Monthly Archives: August 2007

Venue for 2007 Space Elevator Games

As many of you know, the Space Elevator Games will be held this year at the Davis County Fairgrounds, just North of Salt Lake City, Utah.  Google Earth provides an excellent overview (pun intended) of the location.  If you key in the correct coordinates (40 degrees, 58 minutes, 35.09 seconds North and 111 degrees, 54 minutes, 33.42 seconds West), you’ll zoom right into it.  I love Google Earth.  It’s so much fun to use, it works so well, it’s so smooth and, to tell the truth, it’s a bit creepy (zooming into your house).  To the right of this paragraph is a thumbnail of what you will see in Google Earth – click on it for a full size version.

Ben Shelef, CEO of both Spaceward and Elevator 2010, recently visited the Venue.  He took several pictures, which you can view as a Microsoft word file (here) or .pdf (here).  One of the pictures is reproduced in this post – click on it for a larger version.

Less than seven weeks and counting – I can hardly wait!!

Seven more weeks…

Just seven weeks from today; Friday, October 19th, the finals of the 2007 Space Elevator Games begin.  In the 2006 games, USST, Lite-Won, M Climber and Turbo Crawler made it all the way to the top (while the KC Space Pirates nearly got there) but only the USST run seriously challenged for the Prize Money.  This year, hopefully, we’re going to have multiple teams that meet the Prize money qualifications.

Seven more weeks…

News from the McGill Space Elevator Team

One of the first-time entrants in this year’s Space Elevator Games is the McGill Space Elevator Elevator team, from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  Now I have a special affinity for that town; my wife was born and raised in the Montreal area, most of her relatives live in and around Montreal and she and I were married in Montreal.  Suffice it to say that I have spent a fair amount of time there.

So I was pleased to receive an email yesterday from Cyrus, one of the team members of the McGill Space Elevator Team, informing me that they are in the process of updating their web site and sending me a couple of photos from their teams appearance at Discover McGill, a campuswide orientation for all first-year students at McGill.

This team has been pretty quiet about what type of entry they’re going to have in this years competition and I’ll be contacting them (and all of the other teams) soon to set up some interviews.  In the meantime, enjoy the photos (click on them for a larger version).

(Update 29AUG07 – I inadvertently posted the same picture twice – this is now fixed – sorry)

We meet another member of LaserMotive…

In this week’s “Meet the Team” blog posting from LaserMotive, we meet David Shoemaker.  David’s “credits” include a stint in the Navy, getting involved with LiftPort (where he met Tom Nugent), working at Microsoft and working on coin-op Arcade Games.  A techno-geek for sure :-).

Read the whole post here.

Ben Shelef appears on The Space Show

On Sunday, Ben Shelef, CEO of The Spaceward Foundation, was interviewed by The Space Show’s Dr. David Livingston.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ben or Spaceward, this is the organization that puts on the Space Elevator Games each year and will be doing so again in October of this year.  From The Space Show website:

Ben Shelef, co-founder of Spaceward Foundation, was the guest for this show. Spaceward is sponsoring the 2007 climber and space elevator games in Salt Lake City this year, Oct. 19-21, 2007. Check it out at the Spaceward Foundation website. Not only did Ben tell us about the climber contest and also the tether contest, he noted that for winners there is a million dollars to give away courtesy our favorite NASA! Its $500K for the winner of each contest but Ben explains this and the rules so read up on it, plus the other events to be held at this competition. After discussing the coming Salt Lake City competition, the facilities, hotel, etc, Ben got lots of good space elevator questions. We talked about a lunar elevator and an elevator for Mars. We even discussed the Martian moons and an elevator. You will not want to miss this discussion as its most informative. As for the competition, there are more than 20 teams from the US, Canada and Japan. Listen to how Ben describes their technology. Its certainly going to be exciting this year. If you have questions for Ben Shelef about the upcoming Salt Lake City competition, the space elevator, the Spaceward Foundation, please email him at Ben [AT] or as always, you can forward your comments and questions to him through me at drspace [AT] And check the Spaceward website for more information and announcements about the coming games and the results.

