BEST Competition - getting ready for Day 1

There is never an opportune time to get sick, but here I am, with a cold, at the South’s regional BEST competitionin Auburn, Alabama.  I’ve been very fortunate to have traveled to many, many places, both inside and outside the US, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to Alabama.  Last night was my first experience with Chick-Fil-A and, I must say, the sandwich lived up to the hype.

I’m staying at a Best Western hotel in Opelika and at breakfast this morning, there were a lot of teams/team members there - very neat to see…

Competition doesn’t begin until 5pm today at the Auburn Arena.  The time prior to that is setup and preparation and I’m looking forward to wandering around the arena, introducing myself (as much as my sore throat will let me), taking pictures and, in general, just soaking up the competition atmosphere.

Gonna be fun!

(The picture thumbnail is of team #408, in the hotel parking lot, getting a last-minute briefing from one of the adult members.  Click on the thumbnail for a full-size picture.)

Add comment December 1st, 2012

ISEC co-sponsors this year’s BEST Competition

The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is co-sponsoring one of the regional BEST competitions this year, the one held in Auburn, Alabama on December 1st and 2nd of this year.

From Wikipedia:

BEST, Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology, is a national 6-week robotics competition in the United States held each fall, designed to help interest middle school and high school students in possible engineering careers…BEST encourages its teams to follow an engineering process, similar to the engineering process used in many engineering jobs. This gives students a taste of what they may have to do in future engineering jobs. It also hopes to get students excited about the field of engineering and more likely to go into it. Although BEST has not been able to keep up with alumni to see if BEST has had an effect on their career path, similar robotics competitions, like FIRST, show that activities like BEST do have a higher rate of students going into science and engineering related fields.

This year’s competition is entitled Warp XX and consists of designing Tether Climbers.  I’m going to be attending the competition, taking photos, passing out ISEC ‘goodies’ and talking up the idea of a Space Elevator.

It should be a lot of fun and I look forward to attending and blogging this event.

1 comment November 25th, 2012

Announcing the 2013 Space Elevator Conference dates and venue!

It’s official - the 2013 ISEC Space Elevator Conference will be held on August 23rd, 24th and 25th, 2013 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

This is the same place as the 2012 Conference was held at and it is a truly fine venue for an event such as ours.

Planning is already underway and more details will be coming soon.

Mark your calendars and save the date!

Add comment November 21st, 2012

Updates from the Kansas City Space Pirates

I’m a bit behind posting this - the October updates from our friends in Kansas City.  Brian Turner, captain and fearless leader of KCSP writes the following:

The laser power supply was fixed under warranty. Lumina power seems to have given me a generous benefit of the doubt about the failure.

I have reinstalled it and everything is testing out fine.

We have lost some momentum. At this point we are just working on power beaming in our spare time.

But in our spare time we have managed to get full control of the quadcopter via our LabVIEW programing environment. This allows us to “close the loop” between the tracking, and laser control systems. Something we would have had to do manually before. I also have improved quadcopter flight stability while hauling the solar panel.

You might wonder why this is taking us so long when Lasermotive pulled it off in about 3 months. The answer is time and money. They had at least 2 full time employees working on it and up to 4 kilowatts of laser power targeted at thousands of dollars of photovoltaic cells. We are limited by having far less laser power and much less expensive photovoltaic cells. If we do nothing but match their performance we will have substantially improved the state of the art from a price/performance point of view.

So… Watch this space.

Brian Turner
KC Space Pirates

It’s good to see that even without the NASA prize money available anymore, Brian and the KCSP continue to plug away…

1 comment November 13th, 2012

First pictures from the 2012 European Space Elevator Competition (EUSPEC)

A couple of weekends ago, the second annual European Space Elevator Competition (EUSPEC) was held.  ISEC’s own Martin Lades attended this event and has been able to send me some preliminary pictures and information.  Winter has arrived early in Europe this year and Martin reports that the first climb was held in the snow!  Martin reports:

“The issue was of course the weather with rain and snow on the second day.  Picture attached. ~50m climb track.” This is the picture thumbnail in the upper left.

Martin also sent 3 other pictures (taken by Julius Hein) of the competitors enjoying the snow.

The competition was organized by TU Munich as EuSPEC, the WARR working group, one of the oldest university working groups in Germany, and Eurospaceward is a sponsor.

Official results coming soon…




Click on any of the picture thumbnails to see a full size picture.

Add comment November 10th, 2012

The Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) Blog

I just found out that Devin Jacobson, a member of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA), has been maintaining a blog entitled “JSEA Activities” (a name almost as unique as the one on this blog :).

Many of the posts are about Devin’s thoughts about space and the future and many of them are about activities at the JSEA.  For example, his current post talks about the recently completed JSETEC (Japan Space Elevator Technical and Engineering Competition).

I’ve put his blog into my RSS FeedReader and recommend you do the same…

3 comments October 20th, 2012


There is a new space elevator-themed short out now called Payload.  It’s nice to see the Space Elevator getting more publicity this way, but this short film is a real downer - it makes The Hunger Games look like It’s a Wonderful Life in comparison…

And, maybe it’s just me, but the opening shot of an ascending Space Elevator reminded me a little bit of the Kansas City Space Pirates and LaserMotive’s entries in the 2009 Space Elevator Games…

I’m also reminded of Brian Turner (the captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates) appearance on the Conan O’Brien show.  After Brian had described his vision of the highway system to outer space,  Conan remarked that “It will be filled with drifters, loners and prostitutes.

Gee, such optimism about the future.

(The picture thumbnail is of the LaserMotive climber during it’s prize-winning ascent in the 2009 SE Games, courtesy of NASA.  Click on it to see a full-size version of the picture).

1 comment October 17th, 2012

Brewster Rockit meets the Space Elevator

Yes, Brewster Rockit fans, your intrepid hero has now commented on the Space Elevator.

The joke is old (see here and here and elsewhere too, I’m sure), but he has the basic facts of a Space Elevator correct and the artwork is pretty good :)




Add comment October 15th, 2012

Meet ISEC’s new eNewsletter editor

I’m very pleased to announce that Yi-Jeng Huang, a resident of the Canada, has agreed to join ISEC as our new eNewsletter editor.

