Robert Gonzalez from io9 is skeptical about the promotional claim made by Obayashi that they want to build a Space Elevator by 2050. While I indicated in my own post on the matter that I thought the Obayashi story was “more concept than engineering“, I’m not as skeptical as he is about the final end-product…
Mr. Gonzalez writes that “Getting carbon nanotubes into this ribbon configuration is a significant technical hurdle“. Actually, the Japanese solved that particular problem a few years ago. The Japanese entry (from Shizuoka University) in the 2009 Strong Tether competition WAS in a “ribbon configuration”. In my post on the matter, I noted that the Shizuoka entry looked “like a tape from an old VCR Cassette”. It wasn’t strong enough, of course, but it was in the ribbon configuration.
But let’s assume that Mr. Gonzalez was referring to the actual specific strength of the tether, not it’s configuration, and there, surely, we do have a long way to go. But progress is being made. At the University of Cincinnati CNT Workshop held in October of last year, I saw, for the first time, a heavy emphasis on the potential specific strength properties of CNTs. In previous year’s workshops, speakers had talked about using CNTs in electrical devices, or combined with ceramics to make unique materials, or used in medical devices, etc., but very little about making “long, strong tethers”. This has changed - at least half of the speakers in the 2011 Workshop talked about work they were doing, and problems they were running into, in exploiting the specific strength properties of CNTs. And, a second possible material has come onto the scene - Boron Nitride nanotubes (BNNTs). This material, while not naturally occurring in nature, is fairly easily synthesized and it seems to have nearly the same potential specific strength properties that CNTs do.
You know, I really need to put up a post about that workshop - it was very informative and very encouraging…
And finally, lets not forget the fact that this is the Japanese. Their corporations tend to have a longer-term outlook than many others do. And Obayashi is a MAJOR company in Japan - lots of bucks, er yen, to potentially put into a project like this.
So, I’m not putting the champagne on ice yet, but I think there is a reasonable chance that this is more than just a pipe-dream.
(Picture thumbnail is of the entry into the 2009 Strong Tether competition from Shizuoka University. Click on it to see a full-size version of the picture.)
February 25th, 2012
I had several people email me today with the story that the Japanese Construction company Obayashi is making plans to build a space elevator.
The original story is in Obayashi’s Quarterly Magazine #53 and was announced in a Press Release which you can view online, in Japanese of course (you can use Google Chrome to view it and translate it into English). The Press Release also shows a few concept drawings of the tether and Base Station.
Their general approach seems to be along the lines of the Edwards-Westling model, i.e. a
100 100,000 km long tether made out of CNTs stretching from a base station on earth (the concept drawing seems to indicate an ocean location) to a counterweight in space. They describe Climbers, possibly powered by ‘magnetic linear motors’ traveling at ~200km/hr and a space station located at geosynchronous orbit. They also talk about Solar panels located at the space station, beaming power back to earth.
What they DON’T say is how they will power the Climbers nor do they discuss how CNTs are going to be spun into something useful (the major sticking point right now, IMHO), etc. From the Daily Yomiuri Online article:
Whether carbon nanotubes can be mass-produced economically enough and whether various organizations from around the world can work together are two key issues facing the development of the space elevator, according to the company.
“At this moment, we cannot estimate the cost for the project,” an Obayashi official said. “However, we’ll try to make steady progress so that it won’t end just up as simply a dream.”
The story is also on the Japan Space Elevator Assocation (JSEA) website and I hope they can work together on this project. Right now, it’s obviously more “concept” than “engineering”, but as one of my readers put it “Good to see they are still excited in Japan.”
(Picture thumbnail of Tether and Space Station from the Obayashi Magazine Press Release. Click on it to see a larger version or visit the article to see still more concept pictures).
February 22nd, 2012
Over the past several years, I have posted multiple entries on this blog about Space Elevators and Legos. The two seem to go together like fish and chips or ham and eggs or Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. Oh, wait…
For several years now, the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) has had an annual competition (LASER) devoted to children building models of Space Elevators and, this past year, the American Space Elevator Conference added a similar event to its schedule.
And now a new book has been published titled The Cult of LEGO, by John Baichtal and Joe Meno. It is an absolutely fascinating look into this whole genre, everything from the history of LEGOs, Minifigs, LEGO art, the whole robotics - Mindstorm thing (which I really would like to do one day)., etc. The last chapter of the book, entitled “Serious LEGO” talks about LEGOs being used for Autism Therapy and “Open Prosthetics”; amputees using LEGOs to help design the next generation of prostheses - talk about being Über cool.
And, in that same chapter, Serious LEGO, is a sub-section entitled “Prototyping a Space Elevator“. Here the authors discuss the LEGO model of a Space Elevator that the representatives from the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) brought to the 2008 Space Elevator Conference, complete with pictures (I had earlier posted about the JSEA LEGO Space Elevator here).
While not inexpensive (prices on Amazon for this book currently run from $20 on up), it is a really fine look into the whole cult of LEGO. I’ve skimmed through the entire book and am now about 1/4 of the way through a serious read of it.
Highly, highly, recommended…
And, on a related note, there are now several pictures posted on Flickr of entries into last summer’s The Next Generation of Space Travel competition. The winning entry was, fittingly enough, of a Space Elevator. Shown is a picture of the winning entry. Click on the thumbnail to view a full-size version of the picture. You can see more pictures of this entry here.
February 18th, 2012
Now that ISEC has finally succeeded in publishing and releasing Volume 1 of CLIMB, the Space Elevator Journal, ISEC has now issued its official “Call for Papers” for Volume 2.
This is the official “Call for Papers” for the second issue of CLIMB, the Space Elevator Journal. We recently released our first issue of CLIMB - you can take a look at it / purchase it here:
Your article must have some relevance to the Space Elevator itself or to technologies that will be needed to build and operate a Space Elevator.
Article submission deadline is May 15th (this year!) as we want to have this issue published in time for the 2012 Space Elevator Conference (tentatively scheduled for August of this year).
We will soon have the format specifications ready. If you are interested in submitting an article, please send me, ted [AT] isec.info, an email letting me know.
The first issue of CLIMB is something we’re very proud of and, with your help, we can make the second issue even better.
President - ISEC
We have again assembled a top-notch review team and we’re confident that the second issue of CLIMB will be as technically excellent as the first issue was.
February 15th, 2012
In the February 2, 2012 issue of Nature, there is an article entitled “Nonlinear material behaviour of spider silk yields robust webs”. This article is, unfortunately, paywalled, but you can probably find a copy of the magazine at your local bookstore. The Editor’s Summary of the article is as follows:
Spider silk is one of nature’s ’super-materials’. Its remarkable mechanical properties include high extensibility and strength comparable to that of steel. But Markus Buehler and colleagues show that it is not just these virtues that make silk ideal for web construction. Silk’s nonlinear stress response — linear at low strain, suddenly softening as strain increases then stiffening prior to failure — is also critical. This behaviour allows webs to keep their shape when experiencing small, distributed loads such as those exerted by wind. But during strong local deformations, such as those caused by falling debris, the geometrical arrangement of the threads and the nonlinear stress response combine to limit damage to the area near the impact site, so that the web remains functional.
