Monthly Archives: October 2009

Happy Halloween

Halloween in Mojave – and a full moon tonight.  One of the waitresses at the local Denny’s was in full regalia this morning, dressed up as how a Native American woman  might appear in an old Western movie.  All she needed was a papoose…

Oh Gods of Weather, oh rulers of the fates, please, please, PLEASE keep the weather here JUST LIKE THIS for the next several days!

It’s 60-65 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, no wind to speak of – it’s absolutely beautiful.  If we have weather like this during the Competition, it would be WONDERFUL!

I thought the Broomstick graphic was appropriate.  It kind of looks like the Competition racecourse – the tripod at the bottom linked to the cable heading up into the sky.  No?

The picture is of the local train station, closed as you can see, but the trains keep rolling through.  I can hear them from my room as I sit here and work with my computer.  I’m sure they came through last night, but I slept so soundly, they didn’t wake me.  You can see a bunch of windmills in the far background of the picture – they’re everywhere around here…

Things get started in earnest here tomorrow morning.  We’re supposed to be at the Edwards Air Force Base at 8:00am to get badged.  TRUMPF will be there to start setting up their laser.  USST is supposed to arrive at 9:00am.  I’m not sure when the other two teams are coming in.  USST has set up their own Twitter account – you can access it here.  Their latest entry (from several hours ago) is that they made it through US Customs in ‘record time’.

Tonight we switch from Daylight Savings time back to ‘normal’ time.  Everyone has been reminded but I’ll lay cash on the proposition that someone will forget…

Only 3 more days!

03NOV09 – Update – Alan Brown of NASA informs me that the picture is NOT of an abandoned train station but rather an abandoned gasoline service station (he thinks it used to be an ARCO station).  Alan tells me that the ‘old train station’ (which was some blocks away) was torn down ‘several years ago’.  Thanks Alan!

Mojave – pop. 2,763

At least that’s what the sign said when I drove into town this afternoon.  I did a little bit of touring around town this evening before grabbing a bite to eat and I think the population might be less than that – I saw a lot of what appeared to be abandoned homes.

There was a high school football game being played under the lights tonight, so Americana is still live and well here.  Lots of liquor stores and gas stations and churches, a McDonalds, a KFC, a Denny’s, a Carl’s Jr (which Ben keeps trying to get me go to) and a couple of Mexican food joints.  One bar with live music tomorrow night – maybe I’ll visit it and see what kind of ‘live music’ one can find in a small town like this.

The sign on one of the liquor stores read “ICE / AMMO”.  Truly, I love this country…   I mean where else can you go and get the tools necessary to ice the bad guys and your drinks all at the same time?  I was going to see what they charged for the 9mm Home Defense specials, but I have no way of transporting the stuff back to Illinois.

There’s also a bunch of what looks like retired commercial airliners on a field just a few blocks away – this might be one of those places in the desert where old planes just go to die.  Oh, and trains…  Trains, trains, trains.  The tracks run right through town and they always seem to be busy.

Ben and Vern arrive tomorrow.  On Sunday the teams arrive and we also go get to see TRUMPF begin to set up their laser.

Only 4 more days!

Only 5 more days…

I leave for California tomorrow.  I’ll be spending much of Friday evening and most of Saturday in my hotel room in the jumping town of Mojave, California – a perfect chance to finally organize all of my videos and photos from past competitions and upload them for viewing.  I know if I stay home and try to do this before I go, something else will get in the way – it always does.  This way, as long as I can avoid the bars in Mojave, I should get a bunch done…

This, of course, assumes that I actually get all of this data loaded onto my laptop.  It should have been straightforward, copying them from my desktop box to my laptop, but for some reason I can’t get my laptop to be recognized on my network.  I fought with it for about 3 hours and then gave up.  It was weird, I could ping my laptop, but Windows couldn’t ‘see’ it from any other machine.  I tried all of the usual tricks except for the crossover cable.  That I don’t have and now maybe I have a reason to go out and buy one.  But that’s for next time…  Now I’m copying chunks of data at a time onto a USB drive and transferring them that way – hope I don’t forget anything.  Movie files take up a LOT of room…

Over at the official site of the Space Elevator Games, the CrazyEddieblogger (aka Ben Shelef) has put up three more posts for our reading pleasure.