Yi-Jeng brings a lot of experience in creating and editing newsletters to the table as well as a passion for the Space Elevator.  He attended the recent Space Elevator conference and volunteered his services there.

With Yi-Jeng heading up the effort, I’m confident that ISEC’s eNewsletter will get better by orders of magnitude in the very near future.

Thank you Yi-Jeng and welcome aboard!

You can sign up for ISEC’s eNewsletters here.

(Click on the picture thumbnail to see a larger version of the picture.  Yi-Jeng can be reached at yi-jeng.huang [at]

1 comment October 8th, 2012


ISEC has a new social presence - and that is ISECdotORG!  Our Twitter Feed is ISECdotORG.  Our Flickr Photostream is ISECdotORG!  And our new Facebook page is ISECdotORG!

I’ll have more to write about ISEC’s new ‘face’ in the near future, but for now, please follow ISEC on Twitter at ISECdotORG and please “Like” us on Facebook at ISECdotORG!

Add comment October 4th, 2012

Space Elevator Conference photos now online

If you visit the ISEC Flickr Photostream, you can now see photos from last month’s Space Elevator Conference.  The Collection is divided up into various sets and all pictures are labeled.

The Museum of Flight was a very interesting and enjoyable venue for the Conference.  While the rooms weren’t as ‘fancy’ as the Microsoft Conference center was, they were quite nice and the Museum of Flight as a backdrop is nothing short of awesome.  As part of being involved in this whole Space Elevator effort, I’ve been fortunate to visit some really cool places, chief among them the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at the Edwards Air Force Base.  But the Museum of Flight ranks right up there - it truly is an amazing collection of flight-related exhibits.  And they continue to expand it - a new wing was under construction while we were there and, if we hold our Conference there next year, I very much look forward to visiting it.

We’re way behind on posting photos and we know it - we’ll have more up on this site soon…

(Picture thumbnail is one of the many, many WWII planes on exhibit at the Museum of Flight - they have a whole floor for this and another for WWI aircraft.  Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size picture.)

Add comment September 30th, 2012

NASA, the Space Elevator Challenges and the Kansas City Space Pirates

Over at one of the NASA websites, there is a very nice write-up about the Kansas City Space Pirates (KCSP) and how they performed in one of the NASA Centennial Challenges (the Power-Beaming competition).  You can read it here…  The captain of the KCSP team, Brian Turner, commented ‘We got some positive press on the actual NASA web site. Makes me want to shout ‘We’re number TWO!’

So, where are we now with the Space Elevator Games?  As NASA has not renewed its 5-year commitment to the Power Beaming and Strong Tether challenges, we in the Space Elevator community have to look to other sources to fund these competitions.

The Power-Beaming competition appears to be dormant at this time.  KCSP wanted to challenge LaserMotive’s unofficial endurance record, but this isn’t happening, at least not in the immediate future.

For the Strong Tether Challenge, however, the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) has pledged to find sponsorship money and host a Competition for 2013.  Finding a material strong enough to make a Tether is still the major problem and this is what we have to concentrate on.

You can bank on it - ISEC will sponsor a Strong Tether Challenge in 2013!

Add comment September 24th, 2012

Round-up of news coverage of the 2012 Space Elevator Conference

Here is a list of the majority of articles that covered the recently completed Space Elevator Conference.

Leading off is Alan Boyle’s Cosmic Log post.

A post from

A local (Seattle) Online news source, The SunBreak, had a story here.

David Appell posted his coverage of the conference at the online site of Scientific American (the graphics in this article were provided by ISEC’s graphic artist, Frank Chase).

The Conference was mentioned in the Economist article on Space Elevators.

Some pre-conference articles / announcements:

This one from the Atlantic.

An article from CBS Seattle.

Geekwire questions ISEC Director Bryan Laubscher here and posts another article about the conference here.

The Tukwila discusses the ‘upcoming’ conference here.

And finally, the Space Elevator Reference announced the conference here.

1 comment September 19th, 2012

ISEC’s new Twitter Feed

ISEC has a new Twitter feed and a new “social media identity” - ISEC.ORG (or ISECdotORG for those sources, such as Twitter, that have a problem with ‘the period’)!

As ISEC’s President, I pledge to send out Tweets on a regular basis, so please Follow us on Twitter at ISECdotORG!

I’ve just Tweeted about the Board of Director elections at the recent annual Board Meeting - check out the election results here.

Add comment September 15th, 2012

Deadlines approaching…

posted earlier about the LiftPort Kickstarter campaign; it has now raised over $96,000 - and there is only 11 hours to go (as of this post).  If you want to contribute towards the rebirth of LiftPort, here’s a tangible way to show your support!

And,  I also posted earlier about The Tower of Babel: NASA’s Great Endeavor, a new novel with a Space Elevator as a central theme.  The author, Dr. Victor Nelson had previously offered to donate any revenues he received from early August through the end of the just-completed space elevator conference to ISEC.  Dr. Nelson has now extended that offer to September 15th, so you still have a chance to buy the book and help ISEC.  Dr. Nelson also tells me he lives ”…near the Johnson Space Center and will be happy to sign the books for those who are in the area.”  Thank you Dr. Nelson!

Add comment September 12th, 2012

ISEC September, 2012 eNewsletter released

The current issue of the ISEC eNewsletter has been released.  This newsletter contains a wrap-up of the just-completed Space Elevator conference, a status update on LiftPort’s Kickstarter campaign (which has now raised over $85K - wow!) and a status update on the upcoming EuSPEC (EuroSpaceward’s annual Space Elevator competition).

You can see the eNewsletter by visiting the ISEC website here.

If you’re not already subscribed to the Newsletter, you can do so here and have it delivered directly to your Inbox.

Check it out!

Add comment September 11th, 2012

The Space Elevator Conference makes Scientific American

In the current online issue of Scientific American, science writer David Appell has a piece about the Space Elevator, the recent conference (photos & update coming soon, promise!), LiftPort, etc., etc., etc…

The graphic in the article is from the 2012 ISEC Poster (designed by Frank Chase - great job Frank!).

This is just the latest in a series of articles that David has written about the Space Elevator.  Other ones include:

Stairway to the heavens, Physics World, December 2011

Japanese construction firm unveils ambitious space-elevator vision, Physics World, April 2012, p. 8

Thanks David.