What does this have to do with Space Elevators? Well, a lot actually… We all know that the tether must have a minimum specific strength in order to fulfill its function as railway line. But it is also going to have to absorb various stresses and debris hits, etc. and not catastrophically fail. The design of the tether will have to incorporate knowledge such as this to make it more robust. Maybe the eventual Space Elevator tether will look like a Hoytether.
This article was written by a team of authors, one of them being Prof. Nicola Pugno of Italy. If that name sounds familiar to longtime readers of this blog, it should, as Prof. Pugno has presented at several EuroSpaceward conferences, was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Artsutanov prize competition held by ISEC and is also an author of a peer-reviewed paper in ISEC’s Journal, CLIMB.
Prof. Pugno’s article in CLIMB, Modeling the Self-Healing of Biological or Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials, points to yet another possible tool/technique that can be used to make the eventual Space Elevator Tether more robust - the potential of ’self-healing’ tethers, at least at the nano scale.
One of the biggest objections that the uninformed give to a Space Elevator is “What if it breaks”? We can design in so many ways to handle this; Make the raw tether’s specific strength more than it needs to be, keep it out of the way of large debris objects by actively inducing oscillations as necessary, design it so that micro-debris hits don’t cause it to catastrophically fail, monitor these debris hits so that weakened portions of the tether are replaced before they fail, have the material be able to ‘heal itself’, at least at the nano-scale, and probably some others I’m not thinking of at the moment.
A very interesting article and well worth finding the magazine for…
February 13th, 2012
Early last year, I posted about an iPad app developed by Mr. Shigeo Saito of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA). Recently I learned that he has ported this application from the iPad to the iPhone - so, if you have an iPhone (and, I think there are a few of you that do), then this is good news.
The app is only $1.99 and I’m sure it’s well worth the money.
You can find out more about the app here.
(Thumbnail is of a snapshot from an iPhone running this app. Click on it to see a larger version or visit the app website to see more screenshots.)
February 1st, 2012
David Appell, PhD and independent science journalist, has penned an article about the Space Elevator, partly based on his experience attending last year’s Space Elevator conference in Redmond.
At some point, it’s supposed to appear in the UK Magazine “Physics World” but you can read it now on his website. It’s a fairly comprehensive article.
And the relation to ice cream? Well, that’s in the article - supplemental reading here.
January 25th, 2012
The first issue of ISEC’s Space Elevator Journal is now here! Volume 1 / Number 1 (publication date - December, 2011) is hot off the presses and will soon be sent out to all ISEC members (past and present) and Journal contributors.
The Journal consists of 8 peer-reviewed Papers plus some additional articles that I think our readers will enjoy. If I do say so myself, the content level of this Journal is quite high. We’re now working on making it available in ePub format and then will begin to plan for the next volume of the Journal.
As mentioned earlier, all members of ISEC will be receiving this Journal in the mail soon. If you are not a member of ISEC but want to purchase a copy, it will also soon be available on the ISEC website. But rather than buy it there, why not join ISEC instead? You will get a copy of the Journal mailed to you as part of your membership benefits and you will help us move this most magnificent engineering project forward.
(The photo thumbnails are of the Journal cover and an inside view of the photo of Yuri Artsutanov and the Foreword that he graciously wrote for our Journal. Click on either of them to see a full-size version.)
Update Feb 9, 2012 - You can now order this hard-copy publication at lulu.com.
January 9th, 2012
Catching up on an older item here…
Over at the Space Elevator Reference, there was a post last November about a new product lab at Google, called Google X. The original story referred to is here.
And, it didn’t take long to find the naysayers… In the Times Science online edition of November 21st, columnist Jeffrey Kluger likens the Space Elevator to ‘…trickle-down economics’ - one of those ideas that ‘just won’t go away’. He lists a long litany of reasons why a Space Elevator ‘probably never will’ exist. He mentions the Coriolis effect, space debris, having to put the base station at sea, etc., etc., etc. and winds up estimating that the system will cost ‘$13.6 kazillion zillion’. Sigh.
Maybe I’ll send him a copy of the ISEC Journal (real soon now, promise!) and our report on Space Debris Mitigation…
January 6th, 2012
Yes, I know, it’s been a long time since I put up a post - I just needed a break from blogging for a while.
But I’m back and ready to get you up-to-date on the latest goings-on in the Space Elevator community. Many exciting events are in the works including the imminent publishing of the first ISEC Journal, early planning on the 2012 Space Elevator Conference and much, much more.
In the meantime, please enjoy this holiday picture from Professor Pierre Rochus from the University of Liège in Belgium. You can click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version of the picture.
January 2nd, 2012
Over at io9, they have a summary posted about the recently completed Space Elevator Conference. I’ll be doing my own in the near future, but thought I would link to this for your enjoyment.
You should especially check out the brief interview with Mark Haase. Mark is a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati and a longtime fan of the space elevator. He gave one of the presentations on Friday, the “carbon nanotube day”. He has an interesting comparison between the development of carbon nanotubes and the development of aluminum.
I have one problem with the io9’s graphic of the space elevator though, it has a very ‘Chinese theme’. As I’ve written before, in the long run I don’t care who builds the space elevator as long as it gets built, but I’ll be very, very, very disappointed in my fellow Americans if we don’t do it first…
And finally, the article was written by Annalee Newitz - Annalee and I have corresponded before via email. This year she attended the conference and I had the pleasure of meeting her in person - You have a great site Annalee and thanks for coming to the Conference!
August 18th, 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).
August 13th, 2011
On Friday, August 12th, the next installment of the Strong Tether Competition of the Space Elevator Games, one of the NASA Centennial Challenges, will take place. It will be held on the first day of the Space Elevator Conference and is part of the ISEC theme this year of “Longer, stronger tethers - 30MYuri or bust!”
It looks like we have a couple of competitors this year and we are all hopeful that they can raise the bar on tether strength and help point the way to a material strong enough to build a Space Elevator.
Like last year, the competition will be live video-streamed for your viewing pleasure. The URL for the livestream is here, and the competition is scheduled to begin at 4:00pm, US Pacific time. If you are unable to follow the competition live, I will be Tweeting the activities as they occur.
And today, on a related note, several of us visited Puget Sound Rope, one of the Cortland Cable companies. They are located in Anacortes, about an hour and a half north of Redmond. We had an absolutely fascinating tour of their factory and I took lots of pictures and videos - I will post these in the next few days. But I wanted to share a YouTube video with you that they gave me the link to. This video is a compressed version of a test-to-failure of a big, big rope. The machine that does this testing is truly industrial strength - and it’s our hope that a machine like this will be needed some day to test a space elevator tether.
Enjoy - and stay tuned to Friday’s competition!
August 11th, 2011
Friday, August 12th, marks the official start of the 2011 Space Elevator Conference. I’ve posted about this conference on this blog ad nauseum so will just refer you to some links (here, here, here, here and here).
If you live in the Seattle area and haven’t yet registered, it’s not too late. And, if you’re into carbon nanotubes and live in the Seattle area, you really, really, should attend - you’ll find it very worth your while.
See you there!
August 11th, 2011
Long-time space elevator fan Maurice Franklin has created a very interesting document, the Space Elevator Analysis Spreadsheet. He explains it as follows:
The Space Elevator Analysis Spreadsheet provides you with the ability to calculate the characteristics of a Space Elevator and vary the inputs to those calculations. Thus the spreadsheet allows you to see the impact upon the mass, capacity, time to build and other important aspects of a Space Elevator when different strength of ribbon, type of deployment spacecraft, efficiency of climber power array or other critical choices are made. As provided, this spreadsheet follows closely the choices and calculations made by Dr. Bradley Edwards in his NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts proposal, though the author has attempted to validate the calculations independently of his work.