In his first post, Ben refers to his document The Space Elevator Feasibility Condition (again, a must-read for anyone who is serious about the subject of Space Elevators).  He uses it to contrast what the teams will be entering into next week’s competition vs. what we will need for a real Space Elevator climber.

In his second post, Ben talks about the status of carbon nanotubes and the ‘other Space Elevator Games’ – the strong tether competition.  It is hoped that next year this competition will begin to show the same advances in technology that have become the hallmark of the Climber / Power-Beaming competition.

And, in his third post, Ben shares with us yet another video with the Mission Impossible theme song.

More from Mojave tomorrow…

Games updates

Over at the official site of the Space Elevator Games, Ben Shelef (aka the CrazyEddieBlogger) has put up a couple of new posts.

In the first, appropriately titled “Are you sure it’s going to work?“, Ben talks about how he thinks everything is ready to go from the Host side – the new raceway design has performed flawlessly in all of its tests.  Lets hope that it continues to do so during the competition.

In the second post, we learn that the team from the National Space Society (NSS) will, alas, not be competing – done in by money problems.  This is very sad; though they were ‘late to the party’ in terms of getting things ready, they appeared to have finally overcome all of their technical hurdles (as chronicled here and at the official site of the Space Elevator Games over the past couple of weeks).  And I hope they’re not counting on competing next year – I think we have an excellent chance of awarding all of the prize money in this year’s competition.

So we’re down to three teams; the Kansas City Space Pirates, Team LaserMotive and USST.  In his latest post, Ben describes them as the “robotic club hobbyists”, the ‘industry team’ and the ‘university student team’ respectively.  There’s nothing amateurish about any of them – they’re all highly skilled, very motivated and very ready.  Barring unforeseen weirdness, we should see numerous prize-winning capable runs.  Ben’s take on each of these teams is highly interesting reading – be sure to check it out.

Only 7 more days!

It’s a boy!!!

My first grandchild, Karl Thomas Wallbruch, was born yesterday at 5:27 pm, Central time, at Central DuPage Hospital.  He weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces and was 21&1/4 inches long.  Fortunately he takes after me and is thus a very handsome fellow…

Mother and son are now both doing fine.  Karl was fine upon delivery, but my daughter began to lose blood about a half-hour after giving birth.  She spent several hours in surgery and then recovery and is now finally back ‘among the living’.  She lost over 4 units of blood.  All I can say is “Modern medicine rocks!” – these are the kinds of childbirth that in earlier times usually resulted in unhappy outcomes…

We are all happy and breathing easier now and I’m thrilled and proud to have a grandson.  I turned 60 a couple of months ago and now I have a grand-child.  I guess this makes it official – I’m getting old…

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

(Click on the thumbnail of Me, Karl & Chris to see a full-size version of the picture)

Pre-competition update from the Kansas City Space Pirates

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

We have a date. The competition is set for the week of Nov 2nd. We are cutting it close in a race against the winter.

But in other news we went to Seattle to do some testing few weeks back and the helicopter system now has the bugs worked out and is ready for the competition.

We got a chance to get on the cable and test our climber. It did not go well. The way that it reminded me of our 2007 performance was spooky.

We had problems with our radio links to the climber. This was odd because we have tested that extensively to ranges well past 1000 meters. We were having problems at 100 meters. This caused me to drive the climber incorrectly and melt the wheels. The wheels then stuck together and caused the motor to burn up. I had spare wheels in the suitcase but not spare motors. In hindsight a spare motor would have been easy to take, but I had to pack quickly as Spaceward was only able to schedule the test a few days ahead of time. It’s that racing against the winter thing.