Add comment September 5th, 2012

LiftPort and Kickstarter…

As part of the “LiftPort 2.0″ relaunch, Michael Laine and company have created a Kickstarter campaign to finance some projects they want to do/accomplish.

Their initial goal was to raise $8K to finance some fairly low-grade experiments and they have totally blown by that (their campaign has raised over $60K at the time of this blog post - MOST impressive…).  This will allow them to fund some of their ’stretch’ goals which are much more ambitious undertakings.

I spent some time with Michael at the recent Space Elevator Conference (posts about this Conference are coming soon - promise!) and it was very good to interact with him again.  He’s a dynamic force in the community and I’m glad he’s back.

I’ve become a sponsor of the LiftPort KickStarter project (at the Video Channel level - I think it’s a great idea) and I encourage you to do the same (at any level).  There’s a lot we need to learn to make a Space Elevator a possibility and this effort will contribute to the total body of knowledge that will be necessary to make this most magnificent of all engineering projects a reality.

(Note that funding for these projects will close on September 13th, so act soon if you want to be a part of this!) 

4 comments September 3rd, 2012

The Tower of Babel

I was just made aware of another book (published in August of 2011) that has a Space Elevator as a “major player”.  This book, The Tower of Babel: NASA’s Great Endeavor, was written by Dr. Victor Nelson.  We hadn’t heard of him and he hadn’t heard of ISEC until very recently.  After some brief correspondence with ISEC’s Bryan Laubscher, Dr. Nelson made the very generous offer that any revenues he receives from selling his book from now until the end of the current Space Elevator Conference will be donated to ISEC.

Thank you Dr. Nelson!

Bryan has ordered his copy and I’ve just ordered mine (via Kindle - I love my Kindle - thanks wife!).

The obligatory ‘dust jacket’ description:

Earth has survived into the third decade of the twenty-first century, but the United States and Communist China have become embroiled in a deadly space race. Whoever succeeds will have a dominant advantage in colonizing Mars and producing military bases in deep space and on Earth’s moon. Although the Chinese have a head start with their project, a recently revivified NASA has developed new technologies that will gain for them a competitive edge. The Chinese will stop at nothing to obtain this classified information and to destroy the American scientific leadership. Magnus Kolden, a brilliant scientist, was oblivious to the ominous signs of trouble and disaster when he was appointed as NASA’s project leader. He has never had an interest in the military applications of this technology, but only in its use for the advancement of science. Nevertheless, he will have to lead the Americans to victory in the largest space endeavor in the history of humankind. A life-long dream of creating a better way to travel into deep space has come with a heavy price. Magnus finds himself pitted against a ruthless enemy agent organization and also against Islamic extremist terrorists. Both organizations will stop at nothing to terminate his pursuits. He is fighting for the safety of his family, his life, and his dreams. Many internal and external forces may sabotage his success. A cataclysmic event will change the course of the story. What revelation will be thrust upon Magnus Kolden?

It sounds very interesting and I will probably delve into it during my plane ride home.

So, buy the book and benefit ISEC - thank you again Dr. Nelson, and I hope to get to meet you at a future event.

Add comment August 24th, 2012

The BBC talks about the Space Elevator Conference

Space Elevator Conference chair David Horn was interviewed by BBC’s Richard Hollingham recently and the result of that interview is posted here, on the BBC Future website.

It’s a good article and gets the basic facts right.  It does incorrectly state that ISEC has been the organizer of the Space Elevator Conferences for the past 10 years (this is the first year that ISEC is the organizer), but that’s a minor nit.

All in all, well worth a read…

Add comment August 22nd, 2012

Space Elevator Conference registration deadline approaching…

Just a reminder that registration closes for the upcoming Space Elevator Conference on Sunday, August 19th, so you have 12 days from today to register if you want to attend (and you do want to attend, don’t you?).

The latest press release from the Conference:

Tether Strength Competition and Pacific Science Center Exhibits at the 2012 Space Elevator Conference

The technical conference will be held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington August 25th through August 27th, 2012.

undefinedRegistration for the 3-day technical conference closes August 19, 2012 in order to get our final attendee and catering counts to the museum and to the caterer.  All 3-day registrations will be entered in a raffle to win one of two Android Tablets (a 10” and a 7” model) provided by Leeward Space Foundation.  Raffle winners will be announced at the Saturday night dinner banquet.

The Family Science Fest on Saturday, August 25th is included with Museum of Flight admission. You do not need to register for the Saturday Family Science Fest.

3-Day Technical Conference

The presentation schedule for the technical will be finalized by August 10th.  There may be a few changes to the presentation order and start times between now and August 10th.  Check out the fantastic presentations we have lined up this year, register to come see them, and participate in the discussions!

Tether Strength Challenge:  ISEC is funding the prize purse for this year’s Tether Strength Competition and the rules have been updated to lower the bar a bit and increase the chances that someone will win the competition this year.  Competition rules are now available on the conference web site.  One or two teams are interested in competing this year and we’re working to get them registered for the challenge.

Family Science Fest

The Family Science Fest on Saturday, August 25th is included in the Museum of Flight admission price. We have recently added the Pacific Science Center to the list of activities.  They will have physics exhibits and instructors to provide hands-on experience with various physics concepts for kids of all ages.  The Family Science Fest also includes the Space Elevator 101 and 201 presentations, the ever-popular youth robotics competition (rules and registration instructions are on the web site), and much more.  This is a great event for the whole family!

About the Space Elevator

The Space Elevator is one of the most magnificent Engineering projects ever conceived. It promises abundant access to space and a multitude of benefits for humanity. Come to the Conference and hear presentations and discussions with people working to make the Space Elevator a reality!

Many thanks to the Museum of Flight for being a “Counter Weight” level sponsor of this year’s conference.

Find us on Facebook.

Add comment August 7th, 2012

EuSPEC 2012 planning well underway…

Planning for the 2012 European Space Elevator Challenge (EuSPEC) is well underway.  This is the second year this competition is being held and it will occur October 25th through the 28th in Munich, Germany.

The application deadline is tomorrow, July 31st and more details can be found at their website.

The first competition (EuSEC 2011) was a great success and I’m sure this one will be even better.

Add comment July 30th, 2012

The Space Elevator and Forbes…

In today’s Forbes online, science journalist Bruce Dorminey writes about the Space Elevator and the upcoming Space Elevator conference.