It’s a long an interesting interview and highly recommended for anyone who wants to know more about The Space Elevator Games, possible uses of a Space Elevator and other interesting topics.  Visit The Space Show website or click here to listen to the interview (note that it’s in .mp3 format and will take some time to download before you’ll begin to hear it).

USST revamps/updates their website

The USST website is sporting a new, updated look – quite spiffy IMHO.  They’ve also been updating their “News” section and we learn from it several interesting things.  Their August 14th update states:

Members of USST have photos taken to be published in “NASA 50”, a publication celebrating the 50th anniversary of NASA.

That’s mega-cool.  Also, their August 22nd entry states:

USST has been unofficially notified by the FAA that they will be approved to operate their laser power source at the Elevator 2010 competition in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Check out their News section for all USST updates.  We also have other confirmation that they will be using a laser to power their Climber this year.  From their website’s Home Page:

For this year’s Elevator: 2010 Competition, the USST is making use of a high-powered laser and we are currently conducting thorough design and testing in order to provide the next generation of beamed power at this years competition.

That makes at least two laser powered entries this year; LaserMotive being the other one.  And, we have the Andromeda Connection’s “Solar Laser” entry, too.  I have no doubt that returning competitors KC Space Pirates, UBC-Snowstar and University of Michigan’s MClimber will all up their game.  Add that to the other first-time entrants and this year’s competition is shaping up to be the most intense yet.  If you haven’t made your plans to be there yet, I’d urge you to do so.  This is an event not to be missed.

Power outage…

As many of you may know, the American midwest has been hit pretty hard by storms over the past several days.  Where I live (western suburbs of Chicago) was no exception.  We lost power for nearly three days, along with our phone and internet service.  Everything is now back up and I’ll be posting again later today – thanks for your patience…

LaserMotive releases next installment of “Meet the Team”

In this posting on the LaserMotive blog, we learn about Carsten Erickson, another LaserMotive team member.  Racing seems to be in the guy’s blood, participating in “Go-Kart, Hydro, Vintage Sports Car for his entire life”.  He’s also the owner of a software company, which makes him ultra-mega-cool IMHO…

“Elevator reaches for the stars”

In today’s edition of the Edmonton Journal, Keith Gerein writes about the University of Alberta’s entry into this year’s Space Elevator Games.  Money quote from team member Chris Ryziuk in discussing their limited budget:

“We can’t buy our way to victory, but a good design goes a long way.”

This is the first article I’ve seen on this team – good to know that they’re active.  They won’t reveal their Climber’s power source so I guess we’ll just have to wait.  You can check out their team website here.

(Photo credit: John Lucas from the Journal.  Click on it or view the article for a larger version)

“Is the Final Frontier Just One Ride Away On a Space Elevator?”

If you are a subscriber to the Wall Street Journal online, you can view today’s article on the Space Elevator by Lee Gomes.  I’m not a subscriber, so won’t be able to view it.  But I’m bummed – I spent a lot of time on the phone with Lee while he was preparing this article – wish I could read it  Oh well.

If anyone is a subscriber, please let me know how the article was 🙂

Update August 27th – This article is now freely available here – thanks to Brian Dunbar at LiftPort for pointing this out.

The Climber/Power Beaming competition and the FAA…

In order to operate their Climber/Power Beaming entries, many of the contestants in this year’s contest must have permission from the FAA.

Bryan Laubscher is the Safety Officer for this event and has issued the following memorandum to all teams;

“1) Solar Teams – Do not have to file anything with the FAA

2) Spotlight Teams – Must file the form below. Richard (FAA advisor) does not anticipate any issues. However, my recommendation to assure passage are:

A) Have a team member designated to look for aircraft and be ready to shut off spotlights.
B) Make the point that the beams are terminated (by the climber). His concern is that distraction or dazzle to an aircraft.
C) