Category Archives: ISEC


ISEC welcomes Robert “Skip” Penny as a new Director

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).

ISEC Releases its first ISEC Report

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 for $14.50.

Thank you Peter, Cathy and Skip!

Announcing the 2011 Artsutanov and Pearson prizes

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 or 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.

ISEC awards its second “Honorable Mention” for the 2010 Artsutanov Prize

In an earlier post, I wrote about ISEC awarding an Honorable Mention for the Artsutanov Prize.

Based on a re-review of all of the papers submitted for the competition, ISEC is very pleased to award a second Honorable Mention for the Artsutanov Prize, this to Karen Ghazaryan,  S.A. Ambartsumian and M.V. Belubekyan for their paper “Optimal Design of the Space Elevator Tether“.  Karen attended the 2010 Space Elevator conference and presented this paper.

Their paper will be included in the upcoming Space Elevator Journal.  Remember, if you join ISEC, you will be entitled to a free copy of this Journal.

Karen has made presentations at the last several Space Elevator Conferences and we sincerely thank him for his continuing efforts to advance our understanding in this field.  Congratulations to Mr.’s Ghazaryan, Ambartsumian and Belubkeyan on their award!

(The top picture thumbnail is of Karen taken while he was giving his presentation at the conference.  The other picture thumbnail is of Karen (in the middle) discussing Space Elevator concepts with Yuri Artsutanov (on the left) and Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation (hosts of the Space Elevator Games).   As always, you can click on any thumbnail to view a larger version of the picture.)

Call for Papers

The window is now officially open for articles for the very first ISEC Journal.

The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is now accepting articles for inclusion into its first Space Elevator Journal.  Articles submitted must be somehow related to the Space Elevator.  The article could also be about the Space Elevator Games or Carbon Nanotubes or Lasers or it could be a short, fictional story, artwork, poetry, etc – but it MUST be related to a Space Elevator.

Formal submission guidelines and a template to use will be up on the ISEC website shortly.  In the meantime, you can view them here (Guidelines) (Template).


We are targeting December 1st (this year!) as our Journal publication date.  It will be available in paperback and electronic (Kindle) format.  ISEC members who joined in 2009 or 2010 will receive a free copy as will all authors who have an article published in the Journal.  Price for the Hardcover and Electronic editions has not yet been set.

Please pass this request along to anyone else you know who might be interested.

Thank you!

ISEC awards its first prize

Gaylen R. Hinton is the winner of the very first prize awarded by the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC).  His paper, ‘Seven Deadly Assumptions about Space Elevators‘ was awarded an ‘Honorable Mention’ in the Artsutanov Prize award category.

Gaylen received a framed Honorable Mention certificate, signed by both Yuri Artsutanov and ISEC Prize Chair Peter Swan.  He also had the tremendous good fortune to be personally handed the award by Yuri Artsutanov, attending the conference due to ISEC’s efforts.

In addition, ISEC is going to pay for Gaylen’s Space Elevator Conference Registration Fee, as a token of our appreciation of his efforts.  Finally, his paper is going to be included in the upcoming ISEC Journal.

So, congratulations to Gaylen Hinton, the first person to receive an award from ISEC.  We hope to see even better papers from Gaylen in the future.

I’ve included two picture thumbnails in this post (and, as always, you can click on them to see a full-size version).  The first is of Gaylen, on the left, receiving his award from Yuri, on the right.  In the middle is ISEC Director, Vice-President and Prize Chair, Peter Swan.  Peter gave the award presentation speech.

The second thumbnail is of, from left to right, Gaylen Hinton, Yuri Artsutanov, John Lee and Peter Swan.  John Lee is the head of the Leeward Space Foundation.  His foundation is a sponsor of the ISEC awards.

Congratulations again to Gaylen Hinton – well done!

Call for Comments – Official ISEC Paper on Space Elevator Survivability – Space Debris Mitigation

One of the many ISEC projects we’ve been working on this year is coming up with an “official position paper” on the subject of this year’s theme; Space Elevator Survivability – Space Debris Mitigation.

A team headed up by Dr. Peter Swan has been working on this document and it is now ready for review – I’ve linked to it here (Word / PDF).

Comments are ENCOURAGED – this is a draft document and is subject to change, pending comments from reviewers.  This paper will be the subject of the Space Elevator Conference Technical Pillar workshop scheduled for Sunday, August 15th.  Once the comments have been incorporated, this document will be officially released as an ISEC Position paper.