Bruce interviewed ISEC Conferences Chair David Horn for his story.

This is an excellent interview / article and well worth the read.

And remember, the conference is only a little more than 4 weeks away.  There is still time to register, but don’t delay.

See you there!

Add comment July 25th, 2012

Dr. Bryan Laubscher to appear on The Space Show

This coming Monday, July 16th, from 2pm to 3:30pm Pacific time, Dr. Bryan Laubscher, astrophysicist and ISEC Board Member, 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 Monday, July 16, 2012 program from 2-3:30 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 and 2011, 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. 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, or

Tune in and get the latest news and don’t hesitate to call in if you have a question or comment.

Add comment July 14th, 2012

Early Bird Special - Last Call!

Just a reminder that July 15th is absolutely, positively the very last day you can sign-up to attend the upcoming Space Elevator Conference at the Early Bird special rates.  After that date, full-price will be charged.

This year’s Conference, to be held August 25-27 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, promises to be the best ever and we sure hope you can attend.

Be There or Be Square!

Add comment July 10th, 2012

Reminder - All Fall Down is free for a limited time…

A few days ago, I posted about Vern McGeorge’s eBook, All Fall Down, and mentioned that it would be free (Kindle version) from July 4th through the 8th.  This offer is open now, so visit the website and download this eBook for free!

I asked Vern if he had any comments about the writing process or anything else he would like to share and he sent me this:

What can I say about the book?

Well, I’m glad I wrote it. It’s not been financially lucrative yet - still very much in starving artist mode - but as an avid reader, I have wanted for years to give something back to the world of books. Now,I have - and I am proud of the result.

Writing a book is not for the faint of heart. It is harder than it looks and I learned (and am still learning) many lessons along the way. Among them:

  • If you are trying to write a book that is accurate to a set of facts, do your research first. It is easier to revise before you write than after.
  • When all is said and done, you have to “un-write” as well. It took years to get to 140,000 words and a year to then get rid of 40,000 words. My style got leaner and more direct as I wrote so at the end, 2/3rds of the first 1/3rd of the book had to go. It was pure bloat and removing it left a much better book.
  • Pick a story that won’t let you go. Reading three bad novels and saying “I can do better than this” will get you started but when it gets tough, and it will, a story that you just cannot let go untold will pull you through.
  • Having someone else read your work and edit your work is invaluable.
  • When you are done, you are not done. Getting the book published or self publishing as an indie author is every bit as hard as writing the book in the first place. There has never been a better time to be an indie author, but it is hard work.

All Fall Down is 20% science-fiction and 80% techno-thriller. I’m glad about the former because I feel a sense of mission to keep telling people about the Space Elevator, but my next novel will be a pure techno-thriller about an EMP attack against the USA and America’s military response. I have three more space elevator novels in the queue and a planned series of interstellar colonization stories in the planning stages. Must write faster!

I don’t recall the quotes exactly, but Charles Sheffield said “don’t let a few facts get in the way of a good story.” Robert Heinlein said “above all else, the writer owes the reader an entertaining story.” I hope that I have done both, and that where my elevator differs from Dr. Edwards’ design, I have adequately set the record straight in my Afterword. I am always eager to do anything I can to get the word out about the space elevator and will gladly answer any questions about the space elevator or about writing at Spark of Ideation.

So, head on over to the website and get a copy of this book for yourself.

1 comment July 5th, 2012

Six more days

Only six more days until the “Early Bird” registrations for the 2012 Space Elevator Conference, with significant reductions over the standard registration rates, expire.

As noted earlier, this year’s Conference is being held, for the first time, at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.  This venue should be a great backdrop for the conference and the Conference organizing committee has done a great job in getting everything ready.

The program is full and contains many relevant and insightful presentations.  The second issue of CLIMB should also be ready in time to present (and sell!) at the Conference.

So, get your registrations in by July 9th, or pay the full price - see you there!

Add comment July 3rd, 2012

All Fall Down

Veterans of the Spaceward’s Foundation Space Elevator Games have the pleasure of knowing Vern McGeorge.  He’s one of those guys who works tirelessly behind the scenes getting stuff done, getting stuff made, getting stuff fixed, so that the competitions can go on.  I have blogged about Vern’s contributions before, and that didn’t do him justice - he’s one of the good guys that just makes things happen.

Several weeks ago, I stumbled across his first novel, All Fall Down, a story about (in Vern’s words):

When Col. Roberto di Vincente, driven to avenge the shooting of his wife by U.S. Marines, leads a paramilitary attack on the Space Elevator’s base platform anchored off the coast of Brazil, Marcus Gant, the deputy chief of security, is taken hostage along with most of Port Sheffield’s crew. Gant had hoped to live peacefully, far from the streets of Boston where his on-duty shooting of a child tore his family apart. When his boss is executed following a failed escape attempt, he is thrust into leadership of Port Sheffield’s nascent resistance movement.

Stephanie Petersen and the visiting VIPs, including the man di Vincente blames for the death of his wife, escape up the elevator during the attack. An enemy force, led by Major Eduardo Vieira, di Vincente’s ruthless second-in-command, follows in close pursuit. At Clarke Station, Stephanie is reunited with her estranged husband, Tom. Together they will make their stand.

Col. di Vincente intends to use the Space Elevator to lift small missiles high above the earth, giving his nuclear and biological weapons global reach. His goal is to coerce social justice from the temperate “haves” for the tropical “have-nots” who have been reduced to pariah status following a world-wide plague.

His financial backer, Daniel Falcao, and Major Vieira, plan to betray him and launch the missiles against major cities in the developed world so that Brazil can emerge from the resulting chaos as a world power.

Learning this, the President of the United States has set in motion Slam Dunk; simultaneous preemptive nuclear strikes against Port Sheffield and Clarke Station. Marcus, Stephanie, and Tom must race against time to prevent the destruction of the Space Elevator, the sacrifice of its crew, and the possible slaughter of two-billion people. 

Intrigued, I purchased the book on my Kindle (I love my Kindle - thank you wife!) and devoured it in two late-night sittings.  It’s a great read and I highly recommend it.

And, to make things even better, Vern will be ’selling’ All Fall Down for free, at Amazon, on the Kindle, from July 4th through July 8th.