The author has three goals for this spreadsheet. First, that Space Elevator enthusiasts wishing to dig into the physics (and thus the math) behind the dynamics of a Space Elevator will find this spreadsheet a useful tool for that purpose. Second, that individuals who have critiques of the physics of a Space Elevator as laid out by Dr. Edwards, and interpreted here by the author, will have a reference against which to make a case for different calculations. Third, that anyone proposing alternative Space Elevator configurations will have be able to use this spreadsheet to work through the impacts of their configuration across the many aspects of the Space Elevator system in a consistent and complete manner.
The author looks forward to getting feedback from users of the spreadsheet, whether it be improvements in usability, alternative configuration scenarios, corrections to the physics and math, or anything else. Contact information for the author can be found on the first tab of the spreadsheet.
In addition to creating this spreadsheet, Maurice is a former employee of Microsoft and is one of the chief organizers of the Space Elevator Conference.
This spreadsheet is going to have a permanent home on my blog. At the top, in the section which used to be marked “Translation Project” is now the “SE Spreadsheet”. As new versions are created, they will be updated here and be made available to all enthusiasts and potential collaborators (the Translation Project page is now on the ISEC website).
Thanks Maurice - this is one cool document and should prove be of great use!
August 10th, 2011
It’s still not too late to register - the 2011 Space Elevator Conference, to be held at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington, is only a few days away. This year’s conference is going to be very good and somewhat different in than in year’s past - an entire day, Friday, is going to be devoted to developments in the CNT arena - developments that are crucial to building a Space Elevator.
And, the Space Elevator Conference committee has released their official 2011 SE Poster. Please feel free to print it out, post it, send it around to your friends - be the first one on your block with this poster in your window!
See you there!
August 8th, 2011
As I blogged about previously, David Horn and Maurice Franklin, two of the co-chairs of the upcoming Space Elevator Conference, appeared on KING TV on the New Day Northwest show.
David and Maurice did, IMHO, an excellent job in explaining the concept of a space elevator and talking about the upcoming Space Elevator conference and NASA/Spaceward Strong Tether Challenge. They also explained local area (Seattle) tie-ins to the Conference and to the Space Elevator.
You can view the show online here - Great job guys!
And, it’s still not to late to register to attend the Conference - the registration link is here. It promises to be the best conference ever. Friday is dedicated to talking about carbon nanotubes with several invited experts attending and giving presentations. Saturday and Sunday are devoted to talking about all aspects of the Space Elevator. There’s a family track, a Lego competition, the NASA/Spaceward $2Million Strong Tether Challenge and much more.
Oh, and where did the title for this blog post come from? Watch the interview and find out ☺
July 21st, 2011
This coming Sunday, July 24th, from noon to 1:30pm Pacific time, Dr. Bryan Laubscher will appear on Dr. David Livingstone’s The Space Show. Bryan will talk about the Space Elevator, the upcoming Space Elevator Conference, carbon nanotubes and other related subjects.
From the Space Show website:
The Sunday, July 24, 2011 program from 12-1:30 PM PDT welcomes back Dr. Bryan Laubscher for space elevator news, updates, and conference information.
Dr. Laubscher is a PhD in Physics with a concentration in Astrophysics. After a career as a project leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory that included research and development of astronomy projects, space missions, satellite instrumentation, optics, novel electrodynamic detection techniques, high power lasers, and classified projects Bryan became interested in the Space Elevator. Bryan’s current Space Elevator activities include being the General Chairman for the annual Space Elevator Conference held at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, WA. Pursuing the R&D of the Space Elevator has led him to start Odysseus Technologies, LLC a small company based in Washington state with the goal of developing high strength carbon nanotube materials. In August 2010, Odysseus Technologies competed in the NASA Centennial Strong Tether Challenge. Although the tether was not strong enough to win prize money, it was strong enough to beat the other two teams. Odysseus Technologies, LLC is planning to compete in the 2011 challenge. Bryan now lives in Olympia, WA with his wife Carla.
Listeners can talk to Dr. Bryan Laubscher or the host using toll free 1 (866) 687-7223. Listeners can also send short email questions or comments during the discussing using by sending e-mail during the program using firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tune in and get the latest news and don’t hesitate to call in if you have a question or comment.
July 18th, 2011
Tomorrow, Sunday, July 10th, is the last day for the “Early Bird” special rates for the Space Elevator Conference. After that date, the prices will go up.
This is going to be a dynamite conference, as you can see from the Conference Program. Experts from the University of Cincinnati and Rice University will be joining us on Friday to talk about strength possibilities (and limitations) of carbon nanotubes. We have the NASA / Spaceward Strong Tether competition (with a $2 Million prize!) also coming up on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, we have presentations on the current state-of-the-art thinking about this most wonderful of concepts.
So, register early and save some bucks (and then you can use those dollars to purchase a membership in ISEC!)
See you there!
July 9th, 2011
(Note - this appearance has been moved to the following day, July 14th, still at 11:00am (US Pacific time)
Wednesday, July 13th Thursday, July 14th, at 11:00am (US Pacific time), Space Elevator Conference organizers David Horn and Maurice Franklin are scheduled to appear on the New Day Northwest show on KING TV (Channel 5) in the Seattle Area.
David and Maurice will be talking about the conference and all the activities scheduled for it. Every year, this conference gets better and better and they will have a lot to talk about.
With the truly high-powered lineup we have assembled for this year’s conference, we are sure that we will exceed the publicity generated last year (here’s a link to a KING TV story from last year’s conference).
So, if you can access this channel, tune in and get a sneak preview as to what you will see when you attend the conference.
Remember, only three more days for the Early Bird special rate - visit the conference website for more details.
See you there!
July 8th, 2011
In keeping with the International Space Elevator Consortium’s (ISEC) theme of “Longer, stronger tethers - 30MYuri or Bust!“, the Space Elevator Conference has assembled an all-star lineup for its Friday, August 12th program. This day of the program is dedicated to stronger tethers and the Guest speakers that have been assembled are simply awesome.
From the University of Cincinnati, home of one of the foremost Carbon Nanotube (CNT) labs in the world, the Space Elevator Conference welcomes Dr. Vesselin Shanov. From Dr. Shanov’s biography:
Dr.Vesselin Shanov is an Associate Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He received his MS in Electronic Materials from the Technological University of Sofia, Bulgaria in 1970. In 1980, he completed his PhD in Solid State Chemistry at the University of Regensburg, Germany and at the Technological University of Sofia, Bulgaria.
Dr. Shanov has received several prestigious awards, including the Fulbright Award for Research and Teaching in USA, German Academic Foundation (DAAD) Grants, and the Bulgarian Patent Office Award for Distinguished Patent. He is a member of the Materials Research Society and former President of the Bulgarian Fulbright Alumni Association. Dr. Shanov`s recent breakthrough achievement, accomplished with the help of Dr. Schulz of University of Cincinnati, in growing the longest carbon nanotube arrays has attracted the attention of the scientific community. NSF Special Press Release on this topic.