Please send all comments to

The ISEC 2009 Space Elevator Poster

No, that’s not a typo – this post is about the ISEC 2009 Space Elevator Poster.  One of our goals at ISEC is for us to issue a commemorative poster each year.  For various and sundry reasons, the poster for 2009 never got created, until now.  The fact that we now have one is almost solely due to our new Artist-In-Residence, Frank Chase.

I’ve posted about Frank before (here and here) and carried through on my threat promise to see if he would be ‘interested in designing a poster’ for ISEC.  Frank has done more than that, agreeing to become ISEC’s Artist-In-Residence.  This poster is his first completed project and he is now throwing ideas at us for the 2010 poster (which will have as its subject the 2010 ISEC Theme – Space Debris Mitigation).  We’re actually to going to have that poster created THIS YEAR.  Frank will also be designing the cover for our new ISEC Journal as well as doing some other projects we have lined up.

Visuals convey so much more than what mere words do and I think that Frank’s efforts will be a potent weapon in ISEC’s arsenal.

Frank does truly fine work (as you can see from this poster and from his websites I linked to in my earlier posts) and we are absolutely thrilled that he has agreed to become part of the ISEC team.  Welcome Frank!

You can learn more about Frank by visiting the Team page on the ISEC Website.

Oh, and how do you get one of these posters (which is 11 x 17 inches and is offset print on high-quality, glossy stock)?  Well, if you became a member in 2009, you are going to have one shipped to you, free, as part of your membership benefits (along with my personal apologies for being so tardy with this).  Current members of ISEC can also purchase previous year’s posters (while supplies last) for a discounted price of $15.00 (plus shipping) or, if you’re not a member of ISEC, you can purchase one for $25.00 (plus shipping).

Those of you who have already joined or renewed in 2010 will get the 2010 poster for free.

(You can click on the Poster thumbnail to see a slightly larger version)

The Artsutanov and Pearson prizes

The deadline for the abstract submission for the Artsutanov and Pearson prizes has been moved back from May 15th to May 31st.

We’ve received several entries for both prizes already, but have also received a couple of requests to extend the abstract deadline.  We can do this for a couple of weeks, but no longer…

So, if you’ve not already done so, you can still submit an abstract to enter the competition.  Remember, the winners will receive a monetary prize ($1,500 for the Pearson prize and $2,500 for the Artsutanov prize) as well as airfare and lodging and free admission to the upcoming Space Elevator Conference (Aug 12-15) .

Don’t delay – the abstract deadline will not be extended again.

The ISEC Legal Pillar is now under ‘new management’

A couple of months ago, Benjamin Jarrell joined ISEC as our new Legal Pillar Lead. He is an attorney practicing in Huntsville, Alabama. In his ‘day job’, he handles a wide variety of matters in his law practice, but his primary interest is in helping government contractors negotiate the federal acquisitions process. He received his Juris Doctor in 2007 from the Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was awarded a certificate in Environmental Law from the Loyola Center for Environmental Law and Land Use. Ben received his undergraduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2002.

Ben is also a long-time fan of the concept of a Space Elevator having first been exposed to it when reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy.

In 2007, he published an article in the Loyola Law and Technology Annual addressing the international and federal legal environment that should be considered before the Space Elevator can become a reality. This article was titled International and Domestic Legal Issues Facing Space Elevator Deployment and Operation (7 Loy. L. & Tech. Ann. 71 (2007)).

You can access the article here, but please note that it is not to be republished in any form without the express, written consent of Ben.  You can reach him at ‘benjamin.jarrell [at]’.

We are very fortunate that Ben has volunteered to join us at ISEC as the new head of our Legal Pillar and I’m sure he is going to be a great asset to our organization.  If you would like to get involved with our Legal Pillar, please contact Ben at ‘benjamin.jarrell [at]’.

Welcome aboard Ben!

Be wary of pushing buttons…



View all of the episodes (they’re up to 26 episodes now!) here

And, I just found a Tweet from Alex Koll (one of the four ‘climber-nauts’) which said about this episode “Season Finale”…  Really?  I’ll have to contact these guys again and see what’s what…

And, I’m sorry there’s been less-than-normal posting from me on this blog, but I have been very, very busy launching the various ISEC initiatives we’ve adopted for the year.  We’ve received several abstracts already for the Artsutanov and Pearson prizes, we’re getting ready to issue a “Call for Papers” for the ISEC Journal, we’ve got artwork in process for the ISEC Posters, we have a Library project underway and the planning for the upcoming Space Elevator conference proceeds apace.  We’ve had several new volunteers come on board and it takes time to get everyone up to speed.