The book’s Amazon website is here.  Vern’s blog, Spark of Ideation can be found here.

Just a note about the content - the Space Elevator in this story is not a tensile structure (which current thinking dictates it must be) but rather more in the mold of the one described by Sir Arthur C. Clarke in his Fountains of Paradise.  Vern talks about why he chose this model and many other considerations in the book’s Afterword.  Vern does have some additional Space Elevator novels in the pipeline and, well, that’s a story for another post.

2 comments June 30th, 2012

“Getting to space on a thread…”

While reviewing some of the older Space Elevator Conference programs and trying to see if some of the presenters were still active in the SE arena, I ran across this 2007 paper by Major Jason Kent.

This paper, entitled “Getting to Space on a Thread - Space Elevator as an Alternative Access to Space” was a “Blue Horizons paper” written for the Center for Strategy and Technology for the Air War College.

Major Kent presented a couple of papers at the 2008 Space Elevator Conference and I remember having some very interesting discussions with him during one of the lunches.

Because a Space Elevator will allow such scalable, reliable (and relatively inexpensive) access to space, there is no question that it will be a very significant military asset to whoever controls it.  There is a viewpoint that if the world cooperatively builds a Space Elevator, then, perhaps, we can make it a ‘universal good’, much like, say, the Internet is.  Others (including me) are not so optimistic.

Regardless, it is very interesting to see a military evaluation of the Space Elevator and the article is (IMHO) well worth the read.

2 comments June 17th, 2012

The Return of the Kansas City Space Pirates

Followers of this blog and/or the Space Elevator Games are very familiar with the Kansas City Space Pirates.  Captain Brian Turner and his fellow team members competed in several of the Space Elevator Games - Power Beaming competitions and acquitted themselves very well.

They have a new challenge they want to meet and that is to break the record for longest continuous flight of an aircraft fueled solely by wireless power-beaming.  Several days ago, they issued this Press Release, detailing what their plans are.  Money quote from the Release:

This August the KC Space Pirates will take the next step in the development of laser powered flight and in the art of wireless power beaming. We will attempt to keep a one pound robotic aircraft flying for 2 full days (48 hours), nearly 4 times the previous world record…The date of this attempt is set to coincide with the International Space Elevator Consortium’s ( annual conference in August of this year.

The current record is held by LaserMotive, also a veteran (and prize-winner) of the Power-Beaming competition.   With NASA ending its support for the Power-Beaming competition, it’s good to see that the spirit of competing is alive and well.

More to come soon - bring it on!

Add comment June 6th, 2012

Space Elevator conference registration now open!

Registration is now open to attend the 2012 Space Elevator Conference.  Register prior to July 9th to take advantage of the “Early Bird Special” pricing!

As noted earlier, the conference this year will be held from August 25th through the 27th at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, the first time in this venue and the first time that the conference has been organized by the International Space Elevator Consortium.

Lots of events and speakers are scheduled and, if the ‘early returns’ are any indication, this promises to be the best conference ever.

Make your plans now and we’ll see you there!

Add comment June 2nd, 2012

ISEC April, 2012 eNewsletter released

Hot off the press is the April, 2012 SEC eNewsletter.  Stories covered include the Space Elevator Conferences’s move to the Museum of Flight, ISEC’s new schedule of yearly events, announcements regarding the Call for Papers for both the Space Elevator Conference and the second issue of CLIMB, ISEC’s move to its new website address and announcements about the upcoming European and Japanese space elevator competitions.

So, check it out and, if you want to be put on the ISEC email list so that you will not miss any future issues (it’s free!), just visit the ISEC website and sign up.

Add comment April 28th, 2012

Space Elevator Conference moves to the Museum of Flight!

ISEC is very proud to announce that this year’s Space Elevator Conference, the first organized by ISEC, will be held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.  Conference dates are August 25-27.

The official Press Announcement:

For 2012, the Space Elevator Conference moves to The Museum of Flight!

The International Space Elevator Consortium is proud to announce that the 2012 Space Elevator Conference will now be held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.  The conference dates remain the same, August 25th through August 27th, 2012, with the Family Science Fest being held on August 25th.  Come experience learning, brainstorming, and working together surrounded by an atmosphere of invention and discovery!  Conference and family science fest attendees will be stimulated and energized by the planes hanging from the Great Gallery glass ceiling or watching a jet take off from the Boeing Field runway.  This will be a fantastic new venue for the conference!

3-Day Technical Conference
The theme of this year’s technical conference is “Operating and Maintaining a Space Elevator”.  There is still time to submit your abstracts and papers for the technical conference.  The abstract deadline has been extended to May 18th (the draft and final paper deadlines are still the same).  Abstracts and papers are coming in steadily and we want to be sure we have a great set of presentations for the technology, business, legal, and outreach sessions.

Family Science Fest

The Family Science Fest on Saturday, August 25th will also be held at the Museum of Flight.  This event is open to the public and is included in the Museum of Flight admission price.  The Family Science Fest includes Space Elevator 101 and 201 presentations, a youth robotics competition, exhibits from universities and science clubs, and much more.

Registration, Lodging, and More Info Coming Soon
More details of the conference technical program and the Family Science Fest will be posted on the conference website ( in early May including registration, lodging, and other information as it becomes available.  Please note the the conference web site will be updated with a new look and feel the end of April.

The Space Elevator is one of the most magnificent Engineering projects ever conceived.  It promises abundant access to space and a multitude of benefits for humanity.  Come to the Conference and hear presentations and discussion with people working to make the Space Elevator a reality!

So, mark your calendars and make your reservations.  This Conference promises to be the most exciting ever!

2 comments April 24th, 2012

Electronic version of CLIMB now available

An electronic, pdf version of CLIMB, the Space Elevator Journal, is now available.  For those of you who didn’t want to pay for the print version, you can purchase an electronic version for only $1.99.

Just visit the ISEC store and click on the PayPal button.

Volume 2 of CLIMB is well underway and we’re on track to release it at the upcoming Space Elevator Conference (August 25-27).  And, speaking of the Space Elevator Conference, stay tuned because a major announcement about it is imminent!

Add comment April 17th, 2012

6 years? OMG, 6 years!!

Once again, all together now;

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Space Elevator Blog!
Happy birthday to you!

