rock solid, position keeping was perfect, tension was perfect – nothing to it. Did it several times with various settings too, until we basically exhausted this test setup – next step is a full altitude test.

So we’re a happy bunch of guys right now, and planning to fly the high-altitude test asap, so we can get these games done already!

Hope you are having as good a weekend as we are,

More soon – Ben.

The ‘Keith’ that Ben refers to is Keith Mackey, the aviation consultant Spaceward hired for the Games.  Dave Horn works at Microsoft and was the chief organizer of the just-finished Space Elevator Conference.  And the LM Ben refers to is LaserMotive, one of the Climber / Power-Beaming entrants.  They, too, are located in Washington and some of their team members attended the test to watch and to help out.  Over at the LaserMotive blog, they’ve posted their own summary and some pictures.  Make sure you check it out…

Quick update

I just spoke to Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation and the driving force behind the Space Elevator Games.  As I indicated in my previous post, Ben was coordinating another test of the Space Elevator ‘race course’ this weekend and he tells me that everything went as well as could have been hoped for.  They didn’t do a full-height test on the helicopter (that will be about 5,000 feet), but they did do multiple ascents / descents of the helicopter and steel cable raceway up to 1,000 feet.  All went well, everything remained under control.

This is great news and means that a second test, scheduled for sometime in the next couple of weeks can now take place.  This will be a test of the system to it’s full, 5,000 foot height.  If that works (and now we have great optimism that it will), then the Cliimber / Power-Beaming competition will be a  “go”.

I should have more details of today’s testing, including pictures, in the next day or two.

Climber / Power-Beaming update

Yes I know, I haven’t posted in several days.  There’s just not much going on right now in the Space Elevator ‘world’ that is visible right now.

There IS progress being made behind the scenes, however, with the Climber / Power-Beaming competition in the Space Elevator Games.  As most of you know, problems occurred during the previous two tests of the competition raceway – these problems were chronicled (here and here) on this blog and in many other places in the blogosphere.  A somewhat redesigned system along with a different helicopter pilot is set for testing this weekend.  I really wish I could be there to report on it firsthand, but I have a previous engagement that I just can’t break.

I don’t want to go into all of the details of the new system – I’ll let Ben do that on his Space Elevator Games Blog – but I will say that it is simpler than the previous one.  The people at the NASA-Dryden research center think this new way is the way to go (they were involved in the design modifications) and I, from my limited viewpoint, also think this new system has a much better chance of success.

So, wish Ben and the rest of the team good luck this weekend.  If all goes well, we’ll be able to schedule the competition in the next few weeks and finally get to see some kilometer long, laser-powered, vertical climbs – and NASA will finally be able to hand out some prize-money in the Space Elevator Games.

(Crossed fingers picture from here)