So in the past few weeks we have gone in depth learning about radio links and interference. I have talked to the other teams to make sure we are all on different channels. We have purchased and learned how to use the tools to identify and correct interference. There was even a backup radio link in our plans several months back but the system was doing so well that I was trying to avoid spending the money for it.

Looks like we may have to dust the cobwebs off of plan B on this one. We are also giving the wheels a thorough review and have found a few points to improve them and insure that they don’t suffer such a failure again.

The test showed us possible failure modes ahead of time so from that point of view it was a success. We will have finished addressing those failure modes before the competition. Another round of testing would sure be nice, but there is not time or money.

This just in! We found a defective wire on the test climber that caused the bulk of our radio problems. It has no outward signs of damage but you can just touch it a watch the status light blink off and on.

This is exactly the smoking gun we were looking for.

We tested last weekend with an aircraft carrying the test climber we call Lovey. All systems were go at a range of a mile high. We can clearly pick out our radio signal on the new spectrum analyzer. We were able to track Lovey on the aircraft with our optics system. This is a much more difficult target than we are expecting for the competition and we really benefited from the practice.

Today we are working on wheels. We are struggling to get clean data from our tests but it is looking like we have a design with better durability, efficiency and traction. We built another treadmill for the climber to practice climbing on and found a higher tree. I think we now have the data that we missed out on getting in the helicopter tests back in June, July and just recently in the Seattle tests.

These past few months remind me of the movie Rocky and others like it where after a defeat (The helicopter test failure) you go back to the gym and work out real hard to get back in winning shape. I am envious of how easy they make that look in the movies and also reminded that winning shape is something that has to be maintained, not just achieved.

Brian Turner
KC Space Pirates

The ‘defective wire’ thingy is scary – so much work, so much preparation, so much money, so much testing, all can be undone by this one little thing.  I’m very glad they found this before the competition and I’m sure some new testing regimens have been developed because of this.

You can never guarantee success – all you can do is increase the odds in your favor.

Regarding “…cutting it close in a race against the winter…”, data from the Mojave weather station indicates that the average max temperature in Mojave in November is 65.7 degrees Farenheit, while the average min temperature is 39.1 degreees.  Average rainfall for the month is .43 inches.  The ‘heavy rains’ (1 inch plus per month) don’t kick in until January – February.  Of course these are averages and our mileage this year may vary, but the odds are in our favor.  And, it’s going to be MUCH more pleasant holding this competition in November than it would have been in August.

Just 12 more days!

More views of the NSS Testing…

Over at the official site of the Space Elevator Games, Ben Shelef has posted his video / picture ‘montage’ of the NSS climber ‘melt test’.  Very cool post, but I deny that the ‘maniacal laughter’ that Ben attributes to me on a previous post of mine was caused by me.  While I was recording the test, I just heard this spooky laughter and my video camera picked it up.  Really.  Truly.  I swear…

And I have one more video I’d like to share with you.  The laser was not aimed directly at the bottom of the climber but rather at the NSS mirror which reflected the beam upwards to the bottom of the climber.  By standing directly behind the laser beam source and looking into the mirror, I was able to make this video.  You can clearly see the solar cells being illuminated by the Climber as well as the acetone boiling.  And, if you look at the plastic bags, you can see them flexing as the acetone vapor ascends into the bag and then condenses.

Yes, I was being illuminated by the reflection of the laser and, of course I (and everyone else) was wearing safety glasses.  I did get a bit warm after a while and had to move back a bit, but was in no real danger as long as I kept my safety glasses on.

Between a rock and a climber…

You’ve heard the expression “Between a rock and hard place”, I’m sure, but have you ever heard of being “Between a rock and a Climber”?  No?  Well, neither had I until a saw this post on the LaserMotive blog.

It seems that the LaserMotive team was able to work with a local Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) store to do some additional testing on their climber; i.e. having their climber ascend along the REI Climbing wall.  An interesting post, complete with pictures.