I’ll be posting on all of this soon…

Announcing the Artsutanov and Pearson awards

The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) today announced the Artsutanov and Pearson awards; prizes intended to foster research into Space Elevator related topics.

The Press Release announcing these awards, sent out today, is copied below, in full:


The International Space Elevator Consortium Announces the Pearson and Artsutanov Space Elevator Prizes

Mountain View, Calif. (March 3, 2010) — The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), an independent group designed to promote standards and foster research relating to the construction of an Elevator to Space, has announced its first annual set of prizes, named after the co-inventors of the modern-day concept of the Space Elevator, Jerome Pearson and Yuri Artsutanov.

Formed in 2008 by a coalition of leaders in the Space Elevator movement, ISEC has established these prizes to encourage research into Space Elevator related technologies and concepts to help further ISEC’s mission of promoting “the development, construction and operation of a space elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity“.

Ted Semon, the president of ISEC states; “We are thrilled to be able to offer these awards, named after the co-inventors of the modern-day concept of the Space Elevator.  The Space Elevator, a ‘carbon railway’ to the solar system and beyond, is the right way to open up space to all humanity.  With research into carbon nanotubes proceeding at an ever-accelerating rate, we think that it is only a matter of a few years before the material necessary to build a space elevator will be available.  The time is now to begin serious planning for this most magnificent concept.

Each year, ISEC selects a focal theme for its activities.  For 2010, this theme is “Space Debris Mitigation“.  One of the major hurdles that must be overcome in order to successfully build and operate a Space Elevator is avoiding space debris and satellites in orbit.  While much research has been done on this topic, the goal for most existing research has been mitigating the problem of space debris in relation to satellites, the ISS, the Shuttle, etc.

The Pearson prize will be awarded for that paper which best addresses the topic of Space Debris Mitigation in relation to a Space Elevator and is open to all college undergraduate students currently enrolled in a two or four-year undergraduate curriculum.

The Artsutanov prize will be awarded for the best paper on any other Space Elevator-related topic and is open to everyone.

The winning paper of the Pearson prize will be awarded $1,500 while the winning paper of the Artsutanov prize will be awarded $2,500.  Both winners will be invited to the 2010 Space Elevator conference (held this coming August in Redmond, Washington) to present their papers.  Their papers will also be published in the ISEC Journal.  In addition to awarding the prize money, ISEC will pay for airfare and hotel accommodations for the prize-winners (maximum of one per paper if multiple authors).

Contest details can be found on the ISEC website (

For more details, please contact ISEC President Ted Semon (ted [at], Prize Chair Peter Swan (peter [at] or ISEC Technical Pillar Lead Ben Shelef (ben [at]

Headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., a leading technology center, the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is a non-profit organization devoted to the research and construction of an Elevator to Space.  Founding members of ISEC include the Spaceward Foundation, the Space Elevator Reference, the Space Elevator Blog, EuroSpaceward and the Japan Space Elevator Association.   For more information please visit

Press Inquiries:

Ted Semon
ted [at]

Belinda Young
byoung [at]


A copy of the Press Release, in PDF format, can be found here.  I encourage all of you to send this to any email lists, websites, news organizations, etc. that you might have contact with.  The more we can spread the news of this competition, the better.

As the Press release states, details and ‘the fine print’ can be found on the ISEC website.  Come one, come all – do your research, send in your papers and maybe win some prize money and a trip to the Space Elevator Conference!

Space Debris Mitigation

In the Strategic Plan I presented to the ISEC Board during our January 6th meeting, one of my proposals was to choose a common Space-elevator related theme for all of ISEC’s activities.  Each year we would choose a different theme and revolve the following activities around it;

ISEC Technical Study – Each year ISEC will produce a peer-reviewed paper on the year’s theme.

ISEC Academic Competition – Each year, ISEC will award two academic prizes for student papers created on Space Elevator related subject matter.  Undergraduate paper submissions must be on this year’s theme (and yes, this is an early announcement of our Academic Competition – watch this space for more details – coming very soon).

ISEC Library – Each year, ISEC will populate the Space Elevator Wiki with subject matter on this year’s theme.

ISEC Journal – Each year, ISEC will produce a Journal of Space Elevator related articles, centered around this year’s theme.

