We have a new competitor into this year’s Climber/Power-Beaming event, Team Nippon, from Japan. It’s Captain and Fearless Leader, William Rieken, kindly consented to answer some questions I sent to him via Email:
[Space Elevator Blog – SEB] – Please tell us a bit about yourself. Are you a permanent resident or citizen of Japan or are you there in a work-related or study-related capacity?
[Team Nippon – TN]– I have lived in Japan for about 26 years or so. I am still a U.S. citizen. I enjoy the peaceful life of Japan. I have worked in several universities and government labs in Japan over the years. I am doing my Ph.D. at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Nara Japan. I have been working on the development of technology related to search and rescue for my Ph.D. studies.
[SEB] – When did you first get introduced to / interested in the concept of a Space Elevator?
[TN] – I have been following the Space Elevator development and competition since they first became known. As a person with considerable interests in technology and science and the progress and the sustain ability of mankind I track and become involved in technological developments and the policy all over the world.
[SEB] – How did you hear about the Space Elevator competition?
[TN]– As I said, I have been watching the competition from afar from the beginning. I got interested in doing this competition at this time, because right now I am waiting for my acceptance letter from a journal. My final requirement for graduation. Looking for a new challenge, I did some design work on a pre concept vehicle and thought this would be something important to participate in, that could contribute towards the future. My team and I and my sponsors all believe that by doing work such as this benefits everyone in the world in the long run.
[SEB] – Please tell us a bit about your team and your teammates.
[TN]– Dr. Kawashima, a consultant, handles the laser segment at his laboratory. Dr. Kawashima has much experience in “power beaming” technologies over a kilometer range, so is perfect for my team. We have another physicist consultant, who advises in laser and optical cell coupling technologies. Nijo, an Indian from india helps in the Cad work and is very good at it. I work on everything else, system design, engineering and integration as well as logistics. Most of the big stuff is handled by my sponsors and their employees. The design, construction and engineering of the climber is done by myself. The team is small by design. I have built and managed many teams over the years and have found small teams to be the most effective. Teams need to be functional systems which can carry out the necessary steps to complete the work. When teams get large, you get into a lot of problems and then they become difficult to control. So a team only needs as many operators as required to accomplish the goal and no more. So I have a small, but very focused and experienced team. I am expecting to expand the team by three more people over the course of the project as their need arises.
[SEB] – I’m sure you’re fully aware of the demands of this year’s competition (1 KM high – 2m/sec). What type of power-source does your team intend on using to power your Climber?
[TN]– We are using KW range lasers like most everyone else. It has been the most difficult portion of the project because of the very high power requirements, weight of components and special logistical requirements. In my opinion, NASA should have provided the laser system because its requirements greatly limits the ability of teams to compete. Laser systems in these power ranges and multi-million dollar price range takes a lot of expertise and a high level of knowledge to operate safely. This creates a kind of “haves and have nots” syndrome. Eventually we will have to move our these lasers to the U.S. for the competition. Moving the climber system is a piece of cake, but when you throw in KW lasers, that is a lot of work, that we are looking forward too.
Thank you William – and a hearty welcome to you and your team to the competition!
The more competition, the better of course (though the other teams may not feel that way 🙂 ). And, having another non-North-American competitor is a big plus. I just wish we could get some European team (or two) to join the fun – maybe next year…