Also,  LaserMotive tells us about another sponsor of theirs, Silver Spring Organics.  Not only did this company provide space for long range laser tests, they were the enlightened souls who provided the venue for the recent, successful tests of the new Space Elevator Games ‘raceway’.  Thank you Silver Springs Organics!

There is cool and then there is Über-cool…

Here are some videos I took of the NSS qualification tests on the first day of testing (this past Monday).

This first video is just an intro shot of where we are and what is going to be happening.


This second video is of the first test – the Reflectivity test.  You can see Ben Shelef (CEO of Spaceward – organizer of the Games) and John Piatt (NASA) checking the reflections.  A 4kw laser beam has been pointed straight up into the bottom of the Climber.  Ben and John are measuring the reflections downward from the Climber.  You can clearly see the laser beam as it is illuminating the bottom of the Climber.


These next two videos show the Climber’s cooling system in action during the second test, the “Climber melt test”.  This test pours full power into the Climber for a time period equal to or exceeding the expected length of a climb to ensure that it can handle the load.  I misspoke on the first video, stating that the acetone was stored inside ‘plastic bags’ that were attached to the topside of the Climber.  Actually, there is a reservoir on top of the cells where the acetone sits.  When it heats and boils, the vapor forces itself upward into one of five plastic bags open at the bottom to the reservoir.  The acetone cools and then drips down to the reservoir to begin the cycle again.  You can clearly see the acetone boiling in both videos, especially around the edges of the cells.  In the first video, you can see the acetone condensing and running down the side of one of the outside bags.


And in this final video, the NSS team is running the  “Optics melt test” and burning through some gypsum boards acting as a beam dump.  Jolly good fun!

NSS testing at TRUMPF – Day 2

All in all, another pretty good day for NSS and the Space Elevator Games…

As I mentioned in the previous post, the first goal of this second day of testing was to rerun the “Optics melt test”.  TRUMPF personnel performed trouble-shooting on their system and concluded that one of the laser feed heads (unfortunately, the one we were using) was not functioning correctly and they replaced it.  The NSS optics had been left in place from the day before so they were able to quickly set up to run another test.  This time, the results were mixed.  While the beam heading into the lens was still wider than NSS had anticipated, the laser seemed to run flawlessly.  The full power (4kw) test was run for 11 minutes plus before it was halted – the laser ran without problems.

The modified Optics system ran fine, too, and was able to burn through several more gypsum boards.  NSS team members will continue to investigate why the beam was wider than their calculations indicated it should be, but they are confident that the system as-is (i.e., with a little bit better baffle than the temporary copper sheeting put into place) will perform well enough to compete.  Both Ben Shelef and John Piatt concurred.  The NSS Optics and Climber still has to be tested at 8kw (there was only a 4kw beam available at the TRUMPF site), but this will be done during the setup and testing days at the Games.

The next and final test was the tracking test, this to ensure that NSS had a way to detect and track their laser beam during a climb.  The test was originally scheduled to be held at a local airport but for a reason that I neglected to ascertain, this venue fell through.  NSS Team Member Robert then used Google Maps to locate an alternative spot, a long, flat dirt road located several miles out of town.

Here the NSS team set up their optics, tracking system and ‘device-to-be-tracked’, i.e. a pickup truck with reflective strips taped to the tailgate.  It took some time to set all this up, but by 2:00pm or so, everything was ready.  The NSS team worked as quickly as they could as they were under a bit of a time constraint as John Piatt had to head back to NASA and, besides, it was bloody cold out there.

Multiple tracking ‘runs’ were performed while Ben and John were in attendance, observing.  While it was clear that the NSS team members needed some more practice in handling their tracking device and software, it did seem that their equipment could do the job.

Based on these and the previous day’s results, Ben and John have provisionally cleared NSS to become the fourth team in the competition.  There are still a couple of hurdles they have to clear, but it is expected they will do so and, once they have done so, they will be allowed to compete for the NASA-sponsored two million dollar prize – welcome NSS!

I have added a link to the NSS team site on my blog’s sidebar under the Space Elevator Games / Teams for 2009 category.