The theme we have chosen this year is Space Debris Mitigation – what can we do to guarantee the safety of the Space Elevator despite all the stuff which is now orbiting the earth.  As has been pointed out ad nauseum, everything that is in orbit around the earth will, sooner or later, intersect the path of the Space Elevator.  We must have a solution (probably multiple solutions) to this problem.

The ISEC Technical Study will be on this topic.  The study team is headed up by our own Dr. Peter Swan, Ph.D., a long-time expert in this field.

To be eligible for the ISEC Academic award, papers submitted by undergraduates must be on this topic (graduate student submissions may be on any space-elevator related topic).

We have pulled together a team of four people who are now working on building up a database / library of information / papers on this year’s theme and will be updating the Space Elevator Wiki with it.

Our first ISEC Journal (estimated distribution date of Dec 1) will revolve around this theme, though additional space-elevator related topics will also be considered for inclusion.  Note that if you are a member of ISEC, you will get this Journal for free, as part of your membership benefits.

Finally, we are going to be encouraging additional papers on this theme to be presented at this year’s Space Elevator Conferences in the US, Europe and Japan.

So, stay tuned, join ISEC and help us make the Space Elevator a reality!

(Picture of orbital debris from here)

And we’re back…

After a long hiatus, it’s time to start posting Blog updates again.  We at ISEC have agreed upon our Strategic Plan for 2010 and I will be posting about our projects for this year in the next several days.

But other Space Elevator-related things are now starting to happen, too, and I’ll be blogging about them also…

Stay tuned!

My presentation at the 2009 EuroSpaceward Conference

My presentation at the EuroSpaceward conference seemed to be fairly well received (at least I wasn’t booed off the stage).  But then again, everyone was in a hurry to get lunch… 🙂

Anyway, here is a link to my presentation.  It consists of my opinion on the “State of ISEC”.  Part of me is discouraged that we haven’t done more, but the bigger part of me is very happy that we are up and functioning, that we have lasted more than a year, that we have some projects up and running and that we are (slowly) accumulating members.

If you are reading this and wondering what you can do to help the Space Elevator effort, I ask you to join ISEC.  Your membership fees & donations will go DIRECTLY towards space elevator related activities.  Much of the membership fees we collected this past year went to sponsor the Space Elevator Games, the ‘signature event’ in the field.  Our next major goal is to get these academic competitions up and running.  We are very fortunate to have the two modern “fathers” of the Space Elevator, Yuri Artsutanov and Jerome Pearson agree to have our academic prizes named after them.  We have a team of physicists and engineers ready to review the academic submissions.  As President of ISEC I have submitted our first Strategic Plan to the Board of Directors of ISEC and, once it’s approved, I’ll publish here (or on the ISEC website).

What we need now are funds to complete this task.  Please join us and help us make the Space Elevator a reality.

EuroSpaceward conference comes to an end…

And so the 2009 EuroSpaceward conference comes to an end.  It was very interesting, highly informative and I’m very glad I came.  I learned a lot and, more importantly (IMHO), I was able to spend lots of time with Markus Klettner (heading up EuroSpaceward) and Shuichi Ohno (heading up the Japan Space Elevator Association).

We had several very constructive conversations about how to jointly move forward the international effort to build a Space Elevator.  This goal is the reason why the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) was founded and I think it is fair to say that the ideas we had and agreements the three of us made will significantly move this idea forward.

Over the next few weeks, we will finalize and formalize these agreements and then use them to jointly move forward.  I think it will be exciting times for ISEC and the Space Elevator Community as a whole.

So let me end this post with a plea – if you are interested in helping efforts to build a Space Elevator, please consider joining ISEC.  Now more than ever, we need your donations & membership fees to put the aggressive plans we have made into action.  More than ever, we have an enthusiastic core to push our ideas forward – come join us to help make this exciting project a reality.

We need you – come and join us – the water is fine!

EuroSpaceward Conference – and the future of Space Elevator Development

I leave this evening to fly to Luxembourg.  There I will attend the EuroSpaceward Conference on “Space Elevator, CNT Tether Design & Lunar Industrialization Challenges“.  I’ll also be giving a presentation entitled: Space Elevator Consortium: stimulation and alignment of SE research activities.