Dr. Shanov has published 145 papers, 14 patents, 3 books, and has been part of 40 funded proposals including many with NSF, the US NAVY, the US Air Force, and industries. He was selected a “Distinguished Professor” at the Department of CME for the 2006/2007 academic year.
Dr. Shanov co-directs the UC Nanoworld with Dr. Mark Schulz.Nanoworld is a large interdisciplinary teaching and research laboratory located in the College of Engineering. It has unique facilities enabling synthesis, processing, and device fabrication based on nanostructured materials. Nanoworld carries an important mission helping to recruit, excite, and retain the undergraduate students at the UC College of Engineering.
Also from the University of Cincinnati and presenting at the conference is Mr. Mark Haase, a PhD student at the University.
And the Space Elevator Conference is very pleased to announce that Dr. Boris Yakobson from Rice University will also be attending the conference and presenting a paper on CNT strength. From Dr. Yakobson’s biography:
Dr. Yakobson received his PhD from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1982. He is currently the Karl F. Hasselmann Chair in Engineering, a Professor of Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering and a Professor of Chemistry at Rice University.
Professor Yakobson’s research interests are in theory and modeling of structure, kinetics, and properties of materials, derived from both macroscopic and fundamental molecular interactions. Computational methods and simulation are used to visualize and enhance the understanding of underlying physics and to identify the efficient degrees of freedom in complex systems, especially in connecting different length scales of description. He is an editorial board member of the Journal of Nanoparticle Research and a member of the American Physical Society and the Electrochemical Society.
Also presenting from Rice University is Dr. Vasilii Artyukhov.
Additional speakers are scheduled for that day including Mr. Karen Ghazaryan, one of last year’s Honorable Mentions for the Artsutanov prize and Dr. Bryan Laubscher. And, also on Friday is the NASA/Spaceward Strong Tether Challenge - with a prize purse of $2Million!
More details about the Space Elevator Conference can be found on the Conference website, including details for the presentations on Saturday and Sunday (August 13th and 14th). And, until July 10th, you can reserve a place at the conference at the “Early Bird” special rate, a substantial discount off of the full rate. But you have to hurry - the 10th is the absolute deadline for this. After the 10th, you will need to pay the full conference fee.
This is high-powered stuff folks! To my knowledge, this first day of the Space Elevator Conference is the first time, anywhere in the world, that a portion of a conference has been dedicated solely and only to the strength properties of carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Without a strong enough material, the entire idea of a Space Elevator is just an intellectual exercise, so we hope this will be the first in a succession of such gatherings.
I would be remiss in not mentioning that the speakers from the University of Cincinnati and Rice University are attending the conference through the courtesy of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC). This is just another way in which we are working to make this dream a reality and shows you what your membership dollars go for.
Only 36 days to go - I hope to see you all at the Conference!
July 6th, 2011
If you take a look at the latest issue (July, 2011) of the National Geographic Magazine, you will find a short, 2-page article about the Space Elevator, complete with a custom-drawn, concept diagram.
A few of us (Ben Shelef, Dr. Peter Swan and myself) have been working with the National Geographic team over the past several weeks to try and make this drawing and the explanation of it as technically accurate as possible. Andy Petro of NASA, the Space Elevator Games (Centennial Challenge) and the Space Elevator Conference were also mentioned.
National Geographic was kind enough to give credit to the 3 of us and the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), so the word about the Space Elevator and ISEC continues to spread…
You can also view an interactive version of the article online here.
National Geographic! Way cool…
June 16th, 2011
The first European Space Elevator Games (EuSEC) website now has a page devoted to the teams who will be participating.
It’s good to see our friends from ETC (Earth-Track-Controllers) involved in this competition. They were great competitors and great sports at the 2007 Games held near Salt Lake city.
A total of 8 teams are listed. The ‘usual suspects’ are included (Japan, US, Germany), but there are also teams from the UK, Iran and Macedonia! Truly, the whole idea of “Space Elevator Games” is now becoming a much more international endeavor…
June 5th, 2011
A few updates for you…
Over at Marc Boucher’s Space Elevator Reference (THE original Space Elevator website), Marc tells us that “The European Spaceward Association has made available a summary report from the recent 4th Luxembourg Carbon Nanotechnology and Space Elevator Systems as well as the book of abstracts.“ Full details and links can be found at his posting here.
A new book (Triads, The Gradient Stone) themed around a Space Elevator is now available. From the abstract;
The Gradient Stone, an unidentifiable purple comet, collides with the space elevator creating the first disaster of spacetime mankind has ever faced, what’s even worse is that the hero Alex also seems to be the cause. The greatest military killers are converging at the world’s first space elevator to form a new branch of military; Primary Resistance and Offensive Tactical Officer’s or PROTO’s are interplanetary paratroopers who possess not only the most advanced weapons and black ops technology but who rely on the ability to kill without emotion. This story follows the cocky and quick-tempered Alex Amador who is intrigued by the calm and collected Evelyn Artwright as they struggle to uncover the reasons why strange global events seem to be centered around Alex and his 19th century relative.
It’s available, it seems, only in Kindle eBook format for $.99. You can learn more about it here and buy it directly from Amazon here.
Mr. Uche Ogbuji (follow his Tweets at @uogbuji) Tweets that “Also I’m honored my poem “Sendai Space Elevator” will appear in the “New Sun Rising” anthology to benefit Japan http://booksthathelp.org/. From the website:
On March 11, 2011 a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the north of Japan. In the wake of one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in the history of Japan, a state of nuclear emergency was declared, forcing the evacuation of thousands more.
The world watched, stunned.
We wanted to help. Just giving money didn’t seem like enough.
The idea for New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan was born.
Thanks to your overwhelming generosity, we’ve received amazing stories, poems, and art from around the world. Enough for half a dozen books.
Right now, we’re going through all the wonderful work you’ve sent, making some really difficult decisions. And we’re really excited about how amazing this book is going to be.
And we’re going to give one hundred percent of the proceeds to the Red Cross to aid the relief effort in Japan.
This sounds like a very cool project.
On a related note, I had previously blogged that there was now a Space Elevator app for the iPad. The author of the app, Mr. Shigeo Saito sent me this update about it:
As you pointed out, this digital book is a revised version of the one you saw two years ago. I added 4 pages of writing to the old one, changed all of background illustration and attached a movie file of the SE-technology competition held in Japan 2009.
This “Pocketbook” is a digest for beginners who will learn about the Space Elevator for the first time. I hope this book will become a help in this topic for them.
As you know, a big earthquakes hit our country last week. This digital book was released the day after the earthquakes happened. So I am going to pay some part of my profit of this book as contribution.
So, you can purchase this cool app and help out Japan at the same time. Thanks Saito-san!
May 22nd, 2011
In the may Space Energy News eNewsletter, it references a January, 2011 article in the Japan newspaper Daily Yomiuri Online. It talks about an experiment testing the feasibility of space-based solar power generation;
The technology would start by generating electricity from sunlight in space, convert the power into microwaves and then send it to Earth, the team said. The planned test will attempt to convert a strong electric current into microwaves and transmit them 10 meters away in a simulated outer space environment at Kyoto University.