I’ve included a few additional photos with this post, too.

Picture thumbnail #1 (topmost) is the front of the TRUMPF facility in Plymouth, Michigan where most of these tests were held.  We can never say too many times how much we appreciate TRUMPF’s stepping-up with their sponsorship of these Games.  This is a big-time (i.e. expensive) laser they have made available, along with their facilities and their personnel.  Plus, these guys are just fun to work with; competent, courteous and really wanting this whole thing to work.  Thanks again TRUMPF!

Thumbnail #2 is of the ‘brain-trust’ at the beginning of the second day of tests.  From left-to right; Ben Shelef (CEO of Spaceward – driving force behind these Games), NSS Team Member Matt Abrams, John Piatt from NASA, NSS Team member Tom (he’s from Moscow Mills Manufacturing – the suppliers, I believe, of the NSS mirror & mounts), NSS Team member Robert Windsor and Dave Marcotte from TRUMPF.

Thumbnail #3 is of NSS Team Member Robert updating his Facebook page dialing in his software.  Despite this picture’s appearances, he’s not shy, really he’s not…

Thumbnail #4 locates where NSS was running their Tracking test while Thumbnail #5 shows a view of the entire test track.  We truly did get some very strange looks from people driving by.  I’m just glad the local police either didn’t know about our testing or didn’t take an interest in it.  I can imagine the conversation now;

Officer: “And just what do you think you people are doing?”

NSS: “We’re testing how well we can track our laser.”

Officer: “You’re doing what?”

NSS: “We’re testing how well we can track our laser.  We’re going to be shooting it at this truck and if it works like we want it, we’ll be using these to power a space elevator.”

Officer (slowly moving away and speaking into his radio): “I need backup and I need it now!”

Thumbnail #6 shows NSS Team members Robert and Tim (foreground) explaining to NASA’s John Piatt what they were going to be doing and how they were going to be doing it while Ben and Matt look on.

Thumbnail #7 shows the reflective tape on the back of the target pickup while thumbnail #8 shows the laser dot on the target while it was driving down the road.

As always, you can click on any of these thumbnails to see a larger version of the picture.

One more note: NSS now has a blog which you can subscribe too.  They have a very cool photo on there of one of their team members in a canoe while wearing a vest illuminated with a laser.  Now that’s dedication!

More tomorrow including videos.  I do have some truly cool video and can’t wait to post them.

Stay tuned!

NSS Testing at TRUMPF – Day 1

All in all, a pretty good day, I think.  The NSS team came here to qualify their optical system and Climber with a TRUMPF laser.  Three tests were run today.  There were two successes and one “I don’t know yet” results.

Several members of the NSS team were here, along with Ben Shelef (CEO of Spaceward, the organizer of the Games), John Piatt (from NASA – making sure that the equipment met not only Spaceward’s standards, but NASAs too.  John gets ‘special points’ – a government employee coming here on a Federal holiday – thanks John!), Nic DeGrazia (chief filmographer from Chicago video production company Bitter Jester Creative Inc., the team filming the entire Space Elevator Games story) and yours truly.

Some members of the NSS team left yesterday and are being replaced with others today.

The first test was a reflectivity test, making sure that the Climber did not reflect any of the laser beam back in a dangerous or uncontrolled manner.  The climber was mounted on an aluminum rack, held aloft by a forklift truck.  The TRUMPF laser was directed onto a mirror and then onto the bottom side of the climber.  Both Ben and John then examined the results to ensure that no untoward reflections were being created and, I’m happy to say, no issues were uncovered.  Test 1 – Pass.

The second test was much more fun and consisted of trying to melt the Climber – i.e., this was a test which directed the full power of the laser at the bottom of the climber in order to determine if it could really handle the expected load over the expected run time of a competition climb.  NSS uses a very novel heat dissipation system – a liquid cooled one.  Over the top of the solar cells, they have created a (mostly) liquid-tight reservoir which holds several ounces of Acetone.  The top of the reservoir opens up into 5 plastic bags.  The theory behind this design is that the heat from the laser would boil the acetone, turning it into vapor.  This vapor would then ascend upwards to the top of the plastic bags, cool, condense, and then run back down into the reservoir so the cycle could restart.