Saying all of that is quite a mouthful…

I’m still polishing my presentation (sorry Markus) but will share it with my readers after I give it.  I can give you the abstract however:

In the many years since the concept of a Space Elevator has been popularized and advanced in Science Fiction, the number of people actively supporting this concept has not appreciably increased. In addition, the theoretical and practical boundaries on the strength of carbon nanotubes are beginning to point towards a material weaker than hoped for (but still strong enough to build a Space Elevator, albeit with reduced capacity). Given these facts, how do those of us in the Space Elevator community move this idea forward?

We first need to recognize and acknowledge that the Space Elevator is a “solution in search of a problem”. We then must find the need that a Space Elevator (and only a Space Elevator) can fulfill. The author proposes that the goals of Space Solar Power and the colonization of the Moon and Mars can only be accomplished with a Space Elevator and he further proposes that the Space Elevator community speak with one voice on this topic and work to ally itself with the proponents of Space Solar Power and Moon/Mars colonization.

While the recent successes at the Space Elevator Games certainly has been a ‘shot in the arm’ for the Space Elevator effort, it is no secret that we’re still a small group – and not really growing.  Why is this?  Certainly a major reason is that the long/strong carbon nanotubes needed to build a Space Elevator do not yet exist.  But another reason, I think, is that everyone in the effort has their own ideas on what a Space Elevator can and cannot do and, consequently, their own ideas on how to proceed.  If there were thousands and thousands of us, this would be all well and good.  But with such a small community, these non-unified efforts quickly lead to little or no results.  This has to change.  As the President of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), it’s my job to do this.  I need to get all of us to rally around a common theme, a common goal, a common purpose – and that common purpose has to be more than just “Let’s build a Space Elevator because it’s cool”.  That’s not going to get it done.  As I say in the abstract, we need to find the critical need(s) for which a Space Elevator is the best or only solution and then ally ourselves with people working to satisfy those needs.

I am going to be paying MUCH closer attention than I have in the past to people who want to colonize the Moon and/or Mars as I think the Space Elevator is the only way to go to accomplish these goals.  The more realistic souls among these groups (i.e., those who have come up with some defensible numbers) may indeed be our future ‘best friends’.  In addition, I’m going to take another look at Space Solar Power (though I’m very dubious that this can work on a commercial scale) and finally see if there is any possibility that a Space Elevator can be made economically viable by taking the majority of the commercial satellite launch market.

I invite comment and (reasoned) suggestions – it’s time to get serious guys…

And, on a final note, as I AM the Space Elevator Blogger, I’ll be reporting from the conference as often as I can.

Why you should join ISEC – Part 4

In the 4th installment of this series, Ed Gray, the head of ISEC’s Business Pillar, tells why he thinks everyone who wants to see a Space Elevator built should join ISEC:

ISEC is the team that will be known in the future for catalyzing the scientific, outreach, legal and business work that give the Space Elevator to the world.  If it seems like Sci-Fi or magic, just think of the iPhone, social networking, remote surgery and other mainstays of our lives – a few decades ago.  All would have been considered magic, but they emerged through, creative thinking, experimentation, debate, audacity and through the teamwork of experts from many disciplines and from many parts of the world.

My first Space Elevator Conference in Seattle was life-changing.  If you go, you might see a theoretical mathematician from Armenia, a finance entrepreneur from Texas, a carbon nanotube scientist from Seattle or a playwright from San Diego.  You may also be like me – a new contributor to the work being done to design, plan and implement the Space Elevator.  The people and proceedings of the conference make it tough to resist getting involved.  The experts and enthusiasts of ISEC will be the steam that keeps this train moving – straight up…

Thank you Ed.  The Business Pillar of ISEC, as noted on the ISEC website, is charged with:

Space today is dominated by government business. But shipping and air travel isn’t. The Space Elevator may be built for security reasons or “national pride”, but its capacity can only be satisfied by a real space-based economy. The business pillar examines the economics of the Space Elevator.

Another focus of the business pillar are the stepping stones that lead from here to there – the ability to advance component Space Elevator technologies by building self-contained business cases around them even before the Space Elevator exists. Carbon Nanotubes are the obvious example, but not the only one.

As a specific objective, it is also important to analyze the connection and synergy between the Space Elevator and Space Based Solar Power. It may very well turn out that you can’t have one without the other.

To really exploit Space, we need a Space Elevator.  Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation (host of the Space Elevator Games) often jokes that we should be talking to the Department of Transportation rather than NASA about building a Space Elevator.