I have blogged before about my skepticism about this technology. I have no doubts that it is technically feasible. No real scientific breakthroughs need to occur in order to have some sort of demonstration project set up. But I am very doubtful about this being used to generate a significant portion of the world’s energy needs - the amount of energy we use is just too vast. I think I calculated once that it would take solar satellites with the combined area of the country of India beaming down to an area the size of Italy, just to keep up with the forecasted increase in our energy demand. The problem is just one of sheer bulk - an awful, awful lot of material would have to be put into geosynchronous orbit (and then maintained, perhaps an even bigger problem).
But, hope springs eternal. Japan is certainly the ideal testing place. They are a skilled, patient people, very technologically advanced and, with a falling birth rate (which, along with being more energy efficient, could translate to an actual drop in their energy needs).
I am waiting for the day when any proponent of space-based solar power actually ‘runs the numbers’ and states how much material (weight and size) will need to be launched into GEO to generate a significant amount of power - they seem to avoid this exercise…
No matter how efficient the energy gathering / transmission mechanism eventually is, the enormous amount of material to be launched into space to build such a system will demand a commercial earth-to-space transportation system, and that means a space elevator. If you’re a fan of commercially available space-based solar power, you HAVE to hope that a Space Elevator is technically feasible.
On the treehugger.com website (yes, this is a real website), they allude to this by saying;
The next step will be figuring out how to reduce the cost of putting all that material in space. This will probably mean cheaper and more efficient launchers, but also lighter solar panels and equipment.
Space Elevator, space elevator, space elevator…
May 18th, 2011
The Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) has announced the JSETEC2011 competition, to be held August 4th through the 8th.
Details can be found on the announcement webpage. If, you’re like me and cannot read Japanese, open the page in Google Chrome and translate it to your language of choice.
This is the third JSETEC (Japan Space Elevator Technical & Engineering Competition) event and I’m sure it will be the best, most ambitious one yet. Among other changes, they are increasing the height of the climb from 300m to 600m!
In February, I had blogged about this competition, and included some videos that Mr. Shuichi Ohno, president of JSEA had sent me.
Congratulations JSEA - we look forward to an exciting event!
(Hat tip to reader Darren Coste for alerting me to this - thanks Darren!)
May 17th, 2011
Here’s an animation that just showed up in my FeedDemon reader - 8 animals riding on a Space Elevator, part of a United Nations project:
“The Animal Conference on the Environment” multimedia project was launched in 1997 during the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Kyoto, Japan. The project includes children’s picture books promoting environmental awareness, and short animation video clips.
One of these videos (episode 5 - ‘With Love from Space’) has 8 animals (each one from a different country) taking a ride on a Space Elevator up to a Space Station. The details they specified about the Space Elevator are correct (at least according to current thinking). The tether (they call it a cable) is reeled outward (upwards and downwards) from GEO, the Base Station has an ocean location and , when the animals fail to get off at the first space station, it will take “days” to reach the next one (i.e. they have the Climber speed at the proper scale).
The video doesn’t give credit as to actually produced it, but I suspect the Japanese as many of the sites (one here) this video has been discussed at are Japanese, the conference kicking off the project was in Japan and when you Google this video, you find many of the titles / explanations in both English and Japanese. Anyway, I thought it was cute…
May 14th, 2011
A couple of updates for you;
First the upcoming Space Elevator Conference (you are attending, aren’t you?) will be holding a new event; RoboQuest.
This one-day event, Saturday, August 13, also held at the Microsoft Conference Center, will provide an opportunity for young people to learn more about the Space Elevator. Although details have not yet been finalized, we’re planning on having a robotics challenge for middle and high school students, demonstrations of FIRST Tech Challenge robots on a competition field and a LEGO Build Zone for kids of all ages to engineer their own space-faring vehicle.
For more details, check out the Conference eNewsletter.
Second, Brian Turner of the Kansas City Space Pirates let me know that he found out some more information about a YouTube video I had linked to a few days ago. I didn’t know where the video had come from, but thanks to Brian’s sleuthing, I know now that this elevator climber is the product of three guys from the Afeka Tel Aviv Academic College of Engineering. You can read more about them here.
May 12th, 2011
A couple of new Space Elevator items from Japan are in the news.
First is a pre-announcement of LASER2011, the annual student competition held by the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA). This is the third (or fourth?) such competition. No exact date has been set, but JSEA states that it will be at “the end of October”. Details can be found here (note that this page is in Japanese - you can open the page in Google Chrome and translate it to English).
The second item is a video I found titled “Spinning Carbon Nanotubes for the Space Elevator and Industrial Applications“. This appears to be narrated by Professor Yoku Inoue - team lead for a competitor in the 2009 Strong Tether Competition (I blogged about his entry here). Professor Inoue and his team hailed from Shizuoka university in Japan. Professor Inoue has been invited to compete again this year and I sincerely hope he does.
What’s interesting here (to me anyway) is that the CNT’s are being pulled out/off of the CNT ‘forest’ in a wide array. It’s nearly transparent as you can see. When I watched CNT’s being pulled out/off a CNT ‘forest’ at the University of Cincinnati labs, they pulled them off as a very thin thread - traveling from one of the ‘forest’ and back again. In both cases, it is just the Van der Walls force that is holding the CNTs together…
May 11th, 2011
Two more Space Elevator themed videos I’ve found on YouTube…
The first is an interview with Jason from Team Skyhook. I think they were going to compete in the initial Power Beaming competition, but as I wasn’t there, I’m not sure. The video is recent (April of this year) and talks about an Engineering Expo last year and the SPACE ELEVATOR PROGRAM at the University of Idaho. Really? A program dedicated to this? I will be sending him an email, for sure. The video is basically a promo piece for the University…
And the other video I have for you today is one from (I think) Israel. I think this is a beam-powered climber, but I’m not sure. It’s about a year old.
It’s amazing how many videos are on YouTube that are found by using the term Space Elevator but are not really related to what we’re interested in…
May 9th, 2011
Some new videos about Space Elevators have shown up on YouTube.
The first appears to be from a German Television show. As I don’t speak German, I don’t know how accurate the presentation was but their graphic did show a Space Elevator taking off from a land-base, probably something that is not going to happen (the Base station will probably be based at sea). Most of the video centered around the German team that participated in the Japan Space Elevator Games.
This second video is very interesting (IMHO). Anyone who was at the Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington last year got to meet Space Elevator inventor Yuri Artsutanov and his interpreter, Eugene Schlusser. Eugene visited Yuri in Russia and enlisted his help in trying to find his (Eugene’s) Uncle’s grave. Eugene had this to say about the trip:
We did find my uncle’s grave the next day! He died there in 1943 in the war. This was the first time I had met Yuri, through my cousin Natalie Sherman.
She thought it was not safe for me to travel alone in these remote parts of Russia so Yuri was my well informed chaperon and delightful companion.
It’s interesting to see what the reaction is to Yuri from some of the people they ran into during the search…
May 8th, 2011
In order to accommodate some additional teams, the date of the first annual European Space Elevator Challenge (EuSEC) has been moved from June to August 19-21 (with a backup date of August 26-28).
Several teams have signed up including entries from England, Germany, Japan, Macedonia and Iran! In addition to the Games themselves, there will be other presentations at the competition including;
- 30m long Carbon Nanotube rope presented by the Cambridge Carbon Nanotechnology Society
- The SpaceShaft” presented by Nelson Semino
- An alternative concept for the Space Elevator presented by Anulekh Chauhan via Skype
A 30 m long Carbon Nanotube rope? I hope they take pictures! Anyway, this sounds like it is shaping up to be an awesome event. More details about it can be found on their website.