Now my background is software, not hardware and I was a bit dubious that this would all work.  The NSS team was confident, of course, as was Ben.  For me, it was a case of ‘wait and see’.  I’m happy to say that, outside of a small leak, the system performed flawlessly and, as a bonus, produced some of the coolest images I’ve seen.  I’ve got video showing the acetone merrily boiling away, doing its thing and I’ll be posting these videos soon.  So Test 2 – pass.

The third and final test scheduled for the day was the one where we tried to melt the Optics; i.e. making sure that the NSS Optical system could also handle the full power load expected during the climb.  The results here were much more ambiguous.  When the system was turned on, about a minute or so into the test, the NSS team became a bit worried about the smell they detected, coming from their optics, and they had TRUMPF shut down the laser.  They quickly determined that the laser beam entering their lens was wider than expected was and was spilling over onto (and melting) the ‘bumpers’ that were holding their lens in place.  Discussions with TRUMPF personnel then ensued.  It was quickly determined that instead of handing a 200 micron-sized beam to  the NSS optics (which NSS was expecting), TRUMPF was sending them a 600 micro-sized beam.  NSS believed that this might have been the source of the problem.  TRUMPF didn’t believe so, but did change their side of the system so that they were sending out a 200 micron beam.  The test was repeated but the results were the same; i.e. the beam was wider at the lens than expected.

Then the real trouble-shooting started – lots of fun discussions about what possibly might have been the cause.  I got involved in these discussions, even though I know squat about lasers, because I do understand debugging and troubleshooting.  It seemed to me that there should be some easy way to ‘qualify’ the beam; i.e. to make sure that it was the size and power that TRUMPF team said that the beam was generating could be independently verified.  A test like this would quickly determine whether the source of the problem was on the TRUMPF side or the NSS side.  Alas, there doesn’t seem to be any such device.  However, I gave the idea of this device to TRUMPF and claim patent rights when they finally build one.

Lacking a way to quickly determine where the souce of the problem was, and still wanting to be able to qualify their optics, NSS built a temporary baffle so that they constrict the beam into the diameter size that their lens was ‘expecting’.  The test was then repeated.  All seemed to work well for the first several minutes and, as a bonus, resulted in more uber-cool photos and videos.  About 6-7 minutes into the test, however, the TRUMPF system reset, killing the laser beam.  More discussions and trouble-shooting ensued and the upshot was that the TRUMPF system was recycled and the test was repeated.  The results were the same; i.e. several minutes into the test the TRUMPF system was reset, killing the laser.  A fault / error-message was detected in the laser feed driving the test.  TRUMPF then loosed their more senior technical personnel onto the laser.  We won’t know until Tuesday morning what they found and corrected, but they did say, preliminarily, that perhaps their laser WAS generating a beam that was out of specifications.

Assuming the TRUMFP personnel can fix their laser feed, we’ll rerun the test on Tuesday morning.  The NSS optics have already performed at an acceptable level for a time period longer than a 5 meter/second run will take and have now been provisionally been qualified for the competition.  However, no one, not NSS, not Ben or John and certainly not TRUMPF are happy with the situation and want to rerun everything with a correctly functioning laser-feed.  This test will be rerun as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, then, the schedule is to first try and rerun the “Optics melt test” to everyone’s satisfaction.  Once that is completed (or is determined to be not possible at this time), then the Tracking test will be run.  We’ll all head out to a location that TRUMPF has set up and we’ll see how well the NSS Manual tracking system performs.

Stay tuned – follow us on Twitter today for up-to-the-minute updates at

I’ve posted some photos here too, for everyone’s viewing.  The first (topmost) photo is of the bottom of the NSS Climber.  This climber is easily the smallest of the Climbers in this competition and is on order of the same weight as the Kansas City Space Pirates Climber.