Really, six years.  I remember when I started this blog.  I was recovering from some fairly major surgery and was sitting at my computer, just poking around the ‘net, looking for something interesting to read.  I had just re-read Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise and wanted to know what was going on in the “Space Elevator Community”.  I found a few sites and several postings, but nothing that seemed to bring everything together.  I had authored a blog before, and so wasn’t new to the field, so I decided to start a “Space Elevator Blog”.  Being the creative guy that I am, I named it “The Space Elevator Blog”.

The idea of a Space Elevator continues to grow and I’m proud to say that the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is playing a leading role in this.  ISEC, along with the Japan Space Elevator Association and EuroSpaceward, are the leading proponents of this idea; pushing it forward, introducing new concepts and working towards that day when a Space Elevator a reality.

In keeping with tradition, I would list the highlights of the last 12 months as follows:

The 2011 Space Elevator Conference.  ISEC funded the visits of several Carbon nanotube (CNT) experts to the Conference.  All of them presented papers on the current ’state-of-the-art’ in CNT development.  We also heard our first inkling of a possible alternative to CNTs, that being Boron Nitride Nanotubes (BNNTs).  This substance, something which does not occur in nature, has 95% of the theoretical strength of CNTs.  Options are good!  The 2011 Conference also the introduction of its first ever “Family Day” where children were able to build Lego Climbers and enter them into a competition held at the Conference.  This idea was first fostered by the Japan Space Elevator Association and their annual LASER competition.

The inaugural issue of CLIMB, the Space Elevator Journal, was published.  As someone who was thoroughly immersed in all the details of this project, I have a new-found understanding and respect for Journal editors.   It’s been a goal of ISEC to publish a Space Elevator Journal ever since it was founded and I’m glad that we have finally succeeded in this effort.  It should be a great marketing tool for the Community and is another step forward for us on the road to ’scientific respectability’ (or something like that).  The print edition can be found here and the eVersion will be available on our website in the next several days.

The Europeans held their first Space Elevator Games, 2011-EuSEC.  With these Games, we now have space-elevator related competitions being held in the United States, Japan and Europe.  Congratulations to those people at EuSEC who made this happen.  The 2012 EuSEC Games are already scheduled and will be the subject of a future post.

The Japan Space Elevator Association held another LASER and another JSETEC competition.  The Japanese are so, well, Japanese.  They start out small but continue to build and grow and, before you know it, are world leaders in the areas they decide to concentrate in.  I remember when I was on my ’second tour’, living and working in Saudi Arabia.  There were three of us, me (an American of course), a Brit and a Japanese national that hung around together.  Our conversations often revolved around business strategies and the Japanese guy used to tell us that “We Japanese are farmers; we till and cultivate and prepare and eventually get a solid, sustainable ‘crop’.  You Americans and Europeans are ’slash-and-burn’ guys, just looking for the quick buck and then you move on.’  There was a lot of truth in that statement…

The Space Elevator was given a two-page spread in the world-renowned publication, the National Geographic Magazine.  And, even more exciting, ISEC was mentioned as a ‘technical source’ for the article.  Their monthly circulation is in the neighborhood of 8.5 million copies, of which ~40% reside outside of the United States. This was truly a coup for ISEC - being mentioned in such a widely read and prestigious publication as National Geographic will pay us many dividends, now and down the road…

The University of Cincinnati and the Air Force Research Laboratory hosted the annual Nanotechnology Workshop on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.  I attended this workshop in 2010 and, while it was absolutely fascinating, I was disappointed to see so little emphasis placed on the specific strength properties of CNTs.  Almost all of the presentations dealt with the electrical properties of CNTs or infusing ceramics with CNTs to create novel, new materials or forming CNTs into unique structures, etc.  The 2011 Workshop, however, was a different beast altogether.  At least half of the presentations at least mentioned the specific strength properties of CNTs and a few of the presentations focused on this aspect entirely.  It seems that academia has finally turned its attention to this possibility and I think that only good things can come from it.  And, I was allowed to present the idea of a Strong Tether Competition to the attendees, something which I hope will bear fruit in the not-too-distant future…

The phoenix-like return of LiftPort.  They are now concentrating on promoting the idea of a Lunar Space Elevator.  It’s great to see that Michael Laine is still involved in the whole space elevator enterprise.  His name is the most-recognized one in the field.  Every time I put up a post which mentions his name, my readership spikes.

Other highlights include ISEC becoming an officially recognized 501c3 corporation, the initial release of Maurice Franklin’s Space Elevator Analysis Spreadsheet, the porting of the Space Elevator Pocketbook to the iPhone, being mentioned in the new coffee-table book The Cult of Lego, Jerome Pearson’s EDDE project finally getting some government funding, Japan’s Obayashi Corporation announcing their intention to build a Space Elevator by the year 2050 and the release of the 2011 ISEC Theme Poster.

Disappointments include the lack of progress in the Strong Tether Competition, no ISEC report for 2011 (although the 2012 report on Operating and Maintaining a Space Elevator is well on its way) and the very sad passing of Gaylen Hinton, the first ever recipient of an Honorable Mention in the Artsutanov Prize competition.

What will the next 12 months bring?  Well, it’s fairly safe to say that there will be a 2012 Space Elevator Conference, we will have Space Elevator related competitions in the US, Japan and Europe, we should see the second issue of CLIMB and the 2012 ISEC Report.  And, I’m sure that there will be many other developments that will be a surprise…

Stay tuned!

(5 year anniversary post here.  4 year anniversary post here.  3 year anniversary post here.  2 year anniversary post here.  1 year anniversary post here.)

2 comments April 1st, 2012

2012 JSETEC is in the works

This coming August, the Japan Space Elevator Association  (JSEA) will be holding it’s fourth annual JSETEC (Japan Space Elevator Technical and Engineering Competition).  Each year, the JSEA gets more and more ambitious with its competition and this year, they are aiming for a racecourse more than a kilometer high!

Planning details are still sketchy, but I have received the following additional information from Devin Jacobson of the JSEA:

The next space elevator competition here looks like it will be the first week of August 8/1-8/5.  We will probably have a narrower/thicker tether 25mm x 1.2mm, and plan to get up past 1km this time.  There is quite a bit of activity due to the recent report from Obayashi Consortium that they plan to build a space elevator by 2050.

