The 2011 Strong Tether Competition

August 13th, 2011

The 2011 Space Elevator Games - Strong Tether Challenge was held yesterday, August 12th, at the 2011 Space Elevator Conference.

This competition is part of the NASA Centennial Challenges program, a program funded by Congress and run by NASA, with the purpose of fostering new technologies.  Successful competitors are awarded prize money.  For the Strong Tether Challenge, there is a prize pool of $2Million for any entry that meets all the benchmarks.

NASA doesn’t run the competitions themselves.  Instead, they partner with organizations who run the actual Games.  These organizations set the rules (with NASA’s review and approval), they arrange the venue, they find the teams, etc.  For the Strong Tether Challenge and the Power Beaming Challenge, the Spaceward Foundation is the organizing partner.  These two competitions are packaged together by the Spaceward Foundation and labeled “The Space Elevator Games” as Power-Beaming and Strong Tethers are crucial components of building a Space Elevator.

When the competitions are held, NASA sends a representative to judge the results and to make the final determination as to whether or not a prize will be awarded.

This year’s strong Tether competition was held, as mentioned earlier, at the annual Space Elevator Conference.  This is the third year that the competition has been held here and it seems to be a perfect venue.  The facilities are absolutely first rate and there is already a gathering of space elevator enthusiasts and, this year, carbon nanotube (CNT) scientists and researchers.

To actually test the tethers, you need a machine that stretches the tether to failure and records the value at which the tether broke.  Spaceward built the machine that does this testing.  A tether is mounted on the test rack.  A hydraulic pump is then manually pumped, putting strain on the tether.  When that tether breaks, the readout device shows the measurement of the level that the tether actually broke at.  This measurement is then entered into a formula which also contains the length and weight values for that tether and final score is computed.  If the score exceeds one of the prize benchmarks, then that tether is a prize-winner.

Two teams competed this year.  One was an individual and first-time competitor in the Strong Tether Competition, Flint Hamblin.  If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because he was part of team which competed in the Power-Beaming competition some years back.  Flint has decided to go after the tougher nut to crack, making a strong tether.  The second team was Odysseus Technologies, Inc - a team which also competed last year.

Flint brought three tethers to the competition.  Each tether was measured (weight and length), put on the test rack, and then stressed until they failed.  His first tether needed a score of 898 pounds, but broke at 153 pounds.  The second tether needed a score of 948 pounds but broke at 264 pounds.  The third tether needed a score of 452 pounds but broke at 154 pounds.  The reason for the different metrics was that the tethers themselves were of different weights and length.  The prize competition formula normalizes these measurements so that all tethers have an equal shot of winning.  Flint’s tethers were made with off-the-shelf components plus some “secret sauce”.  As a newbie in the competition, Flint stated he didn’t expect to win this year, but wanted some baseline measurements he can use to help judge future year’s results.

The second competitor, Odysseus Technologies (headed by Dr. Bryan Laubscher), brought only one tether, but it was made out of carbon nanotubes.  This tether however, broke at a very low level.  It’s target score was 2,000 pounds, but it broke at just 11 pounds.  This tether did not perform as well as the CNT tether that Odysseus brought last year, so obviously something adverse happened.  Whatever it was, this means that we concluded another year of Strong Tether competition without awarding any prize money.

However, hope springs eternal.  Attending the conference this year were Dr. Vesselin Shanov and graduate student Mark Haase of the University of Cincinnati and Dr. Boris Yacobson and Dr. Vasilii Artyukhov of Rice University.  They were very enthusiastic about what they saw and expressed a strong interest in having their departments work on competition entry.  With the resources they have behind them, this should provide a quantitative leap in the entries for next year.

So, until 2012…

(Picture thumbnails:  Topmost is Sam Ortega, one of the NASA representatives attending the competition.  Next is Ben Shelef, principal of the Spaceward Foundation.  As part of his introductory speech, he is showing a piece of a cable we obtained from the Puget Sound Rope Company.  Next is Flint Hamblin, showing one of his tethers.  Fourth is the carbon nanotube tether from Odysseus Techologies.  And last is a picture of the two competitors.  Dr. Bryan Laubscher from Odysseus Technologies is on the left while Flint Hamblin is on the right.  As always, clicking on any of the thumbnails will give you a full-size picture).

Entry Filed under: News / Announcements, Space Elevator Competitions

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dmal  |  August 14th, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    what a bummer. another year of disappointment. what do you think? will we get a strong tether before we have to evacuate the planet?

  • 2. Mako  |  August 15th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I’m verry disappointed. Not only the small number of competitors is sad but the results are worse than last year. It’s not very comforting.

  • 3. aphw  |  September 5th, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I wonder, what are the strengths in MYuri?

  • 4. Kane Wilke  |  October 18th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Team Astroareneae are still reign champions!

  • 5. Michael Remington  |  October 19th, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Valiant efforts, yet truly disappointing. On the other hand, I am remain proud that my team ‘Astroaraneae’ has produced the strongest tether(s), to date (1,330+lbs, 2006/2007). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Xm8uglsBUo

    I firmly believe we could have done even better, if the prize requirements had not been jacked up, from the 2005 house tether performance of 1,300lbs. Our success, in winning the competition in 2006, would have fueled further investment. We were working with carbon nanotube prototypes. Even though Astroaraneae is disbanded, most likely for good, maybe the requirements should be reconsidered, in light of the definite decline in tether performances…?

  • 6. drake  |  October 23rd, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Maybe next year??? This sounds cool

Leave a Comment

hidden

Some HTML allowed:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Key Websites

Post Categories

Space Elevator Games / Teams for 2009

Reference Sites

Images and Animations

Blogroll

Discussion / Networking Groups

Companies & Individuals

Lobbying Organizations

Space Elevator Humor

Mutual Link society

Past Events

Calendar

August 2014
S M T W T F S
« Jul    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

Posts by Month

www.flickr.com
Space Elevator Blogger's items Go to Space Elevator Blogger's photostream

Stat Counter

free counters

    follow me on Twitter

    Feedburner