May 2nd, 2011
After over a year of work, ISEC is now officially recognized by the IRS as a 501c3 Corporation. What this means is that memberships in ISEC are now fully tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. And, it is retroactive to our corporate ’start date’ (November 8th, 2008) so any and all contributions you made before are also deductible.
So, now you have NO EXCUSES for not joining ISEC!!
Seriously, if you have not become a member of ISEC, now is a great time to do so. Membership donations are the lifeblood of any volunteer group and ours is no exception.
We have a very full schedule this year. The first ISEC Report has been released, work is continuing on the 2011 ISEC Poster, the first ISEC Journal should be released in the next couple of weeks, we’re co-sponsors of the upcoming 2011 Space Elevator Conference, etc. We’ve also improved ’structurally’. We now have a ‘dot org’ web presence, we’ve welcomed a new Board Member and we are now officially a 501c3 Corporation.
Please consider joining ISEC. A professional membership is only $68 and will go a long way in helping us push forward this most magnificent concept - thank you!
April 17th, 2011
Once again, all together now;
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Space Elevator Blog!
Happy birthday to you!
Kind of hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for the past five years. The number of posts I’ve put up has declined somewhat, but, conversely my involvement with the Space Elevator effort has been increasing. Being President of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) has taken up more and more of my time… In keeping with my tradition of writing an ‘anniversary post’ (first year summary, second year summary, third year summary and fourth year summary), the following is a list of, IMHO, the more significant happenings in the past 12 months that I was privileged to cover:
Easily the number one highlight in the past 12 mohths was meeting Yuri Arsutanov at the 2010 Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington. I’m very proud that ISEC played the lead role in getting him (and Jerome Pearson) to attend the Conference. We’ve also been given permission to name our annual prizes after Yuri and Jerome and for that we are very proud and grateful. Hopefully we’ll be able to award one or both of them this year.
I would put the Space Elevator Conference and the EuroSpaceward Conference as a tie for “number two” on my highlight list for the past 12 months. The Space Elevator Conference had, for the first time I can remember, ONLY Space Elevator content - nothing about other launch systems or other non-related topics. I have nothing against “Loftstrum Loops” and other non-rocket alternatives, but I continue to think that the only one which could be viable someday is the Elevator system. The EuroSpaceward Conference was also outstanding - with the first day being targeted towards developments in the carbon nanotube arena. At this year’s Space Elevator conference we’re hopefully going to go one-better by having one day (Friday, August 12th) targeted solely towards developments in carbon nanotubes as related to strong tethers. There are many other research efforts going on with carbon nanotubes, but of course the potential strength of this material is what we’re all waiting for as fast as we can.
Third on my list would be ISEC’s release of its first ISEC Report - this one headed up by Dr. Peter Swan and focusing on Space Elevator Survivability - Space Debris Mitigation. It’s our first report and one we’re very proud of. Dr. Swan and his team did a great job with this.
Fourth on my list would be the Strong Tether competition, held last year at the Space Elevator Conference. There were two carbon nanotube entries and one carbon nanotube “hybrid” entry, the first time that entries made out of this material have been the only competitors. This competition would have rated higher on my “highlight list” had the Tethers performed any better. I’m hopeful we’ll see much stronger competition this year at the Space Elevator Conference (the competition is being held on Friday, August 12th, as part of the “Strong Tether” day).
Other highlights for the past 12 months include ISEC’s new website, the Japanese Space Elevator Association’s JSETEC and LASER ‘10 competitions and third annual conference, the awarding of two “Honorable Mentions” for the 2010 Artsutanov prize (here and here), the “Closure Party” for the Kansas City Space Pirates (as sad as that was), the release of the 2009 and 2010 ISEC Posters, the release of a Space Elevator app for the iPad, the strengthening of the ISEC team with Ben Jarrell (Legal Pillar lead), Matt Gjertsen (Public Outreach Pillar lead) and Skip Penny (Board of Directors) joining us and, finally, the continual amusement provided to all of us by the guys over at Elevator2Space.com.
What will the next 12 months bring? Well, ISEC should be releasing its first Journal in the next month or so. In addition, we should see the release of the 2011 ISEC Poster, the second ISEC Report (this one on strong tethers) and the first Space Elevator Concept of Operations report. Also upcoming are the 2011 Space Elevator Conference and Strong Tether Challenge, the 2011 EuroSpaceward and JSEA conferences, the first European Space Elevator Challenge (EuSEC), the 2011-2012 JSETEC and LASER competitions hosted by JSEA and some other stuff which I probably can’t even imagine right now.
If you want to get involved, join ISEC! We are helping to push this magnificent concept forward, but we can only go as far as our member donations let us. We need you - we need your membership donations - we need your enthusiasm and ideas.
April 2nd, 2011
One of the activities we have going on right now at the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is defining how the thing is actually going to work - with the most detail we can get. This “Concept of Operations” will then be used to drive Business Plans, plans that can show if/how a Space Elevator can be profitable.
We are now debating several different issues, one of them being will we or will we not have a Space Station attached to the Space Elevator somewhere in LEO? Of course we would like one, but there is a weight penalty that must be paid if we have it. It’s yet to be determined whether this is feasible or not.
What would we do with a Space Station? Well, Space Tourism is the obvious example, but another opportunity has just been brought to my attention.
If you’re Poker fans (like me), you are aware of the many tournaments held each year world-wide. I think a LEO Space Station would be an ideal location for yet another tournament - we could come with all sorts of interesting names for it (which I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader). And, it seems, that we won’t be the first location off-earth that will host a Poker event. CardsChat.com (along with Virgin Galactic) has come up with the outstanding idea of a Poker match between Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu - two of the top (if not the top) Holdem Poker players in the world (and now out of the world) today.
Read more about it here.
April 1st, 2011
For the very first (and, hopefully, only) time, I’m sorry I’m not an Apple guy. The Japan Space Elevator Association has just released a Space Elevator app for the iPAD. The graphic shown in the picture is the cover of a booklet that Mr. Shigeo Saito of the JSEA wrote & released a year or two ago (I have a copy somewhere, but can’t lay my hands on it at the moment).
The URL describing it doesn’t say much about the app other than “…can watch a movie of the Japan Space Elevator technology competition 2009…”.
This is bittersweet news for me. I’ve been working on my own SE app - this for the Android and some other tablets, but the JSEA beat me to it. Congratulations Shigeo Saito & JSEA and if anyone wants to spend the 99 cents for it and play it on their iPAD, please write me up a quick review that I can post here and share with everyone…
March 14th, 2011
A couple of months ago, I posted (here and here) about the upcoming European Space Elevator Games (EuSEC). This post is just a reminder that registration is still open for teams who would like to compete in this competition.
On Saturday, March 12th, at 10:00 CET (09:00 UTC, 04:00 (4 am) EST, 01:00 (1am) PST, 18:00 (6 pm) JST) the game organizers will be holding a Skype conference call to answer any questions about the Games. Tim Wiese, the Team Coordinator, will be hosting the call. Just place a call (again, via Skype) to “eusec.warr” to be included in the call.
If you’re even just considering entering this competition, I would highly recommend that you attend this conference call to answer any questions you might have.
March 11th, 2011
There is a new blog out there that I would like to inform all of my reader’s about - “The Engineer’s Pulse“. It is authored by Stephen Cohen.