The second photo is an ants view of the bottom of the climber – the climber (mounted on the aluminum rack) being held aloft by the forklift.  I had to lie down on the floor to get this shot – the things I do for this blog 🙂

The third photo shows NSS Team member Aaron holding a shot glass used for measuring the amount of acetone injected into their Climber’s cooling system.  I can assure everyone that the shotglass was used only for acetone and not anything else (at least while they were onsite)…

Photo #4 shows the NSS Mirror with the cover removed.

Photo #5 shows Aaron injecting the acetone into the NSS Climber’s cooling system.  They need to do this just before the runs because the acetone does soak into / eat into some of the cooling system material.

Photo #6  shows a side view of the NSS Climber.  The cooling system bags are held in place by an aluminum frame, as you can see.  I still can’t get over how well it all seems to work…

Photo#7 is the target’s view of the business end of the NSS Optical system.

Photo #8 is a gypsum board after being scorched by the TRUMPF laser and NSS Optics.  Kind of looks like Don King with bangs, no?

And finally, photo #9 shows a top view of the NSS optics while the full-power test was taking place.  You can clearly see the laser reflecting off the temporary baffle that the NSS Team members put into place to constrict the beam.  With this camera, the laser-reflections are blue.  In my video camera, the laser reflections are orange.

I’ll be posting more photos and videos soon.

As always, you can click on any of the picture thumbnails to see a full-size version of the picture.

(In my original post, I mis-identified NSS Team Member “Aaron” as “Eric” – sorry Aaron!)

It’s On!

As noted over at the official site of the Space Elevator Games, the Climber / Power-Beaming competition for this year has been set for the week of November 2nd.

On Monday and Tuesday (the 2nd and 3rd) there will be setup and testing.  The competition will begin on Wednesday, the 4th, and run for three days.

The raceway is set, the teams (except for NSS – hopefully they’ll qualify tomorrow and Tuesday) are set, the location and logistics are set.

More details soon – It’s On!

Squares are evil, but SpongeBob SquarePants isn’t…

These are cool…  I stumbled across some pictures posted on Flickr that are artists conception of moving skyscrapers that travel up and down multiple Space Elevators.  I followed the Flickr link back to the website and discovered “Squares are evil“…

It looks like these pictures / drawings were entered in a 2007 Housing Architectural competition.

The level of detail in this work reminds me of the Base Station designs I posted about earlier.  At some point, I need to get someone to start finding these online designs and building an entry about them at the Space Elevator Wiki.  This type of forward-thinking will be very helpful in the eventual real design of a Space Elevator.

Any takers for this project out there?  If so, please contact me at ted [at]

And here is a picture of SpongeBob SquarePants taking a trip to the moon in (I think) a Space Elevator.  Not as much detail as the artist drawings, but you got to love it all the same…

(Drawing picture thumbnail taken from the Squares are Evil website.  Click on the thumbnail for a larger version or visit their website to see this and many other conceptual drawings they have created.)

(SpongeBob SquarePants picture thumbnail taken from Flickr.  Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.)

NSS Follow-up

Over at, the official site of the Space Elevator Games, Spaceward CEO Ben Shelef updates us on the attempt by NSS to become a fourth team in the Climber / Power-Beaming competition.

As Ben writes, both Nic DeGrazia and I will be joining him in driving up to the TRUMPF facility in Michigan.  It’s about a 5 hour drive from the western Chicago suburbs where I reside, so we’ll have lots of time to do some male bonding…

(cartoon from here – click on it for a full size version)

Another possible contender emerges…

It appears that I was wrong (or at least premature) when I wrote back on August 6th “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.”  During this time period where changes were being made to the raceway, the team from the National Space Society (NSS) has been furiously working on their climber, hoping against hope that they could somehow qualify in time for the competition.