One other ISEC-related note; One of the benefits of joining as a “Standard” member is receiving an autographed copy of Glen Phillips CD, Secrets of the New Explorers.  This CD has, IMHO, the best Space Elevator song written so far – and the rest of the album is pretty cool too.  I reviewed this CD back in February of last year.  We received the first batch of autographed CDs from Glen today and they will be going out in the mail soon to those who have signed up.  For the rest of you who haven’t, I urge you to join ISEC today.  Momentum is building and you can be a part of it and help make a Space Elevator happen – JOIN!

New ISEC Team Member

In March of 2008, I started a project to translate the phrase “Space Elevator” into as many languages as possible.  You can view the current state of this effort by clicking on the “Translation Project” tab at the top of this blog.  I’ve not had time to pursue this lately, and we at the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) decided to a) find someone who would volunteer to take charge of this project and b) move the project from the Space Elevator Blog to the ISEC website.

I am very pleased to announce that Jan Bilek, a long-time Space Elevator enthusiast, has volunteered to take on this task.  Jan will be actively soliciting translations through his contacts and I’m confident that he will be able to move this project forward.  The Space Elevator will benefit all humanity and I think it is only fitting that we who are actively promoting this idea be able to communicate at least the name of the concept in as many languages as possible.

I asked Jan to ‘say’ a few words and here is his response:

“Thank you for the opportunity to join the ISEC team, I’m very much looking forward to working together. I hope that our work with other volunteers will help to bring this great idea, and an understanding of it, to a worldwide audience.”

Thanks Jan – we welcome you to the ISEC team and we truly appreciate your willingness to do this.

Those of you who have translations for the phrase Space Elevator can send them to Jan-public [at]  Extra credit for translations into Klingon, Vulcan or Romulan… ?

Why you should join ISEC – Part 3

In the continuation of the series “Why you should join ISEC” (Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here), I present to you what David Letterman might say if he was asked “Why should someone join ISEC?”:


David Letterman’s* Top Five Reasons to join ISEC

#5]  You want to know where your mother’s yarn has gone.
#4]  Bragging rights – be the first on your block to be a card carrying member
#3]  Great Pick-up lines at Cocktail Party
#2]  Develops your unassailable credibility as a rocket scientist
#1]  Self Satisfaction at furthering space exploration – Actually you ARE!

(*With thanks to Peter Swan and apologies to Mr. Letterman…)

Why you should join ISEC – Part 2

On Monday of this week, I gave you my take on why you should join ISEC, the International Space Elevator Consortium.  Today, I present Ben Shelef’s reasoning as to why he thinks that you should join ISEC.

Ben is the CEO of the Spaceward Foundation, the host of the Space Elevator Games.  Ben has done just a great job with this; sheparding the games from a starting point of climbers trying to ascend a 50 meter tether, powered by searchlights provided by Spaceward, to what he is planning to do today; having laser-powered climbers ascend/descend a cable a full kilometer into the sky.  The increase in skill level demonstrated by the teams is nothing short of amazing.  And, lest we forget, there are TWO Space Elevator Games, the other being the Strong Tether Competition.  Though overshadowed by the more showy Climber / Power-Beaming competition, the Strong Tether competition is arguably even more important.  After all, if the tether isn’t strong enough, there won’t be a Space Elevator.

Anyway, here is Ben’s take on why YOU should join the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC):

Consider these points:

• ISEC is the only organization fully dedicated to building a Space Elevator.
• The Space Elevator is the only approach we know of to creating a space-faring, interplanetary civilization.
• Creating a space-faring, interplanetary civilization is the only way to guarantee mankind’s continued prosperity through the 21st century and prevent us from going through another cycle of cultural collapse and loss of knowledge.

Bold claims, to be sure, but true nonetheless. Let’s go over them, starting with the boldest one.  The renowned physicist Stephen Hawkings recently asked: “How can the human race survive the next hundred years?”  The human race faces many challenges, some old, and some new – between wars, natural disasters, climate change, and just plain stagnation, there is no lack of credible threats to our society. What is new and unprecedented is that our immune system is shot.

Throughout our history, mankind was composed of many separate civilizations, interconnected through relatively limited trade routes. Interaction between the civilizations was mostly through commerce, and sometimes through war. This was a good thing, since it allowed different cultures to participate in a Darwinian process – bits and pieces were exchanged, sometimes cultures were merged, and most importantly, the failure of any single civilization through any of the reasons mentioned above did not bring about the end of mankind.

This mechanism has ceased to function now, since our civilization has become a single tightly interconnected culture. We can communicate between any two points on the globe in mere fractions of a second, and we can hurl our bombs at each other across the oceans in less than 30 minutes. Our industry is at the point where it has the potency to affect the environment of the whole planet, not just of the local pond, and our manufacturing and financial systems are completely interdependent.