We will welcome any teams from the US that want to participate, so I will pass on the competition details once they are fixed.  Sounds like end of June or July will need to be the final decision to come or not. Please feel free to pass the information on as well.  Again there is no prize money but participation fee should also not be too much, probably cost much more just for the trip to Japan :)

If you are interested in participating,  you can contact Devin directly at devinjacobson [at]

The JSEA also recently held a workshop for JSETEC, 2012.

Previous posts about the 2009 competition here, the 2010 competition here and the 2011 competition here.  There are also several other posts related to these games on this blog - just key in “JSETEC” in the blog’s search window to view them.

Congratulations again to the JSEA - we look forward to an even bigger and better JSETEC this year!

1 comment March 26th, 2012

Mechanic Panic

A new game, Mechanic Panic, has been issued for Apple platforms (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone) with the Space Elevator as a backdrop and, guess, what, the Space Elevator gets destroyed - how original!  From the game description:

“A catastrophic explosion has rocked the world’s first Space Elevator. Thankfully you’re on the job! As the fearless mechanic, jump as high as you can to save all the people in peril. The environment around you is crumbling. Beware of the many hazards that will come crashing down.”

For a limited time, the game is free, so if you’re a fan of the Space Elevator and an Apple aficionado, head on over to the iTunes link to download it.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke once famously said that the Space Elevator would be built “50 years after people stopped laughing about it.”  Perhaps a more modern take on this is that a Space Elevator will be built “20 years after people stop joking about it crashing”…

1 comment March 23rd, 2012

EDDE gets funded!

Most anyone in the space elevator community knows who Jerome Pearson is.  He’s one of the people who independently re-invented the idea of Space Elevator, wrote a seminal paper on the subject and provided much of the rigorous engineering and mathematical underpinnings that such a structure would need.

He attended the 2010 Space Elevator Conference (along with Yuri Artsutanov) and gave a presentation on his “Electro-Dynamic Debris Eliminator” (EDDE) idea, an idea for a low-cost solution to getting rid of large pieces of space debris.

I am happy to report that his idea has now received funding from NASA to begin serious studies and experimentation for this effort.  You can read more about that here.  And you can visit the website of his company, Star Research, here, and his page on the EDDE project here.

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention that the inaugural issue of our space elevator Journal CLIMB very proudly included a paper written by Jerome on the EDDE project.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this initial project is successful and leads ultimately to a solution for the Space Debris problem that is of increasing concern to everyone who pays attention to these things.

2 comments March 22nd, 2012


When the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) was first formed, the only website available with the ISEC acronym was  Much later on, became available and we snatched it up.  You can visit either URL and see the ISEC website, but our internal/external email addresses have always been, not  This has been due to the vagaries of Google email and our own internal procrastination to ‘bite the bullet’ to favor one URL over the other.

We are now finally transitioning our email to the address.  These new email addresses are now active and the email addresses we have used in the past are being phased out.

So, the upshot of this all is this - if you want to contact ISEC or anyone in ISEC, you will need to start using the following email addresses:

  • Ted Semon - President and Director (
  • Peter Swan - Vice-President and Director (
  • Martin Lades - Secretary and Director (
  • Skip Penny - Treasurer and Director (
  • Ben Shelef - Director and Technical Pillar lead (
  • Markus Klettner - Director (
  • Bryan Laubscher - Director (
  • Ben Jarrell - Legal Pillar lead (
  • Matt Gjertsen - Public Relations Pillar lead (
  • David Horn - Conferences Chairman (
  • CLIMB - The Space Elevator Journal (
  • Membership services (
  • Customer Service (

All other ISEC email addresses are going to be phased out in the next few weeks, so please, update your address books.  If you try to send an email to an email address after that time, you’ll get a polite email informing you that the old addresses no longer work and that you have to use the new ones…

And, if you want to talk about something related to ISEC, please feel free to email me at

Thank you!

Add comment March 21st, 2012

Some truly sad news…

I have just found out that Gaylen Hinton, the first person to be awarded an “Honorable Mention” in the Artsutanov Prize competition and a contributor to Volume 1 of CLIMB, has recently passed away after a long bout with cancer. Gaylen’s online Obituary can be found here.  It’s fascinating reading and just goes to show how so many times we know so little about our fellow human beings…

The last time I heard from Gaylen was several months ago; we were working on the final edits to one of his contributions to CLIMB.  He apologized to me for being tardy in his response saying that he had been diagnosed with “terminal cancer”.  As a cancer survivor myself, I do have some small understanding of what he was going through, though I’ve been much luckier than he was.

Gaylen was never afraid to ruffle feathers - indeed, his Honorable Mention paper talked about his take on ‘misconceptions’ regarding Space Elevator thought and development.  Gaylen passed away before Volume 1 of CLIMB was published so he never saw the final product, but he did know that two of his articles had been included, so we have that as a small consolation.

RIP Gaylen - you will be sorely missed by our community.

(Picture thumbnaiil is of Gaylen being congratulated by Yuri Artsutanov on being awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2010 Artsutanov Prize competition.  This picture was taken at the 2010 Space Elevator Conference held at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington.  Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version of the picture.)

2 comments March 20th, 2012

Michael Laine to appear on The Space Show

On Tuesday, March 20th, Michael Laine (of LiftPort fame) will appear on Dr. David Livingston’s The Space Show.  From the Who’s On The Space Show This Week email:

We welcome back MICHAEL LAINE of Liftport to discuss his Lunar Space Elevator Concept. Visit his website for more information. 

The show will be aired at 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT) and you are encouraged to call in to ask Michael any questions you might have.

And, you can view the Space Show Website Newsletter to get a detailed bio of Michael as well as information about how to call into the show.

(Image thumbnail of “Moonlifter”, from the Liftport site).  Visit the Liftport 2.0 page - Art of the Elevator to see a full-size version of this picture as well as many more images that have been posted).

2 comments March 19th, 2012

Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Space Elevator

I’m a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor (not so sure about the person) and one of my favorite movies of his was Total Recall.  Futuristic, lots of mind-twists, unseen aliens, etc., all things which appeal to a science fiction geeks like me.