Stephen Cohen, earned his Bachelor’s (2004) and Master’s (2006) Degrees in Mechanical Engineering at McGill University. His thesis describes the dynamics of a space elevator, and he has published several scientific papers on the topic. He worked at MDA Space as a Structural Engineer, where he helped to design space antenna payloads to survive the rigours of space launch and the orbital environment.
Stephen presented a paper on tether dynamics at the 2009 Space Elevator Conference, a paper that was well done and was very well received.
Recently, Stephen submitted an article for our upcoming ISEC Journal. The article was rejected, sadly, not because it was poorly done or anything like that, but because it was “too general”. However, Stephen has recently posted this article, “The Space Elevator: Past, Present, Future” on his website and I highly recommend both it and his blog in general.
March 8th, 2011
In a recent post on the Space Travel Exploration and Tourism website, the author(s) talk about the Space Elevator and bring up several potential problems.
The first one is the lack of a material strong enough and of course this is true. As we all know, however, this problem is being worked on by an ever-growing body of scientists and engineers.
The article also says that “laser-power-transfer systems have never been built“. The authors are clearly unaware of the NASA-Spaceward Space Elevator Games - Climber / Power Beaming competitions where several teams have built precisely this type of system. Yes, they are small and essentially prototypes, but they show the concept works and a little birdie has told me that the next Power Beaming competition will be even more ambitious. Also, there is at least one company (LaserMotive) that is now in business to provide precisely this type of product.
They also bring up the problem of Space Debris - perhaps I should send them a copy of the recently released ISEC Report on the topic (which concludes that this is a solvable engineering problem).
Finally they bring up the issue of what happens ‘when the cable breaks’ - they say you certainly wouldn’t want to be under it when that happens. Let’s remember that the tether will be shaped as a ribbon for the great majority of its length (the length outside of the atmosphere). This will not ‘fall’ to earth, but rather ‘float’ to earth. It will almost certainly be winched in while it is fluttering down. Messy, yes. A disaster for those underneath it, no.
Finally they say that “Heights of up to 65,000 km have been suggested.” Actually, the working model is 100,000km in height, not 65,000 km.
Publicity is almost always good of course, but at some point I hope that people will do a bit of research about the current ’state-of-the-art’ of the Space Elevator before writing about it.
March 3rd, 2011
It’s very nice to see the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) get a mention in a non-English publication.
In the online article, “Un ascenseur spatial pour remplacer la navette” (A space elevator to replace the shuttle), we read that, according to ISEC, “…each kilogram into orbit returns to a few tens of dollars, against 20 000 for a launch with an Ariane rocket or Titan. This is the google translation of the original French. I’m not sure where the author got that information from - we haven’t made that promise, but perhaps there was an error in the translation.
Also, no mention of Yuri Artsutanov or Jerome Pearson, the real intellectual fathers of the Space Elevator.
But these are minor quibbles - in general the article seemed to be well-written and did mention the upcoming Space Elevator Conference.
March 1st, 2011
Previously, I had blogged about the 2011 Space Elevator Conference, but now the Official Announcement and Call for Papers has been released. You can access it here.
This year’s conference will concentrate a large portion of its schedule on materials research - where are we at with the subject of ‘Strong Tethers’ and what can we look forward to? In addition to Space Elevator enthusiasts, the Conference organizers are working to encourage carbon nanotube materials researchers to attend and present papers on their subject expertise. This is something that the EuroSpaceward conference did in 2010 with great success and we want to continue this collaboration at this year’s Space Elevator Conference.
Incidentally, potential authors of Space-Elevator related papers now have three venues they can use to get their papers published. They can submit them to the Space Elevator Conference, they can submit them for the Artsutanov and Pearson prize (if the subject matter is on Tether Strength) and they can submit them to the ISEC Journal.
Each outlet has its own criteria, but all of them encourage beginning and experienced authors to submit their papers for review and possible inclusion.
So, getting back to the Space Elevator Conference, I encourage all of you who have an interest in this most-magnificent of all engineering projects to reserve August 11th-14th and plan on attending. It promises to be an exciting conference - see you there!
February 28th, 2011
This video is several years old, but I don’t think I’ve linked to it before on the blog. It is a 5+ minute long presentation, narrated by the astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson. It gives a very quick overview of carbon nanotubes and how they are grown in a furnace (and then pulled off to longer lengths) and then talks about the 2007 Space Elevator Games - Climber / Power-Beaming competition held near Salt Lake City, Utah.
It’s a bit depressing to realize that the state of the art in growing long, strong nanotubes hasn’t advanced that much in the last few years, but we have every reason to hope that is now starting to change. The upcoming Space Elevator competition - Strong Tether challenge looks like it is going to have its strongest field of contenders yet.
28Feb2011 Update - As noted in the Comments by Brian Turner, the ‘original’ version of this video can be accessed at the PBS website here. There are also links to other Space Elevator related broadcasts and videos and webpages that have more information about the Space Elevator. Thanks Brian!
February 26th, 2011
Yes, even on a Space Elevator…
February 23rd, 2011
ISEC is very pleased to announce that Robert “Skip” Penny has joined its Board of Directors effective immediately. A brief bio:
Robert E. “Skip” Penny, Jr. graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1970 with a Bachlor of Science degree. Over his 20 year Air Force career, he held a breadth of command and staff positions in NORAD/ADCOM, Air Force Space Command, US Space Command, and Air Force Technical Applications Center retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Upon retirement in 1990, he joined Motorola on the Iridium satellite program. As a System Engineer, he initially provided operations input to the early Iridium system design including authorship of the Iridium System Operations Concept and the Control Segment Operations Concept. He was a key contributor to initial release and multiple updates to A level specifications and segment interface control documents. He generated multiple Iridium Technical Notes on operations related functions including a probability of collision assessment with recommendations for debris mitigation.
In 2000, he went to work for General Dynamics as Senior System Engineer. He was Network and Communications Integrated Product Team Lead for General Dynamics-Lockheed Martin GPS III System Engineering and Integration Team. He was responsible for system and segment level requirements and resulting design of GPS III’s network of ground and space nodes including crosslinks.
Skip has a Master of Science degree from the US Air Force Institute of Technology. His Masters thesis was a computer simulation that predicted the probability of collision for the US Space Shuttle using a methodology that has since been adopted by AIAA, and many space operators. He also has a Master of Arts in Procurement Management from Webster College.
Skip has a long-time interest in the Space Elevator and was a co-author, along with Peter and Cathy Swan of the just released ISEC Report on Space Elevator Survivability - Space Debris Mitigation.
Skip’s initial focus with ISEC is going to be on designing a plausible Operations Scenario for a Space Elevator system. To date, this has not been done and it is the crucial first step to satisfy one of our goals for 2011, coming up with a cost of Operations for a Space Elevator. There have been several estimates generated for the cost of BUILDING a Space Elevator but none, to my knowledge, for MAINTAINING and OPERATING a Space Elevator system. These costs will, over time, almost certainly far exceed the initial construction costs.
No justification exists (again, to my knowledge) for the oft-repeated statement that shipping cargo to space will be cheaper via a Space Elevator than via rockets. I think we all feel that this is almost certainly true, but no one is going to build one unless they can have a handle on the actual costs. And no one can estimate how much such a system costs unless they can first have a plausible, detailed scenario on how such a system might be run. There are literally hundreds of questions which must be answered and now we have someone on board who has the interest and skills necessary to answer these questions.