This adds up to the old adage of having all of our eggs in one basket.  When our current civilization, just like many before it, succumbs to any of the challenges mentioned above, there will be no other civilization to prop it up. We have no backups.  The only way to solve this problem is to expand our habitat into the solar system. Mars is a comparatively easy first step, but even Mars habitation will take decades to become self sufficient, and so we need to start as soon as possible.

Enter the Space Elevator. While it is conceivable that Mars habitation can be undertaken using rocket systems alone, it will be a very slow process. The Space Elevator will allow us to transfer huge amounts of mass to Mars, enabling the creation of a self-sustaining infrastructure almost instantaneously.

With an independent Mars civilization in place, we will have our first insurance policy, and having an insurance policy will have a stabilizing effect on Earth.  With Mars in place, we can turn our attention to the vast resources of the asteroids, and form a true spacefaring civilizations.

Enter ISEC. The Space Elevator is not a short-term project, which makes it a very difficult endeavor to pursue. Neil Armstrong once said “We predict too much for the next year and yet far too little for the next 10”.

ISEC is not distracted by “low hanging fruit” that can be achieved soon.  We’re looking to create the kind of space-transportation infrastructure that will get us to space 1000 tons at a time. We think this is the most important pursuit mankind has to engage in – we do not have many generations left to keep idle.

Thank you Ben.  And I say again to all of my readers, if you want a Space Elevator to happen, you should join ISEC.  We are the ones who are pushing the relevant technologies forward, but we need your help to do it.  Please join us and participate in what promises to be one of the defining projects of this century.

ISEC needs you!

This is a Press Release which was sent out this morning:

International Space Elevator Consortium Announces New Membership Drive

Program Aimed at Unifying Space Elevator Community Worldwide, Help Fund Research

Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. (April 6, 2009) – The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), a new group designed to globally promote outreach and foster research relating to the construction of an Elevator to Space, today announced details of its membership program.

Proceeds from membership will be used to further the development of an Elevator to Space, such as funding of research and engaging the public at large. According to ISEC, membership is designed to help provide funding for research necessary to build an Elevator to Space, connect people around the world interested in the project, keep them up to date on its progress and provide the public with ways they can help get involved in the program.

We are looking to make ISEC the single premier authoritative source on the effort worldwide and a way to encourage people at all levels – teachers, students, hobbyists and enthusiasts as well as scientists and researchers – in participating in its development,” said Ted Semon, president of ISEC. “This makes us unique among all Space Elevator organizations.”

Several levels of membership are being offered, including standard, student and premium. Membership includes incentives, discounts and member-only activities at ISEC events such as the Space Elevator Conference and Space Elevator games. All members will receive a complimentary subscription to the ISEC E-Journal, the authoritative voice on Space Elevator activities worldwide.

In addition, we’re providing unique incentives at each level of membership, with collector’s items at the premium levels,” said Semon. “These include an author-autographed collector’s edition of the “The New Explorers” CD, as well as presentation copies of the original papers about the Space Elevator signed by their authors, Jerome Pearson and Yuri Artsutanov, the “Fathers of the Space Elevator Program.”

Headquartered in the greater Los Angeles area, the center of the aerospace industry, the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is a non-profit organization devoted to the research and construction of an Elevator to Space. For more information please visit

For more information please contact:

Ted Semon

Belinda Young


So, why should you join ISEC?  Why should you become a member and give us some of your hard-earned money, especially in these economic times?  What’s in it for you?  These are all good questions, but I’d like to answer them by asking you some questions; Do you think that humanity should expand beyond earth?  Do you think that humanity should have a transportation system to space which is safe and reliable and scalable?  Do you agree with Robert Heinlein when he wrote; “The earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.”  Are you a supporter of the idea of Space-based Solar Power Satellites?  If you answered ‘yes’ to any or all of these questions, you should support the concept of a Space Elevator!  A Space Elevator is THE transportation system which can make our race a truly spacefaring one.