It appears that this may now be a possibility.  Next Monday and Tuesday, October 12th and 13th, the team from NSS will be at the TRUMPF facility in Plymouth, Michigan, testing and validating their Climber and power-control system. Personnel from both Spaceward and NASA-Dryden will be there too, along with yours truly.

I haven’t been able to make either of the previous two new raceway tests and that was a major bummer for me, so I’m really glad to be able to make this set of testing.

If NSS passes this set of tests, they will be fully qualified to compete.  And, regarding the actual competition itself, the actual date for this will be announced very soon (really, truly, trust me) and the competition will be soon, too.  The raceway is all ready – now it’s just a matter of scheduling the logistics of NASA, Dryden and TRUMPF.  The three (or maybe now four) teams are also ready.

I’ll be blogging and Tweeting from the TRUMPF facility and will post a wrap-up afterwards.  Also, I’m sure Ben will be updating us on events over at the official site of the Space Elevator Games.

Stay tuned!


On the website of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA), I noticed a mention of LASER ’09 – a competition scheduled for later this year in Japan.

I emailed Shuichi Ohno, President of the JSEA, and asked him for more information about this competition.  Mr. Hideyuki Natsume, the Director of LASER ’09, kindly responded with these details:

LASER’09 (LEGO bricks Activity and Space Elevator Race 2009)

  • Date: November 3rd, 10:00am-16:00pm
  • Place: Tokyo International Exchange Center, Japan (
  • Contents: LEGO-climber race, LEGO-SE design contest, Exhibition, and more.
  • Host: Japan Space Elevator Association <JSEA>( and Nihon University


The Space Elevator (SE) has become a hot topic recently to those who are interested in Space Travel and Exploration. But it is difficult for children to know about the mechanism of the Space Elevator. LASER will sponsor the opportunity for the young people “to know about SE”, “interest to science”, and “pleasure to make” using the LEGO bricks loved by children. The participation of about 30 teams which consisted of school students is scheduled for this event.

About LEGO-Climber race

  • Each team will produce a Climber made of LEGO bricks.
  • Participants will compete to see whose remote controlled Climber is the fastest to ascend the 25mm wide, 5m long polyester-tether which is hung from ceiling.

Contact information: For additional details, please contact executive committee of LASER (Team LASER at

30 teams?  Wow – that will be quite the competition.  I look forward to a report and pictures from the event.

(The picture thumbnails are of two LEGO Climbers – click on them for a (slightly) larger version. “LEGO is a trademark of the LEGO Group and hereby used with special permission. ©The LEGO Group.”)

The Space Elevators…

I guess it had to happen sometime – there is a (new, I think) music group out now called “The Space Elevators“.  They have released several songs on their MySpace website and also now have a video out on YouTube:


Their music is entirely without vocals – it’s all instrumental.

Now, understand that I’m a baby-boomer.  I grew up in the drug-culture of the 60’s (for which I’m eternally grateful).  Much of this group’s music reminds me of the electronic experimentation I heard during that time.  There was this group called “The Corporation” and they were, I think, out of Milwaukee.  The music out of these guys reminds me very much of that group…

I’m sure it’s not everyone’s “cup of tea”, but if you’re into electronic music, you might enjoy their offerings very much.

Check out their “MySpace” page.

The ‘official word’

Over at, the official website of the Space Elevator Games, Spaceward Foundation CEO Ben Shelef gives us his take on the just completed testing, complete with a short video of part of the testing.

The raceway is READY – now it’s just down to scheduling.  When can we get the venue, when can TRUMPF bring their laser and when can the teams finalize their schedule so that this can all happen?

It shouldn’t be long – we’re hoping for the competition to occur in October.

And, in case the Two Million Dollar Grand Prize goes unclaimed this time ’round again (though many of us will be surprised if that happens), the raceway and requirements for the 2010 Space Elevator Games would remain unchanged; i.e. an average speed of 5km over the full kilometer climb.  This means that if Spaceward and NASA do have to schedule another set of Games next year, there will be no change to the raceway – it’s ready to go…

Stay tuned!