In a recent posting on io9, David Hughes tells us how a sequel of Total Recall nearly came into being several times - and, in one of the possible versions, Arnold Schwarzenegger (playing Quaid), goes to work on a construction site for a Seattle-based Space Elevator.  From the article:

Dejected and financially dependent on Rekall, Quaid finds a job on the construction site of a Seattle-based ’space elevator’ — one of Arthur C. Clarke’s proposed constructs tethering an orbital space station to the Earth, allowing payloads to be transported cheaply to and from space.

Meanwhile, an imminent presidential election draws Quaid’s attention to an electoral campaign by Gloria Palomares, the President from his dream, denounced by her opponents as a “mutant lover” for promising to hold a referendum on Mars’ independence if she is elected. Torn between his feelings for Melina (whom he now believes to be a construct of Rekall) and Renee, one of Mrs Palomares’ campaign volunteers, Quaid becomes involved with her political campaign, but is betrayed and framed for an explosion which wrecks the space elevator. Imprisoned for six months in a space prison known as the Pasternak Institute for the Criminally Insane, he manages to escape, and rejoins what remains of the rebels, who tell him of Melina’s death.

Why do they always blow up the Space Elevator?  And, a Space Elevator based in Seattle?  That’s more than 47° north of the equator.  I don’t think so - but hey, it’s Hollywood!

The article is a difficult, confusing read and, I guess it was supposed to be as it is an excerpt from Hughes’ book, Tales From Development Hell.  Reading this excerpt, it seems amazing that anything actually gets done in Hollywood.

But Arnold Schwarzenegger and a Space Elevator?  I’d definitely pay to see that…

(Picture thumbnail of Arnold as they attempt to reprogram him in Total Recall - click on it to see a larger version.)

2 comments March 10th, 2012


And, catching up with another old item…

In early August of last year, the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) held their third annual JSETEC (Japan Space Elevator Technical & Engineering Competition) event.  16 teams competed in this event, an event that had, at the highest point, a nearly 600 meter long ‘race-course’.  Just recently, JSEA posted their English-language version video summary of the competition.  You can find it at this JSEA website page (the top version is in Japanese, the bottom one is in English).

Watching this video, I had a very definitive feeling of Déjà vu vis-à-vis the NASA/Spaceward Space Elevator Games.  Yes, I know, there was a lot that was different between the two competitions.  In the 2009 Space Elevator Games, the Climbers were powered by Lasers while in all of the JSETEC competitions the Climbers were battery powered.  And in the Space Elevator Games, the tether was held up by a crane, or, in 2009, by a helicopter while the Japanese used balloons.  But still, there were many things in the video which reminded me so much of the Space Elevator Games…

  • Seeing one of the JSEA competition Climbers catching fire brought back memories of the 2007 LaserMotive entry and the “smoke-filled room”.
  • .


  • Viewing the JSEA competitors working on their Climbers and seeing the note on the video about “repairing” and “modifying” the Climbers “at the last minute” could have been applied to all of the NASA/Spaceward competitions…
  • Watching the rain at the JSEA event reminded me so much of the rain and generally nasty weather at the 2007 NASA / Spaceward competitions held in Layton, Utah.

But there were differences too…

  • When the tether broke at the 2007 Space Elevator Games, it was just replaced with more tether (and a prayer that it wouldn’t break).  When the tether at the JSETEC games needed repairing, well, they repaired it.  The video shot of the ‘many hands’ working on this was remarkable, truly.
  • .


  • JSEA set up a wi-fi network connecting everything at their competition, including the end-point of the competition run.  The Space Elevator Games didn’t do that, but for the 2009 competition, we had full use of all of NASA’s cameras and associated equipment to measure what had (and had not) been accomplished.
  • The 2011 JSETEC competition was held at the “Osawa alluvial fan of Mt. Fuji” while the Space Elevator Games were held on the “Rogers Dry Lake” at the NASA-Dryden facilities inside the Edwards Air Force base.  Two more different locales could not be imagined.

And the idiomatic differences in language, shown in the Japanese video, are much appreciated too.  I think my favorite was the description of the “Belt tether patched by execution committee”…

You know, so many times you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.  I miss our power-beaming Games, I really do.

This is a fine video - check it out.  It’s 14 minutes, 25 seconds long and very much worth your time.  And, for the next JSETEC competition, the Japanese aim for a height of 1,200 meters - higher than the winning run of the 2009 Power-Beaming competition.

Congratulations to JSEA!

(Picture thumbnail is of the USST Climber and the tether which broke while they were attempting a Climb.  Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version of the picture).

Add comment March 4th, 2012

LaserMotive Tweetup!

Tomorrow, Friday, March 2nd, beginning at 1pm Eastern (10am Pacific), LaserMotive is hosting a Tweetup to mark their 5 year anniversary.

5 years.  Geez.  Lest anyone forget, this is the ONLY team that has won any prize money in the NASA / Spaceward Space Elevator Games.

And, as a side note, though the NASA / Spaceward sponsored power-beaming competition seems to be ‘on hiatus’ as they say, I think the future of space-elevator related competition is bright (pun intended).

So, get on Twitter tomorrow, and tweet Lasermotive @lasermotive.  Feel free to send them questions or just say hello!

Congratulations LaserMotive for reaching yet another milestone!

(Picture thumbnail - courtesy of NASA - is of winning LaserMotive team and their Climber from the 2009 Space Elevator Games - Power Beaming competition.  Click on it to see a full-size picture.)

Add comment March 1st, 2012

ISEC February, 2012 eNewsletter released

Just released - the ISEC February, 2012 eNewsletter!

Lots of articles including the announcement of CLIMB, status on the IAA Cosmic Study, the 2012 Space Elevator Conference, the 2012 ISEC Theme and a Call for Papers for both the next volume of CLIMB and the Space Elevator Conference.

If you’re not receiving this eNewsletter directly and would like to do so, just sign up - it’s free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Happy Reading!

Add comment February 29th, 2012

io9 is skeptical…

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.

CNT TetherBut 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.)

6 comments February 25th, 2012

A Space Elevator by 2050?

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).

5 comments February 22nd, 2012

LEGOs and the Space Elevator

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.

Add comment February 18th, 2012

CLIMB Volume 2 - Call for Papers

CLIMB CoverNow 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], 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.

Thank you.

Ted Semon
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.

Add comment February 15th, 2012

Learning new tricks from spiders…

Nature Magazine CoverIn 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…

Add comment February 13th, 2012

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