More will be posted soon on how Skip plans to go about this; which scenario he is going to adopt, what tools he is going to use to generate costs, how he can make it a collaborative effort, etc.
In the meantime, we’re very excited to have him on our Board of Directors. Welcome Skip - we’re very glad you’re here!
(Skip is pictured here at last year’s Space Elevator Conference, held at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington. Click on the picture thumbnail to see a full-size version of the picture).
February 20th, 2011
I am very happy to announce that the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) has released its first ISEC Report (formerly known as ISEC Red Team Studies). In our first strategic plan (2010), we set out a goal of releasing a report every year addressing the ISEC Theme for the year. In 2010, our theme was “Space Elevator Survivability - Space Debris Mitigation” and this is the title of our first ISEC Report.
The report was co-authored by Peter Swan (a Director and Vice-President at ISEC), Peter’s wife Cathy Swan and Robert “Skip” Penny. The front cover design was done by ISEC’s own Graphic Artist Frank Chase and modeled after the 2010 ISEC Poster. I just received a copy of it and I am very impressed with the quality of both the writing and the presentation of the book. It’s in 6×9 soft-cover format,
From the summary:
The International Space Elevator Consortium has placed this position paper as a recognition that the space debris problem is an engineering one and can be mitigated. The question: “Will space debris be a show stopper for space elevators?” is answered emphatically. NO! The mitigation concepts presented change the issue from a perceived problem to an engineering concern; but, by no means is it a significant threat. This pamphlet illustrates how the development office for a future space elevator can attack this problem, predict probabilities of collision, and convert the concern into another manageable engineering problem.
You can purchase this book at Lulu.com for $14.50.
Thank you Peter, Cathy and Skip!
February 16th, 2011
And, while I’ve been not up-to-date in my blogging lately, our intrepid explorers have posted 3 of their latest adventures.
In the first, we get a belated Christmas wish…
In this next snippit, we see proof that one cannot escape ‘civilization’, even on a Space Elevator…
And finally, we have a band concert that is truly Grunge…
I hope they have a special Valentine’s Day adventure coming up…
February 14th, 2011
Shuichi Ohno, the president of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) sent me an email with some links to videos put on YouTube. These videos show some of the preparation work underway for the third annual Japan Space Elevator Technical & Engineering Competition (JSETEC) to be held in August of this year.
These three videos (shot in HD, no less) show three different Climbers ascending / descending a 28m long tether. All of these Climbers are battery powered, so a comparison to the beam-powered Climbers used in the Space Elevator Games is not really valid, but the ‘middle Climber’ zips up to the top with a speed of nearly 5m/second - very impressive.
I blogged about their 2010 competition here and their 2009 competition here. I’m sure their 2011 competition is going to be the best one yet.
February 12th, 2011
In 2010, ISEC announced the Yuri Artsutanov & Jerome Pearson prizes, prizes established to foster research into Space Elevator related topics. There were no winners in 2010, though we had two papers that qualified for Honorable Mentions in the Artsutanov Prize.
The Pearson Prize, sponsored by the Leeward Space Foundation, is open to all Undergraduate students. The Artsutanov Prize, sponsored by the Space Elevator Blog, is open to everyone (ISEC Directors and Officers excepted).
ISEC is very pleased to announce the 2011 Artsutanov & Pearson prizes. Unlike 2010, where eligible papers for the Pearson prize had to be on the Yearly ISEC Theme while papers for the Artsutanov prize could be on any Space Elevator subject, for 2011, papers for both competitions must address the 2011 ISEC Theme. This theme is “Developing stronger, lighter tethers - 30 MYuris or bust!“. The specific topic papers for both competitions must address is:
The biggest hurdle on the way to building a Space Elevator is constructing a tether that is strong enough and light enough. We estimate that a tether with a minimum strength of 30 MYuris1 will be sufficient to construct the Space Elevator and ISEC wishes to promote research and thought targeted towards this goal. Therefore, the 2011 Artsutanov and Pearson prizes will both be awarded for the papers that make the most significant contribution towards a 30 MYuri tether.
Now, we don’t actually expect anyone to submit a paper which shows us how to make a 30MYuri tether (though we will all be thrilled if this actually happens), but the paper must be a serious effort to advance the state of the art in this area. Consequently, we expect people like chemists, physicists, materials engineers, etc., to submit papers on growing longer, stronger carbon nanotubes. Other people may submit papers on turning these tubes into stronger threads. Or perhaps the specific topic of a paper might be on how to use composites to make the overall tether stronger. In any case, the paper must advance our understanding of how we can get closer to constructing a 30 MYuri tether.
Questions about the competition may be answered on the ISEC website. You may also email the prize committee at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and the competition chair will get back to you promptly with answers to any of your specific questions.
One final note - though both prizes are going to be awarded for papers on the same theme, eligible contestants for the Pearson prize MUST be currently enrolled in a 2 or 4 year accredited undergraduate program. Papers in the two competitions will be judged separately - they will not compete against each other.
There is a $1,500 cash award for the Pearson prize and a $2,500 award for the Artsutanov prize, so get those thinking caps on! And, if you know of anyone who may not be a reader of this blog and might be interested in entering a paper, please let them know about the competition.
February 6th, 2011
I’ve gotten way behind in my blogging - there’s a lot to announce, so I’ve got plenty to blog about over the next several weeks.
First up is the 2011 Space Elevator Conference. This is now ‘officially on’ for August 12-14 (with a public presentation on the night of August 11) at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington - the location of the last several Space Elevator Conferences.
I am on the planning committee and I can tell you that we are way head of last year (and previous years) in planning for the conference - and it promises to be the best one yet.
The Theme of the conference is going to be the 2011 ISEC Theme; “Developing stronger, lighter tethers - 30MYuri or bust!” (more about the theme in an upcoming post). Because of this, we hope to attract a crowd of nanotube researchers as well as the more ‘traditional’ space elevator people (if you can use the words ‘traditional’ and ’space elevator’ in the same sentence ☺).
More details will be announced soon on the official website of the conference (www.spaceelevatorconference.org). If you’re interested in space elevators and/or interested in ultra-strong tether technology, this will be a conference you won’t want to miss.
See you there!
January 27th, 2011
In a December 27th posting on inhabitat.com, the statement was made that “…NASA has pledged $3 million over the next five years to research the idea and is working on scale models…”.
No reference to any specific NASA program was made, but my guess is that the author, Mr. Timon Singh, is referring to the $3 million still to be awarded by NASA in the Space Elevator Games. I’ve emailed him to confirm and will post his response.
The article is also interesting in pointing out that Dr. Mark Miodownik, a materials scientist from Kings College in England announced a “new proposal”, creating a Space Elevator from Carbon Nanotubes. Leaving aside the fact that this is not a new idea at all, it is cool that this idea was supposedly delivered at the Royal Institutions Christmas Lecture, set to be broadcast on BBC4 at the end of the month.
I have also emailed Dr. Miodownik, asking for more details about the lecture and broadcast and will post them if/when I receive them.
The article has been, in various forms, picked up in several blogs / sites around the ‘net. The source is apparently an article in 12/26/2010 issue of The Sunday Times which one needs a subscription to access.
December 29th, 2010