ISEC was formed to make a Space Elevator happen.  The money you give us by joining ISEC will be used to fund research into technologies necessary to build a Space Elevator and to ‘spread the word’.  For example, one of the first projects we want to tackle is research into how a carbon nanotube (CNT) tether will actually perform outside the earth’s atmosphere and protective magnetic field.  Atomic oxygen, radiation, space debris and just normal wear-and-tear from Climber traffic will all be hazards the ribbon has to endure.  We’d like to partner with a university or lab and set up earth-based experiments to get some preliminary answers.  At some point, however, we’ll need to actually test a CNT tether in space and that may mean a CubeSat mission.  All of this will take money and focus.  We can provide the focus but we need YOU to provide the money.  Without your support, efforts to build a Space Elevator will continue to be disjointed, unfocused and uncoordinated.

Those of us who have come together to create ISEC (and you can find out who we are by checking out the Team and Partner pages on our website) passionately believe that building a Space Elevator should be considered a high priority by everyone who has an interest in the future of our species.  Please join us by becoming a member of ISEC and participating in what promises to be one of the defining projects of this century.

ISEC Press Announcement

This morning, the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) sent out it’s first press release, basically saying “Hey world – we’re here!”.  The real fun is going to start over the next several weeks.  We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to set up our plans for 2009.  I don’t want to prematurely mention anything specific now – but rest assured that we will be doing concrete work to further efforts in getting a Space Elevator built and we’re going to have fun along the way.  Stay tuned!

I encourage all of you to visit the ISEC web site ( to sign up for our newsletter.

Here is the press release:

Leading Players in the Space Elevator Movement Join Together to Form New International Consortium

New Independent Group to Foster Global Research, Develop International Standards and Serve as a Worldwide Information Exchange on the Space Elevator

Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. (December 22, 2008) – A coalition of leaders in the Space Elevator movement today announced the formation of The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), a new independent group designed to promote standards and foster research relating to the construction of an Elevator to Space at the global level.

Founding members of ISEC include the Spaceward Foundation, the Space Elevator Reference, the Space Elevator Blog, EuroSpaceward and the Japan Space Elevator Association.  Heading the new organization is Ted Semon of the Space Elevator Blog, who will serve as president.

According to the Consortium, the goal of ISEC is to promote the development, construction and operation of the Space Elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity.  The group will accomplish this through these key areas:

– Development of a unified plan and roadmap for the Space Elevator and the coordinated assignment of specific research topics
– Funding of research on technologies relevant to the Space Elevator
– Development of the international legal framework necessary for the operation of the Space Elevator
– Global public outreach and central information exchange on Space Elevator activities

The Space Elevator is a project whose time has come,” said Semon.  “With the challenges facing today’s global economy, it is clear that new industries and new ideas are needed to help our planet in the 21st Century.  The Space Elevator can be a key positive contributor, from providing inexpensive nanotechnology material science breakthroughs that will make your car stronger and lighter, to the creation of new industries that offer opportunities for investment and job creation.  The International Space Elevator Consortium devoted to its development can make this happen.”

ISEC will be unveiling additional plans and details in the upcoming weeks, including a board of directors, technical journals, university and industry relationships, research opportunities and scholarships.  Memberships will be available on the individual, corporate, academic and governmental levels.

Headquartered in the greater Los Angeles area, center of the aerospace industry, the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is a non-profit organization devoted to the research and construction of an Elevator to Space.  For more information please visit

For more information please contact:

Ted Semon
ted [at]

Belinda Young
byoung [at]

Introducing the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC)

“ISEC promotes the development, construction and operation of a space elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity”

This is the mission statement of the newly formed International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), an organization created to encourage the growing international interest and momentum towards building a Space Elevator.  Several attendees at the recent Space Elevator Conference in Seattle talked about pooling their efforts to get such an effort underway and, after a false start or two, we’ve now succeeded in forming this Consortium.

We have incorporated as a non-profit corporation in the State of California and are now working on establishing our Federal 501c3 status (and for those of you who would like to point out how difficult this is, I’d just like to say that IRS Form 1023 and I are old friends 🙂 ).

Several groups have joined together in this effort; The Spaceward Foundation, The Japan Space Elevator Association, EuroSpaceward, The Space Elevator Reference and this Space Elevator Blog.  In addition to these groups, several other individuals (both long-timers in the Space Elevator community and newcomers from the Seattle conference) have joined this Consortium.

Yours truly has been chosen as the President of this organization; an honor which I find very humbling and exciting at the same time.  I have lots of plans to aggressively grow this organization and make no mistake about it; our goal is nothing less than to get a Space Elevator built.

You will be hearing much, much more about this organization in the near future so stay tuned.  In the meantime, I encourage you to head to the ISEC website and sign up for our newsletter so you can stay current with all of our efforts.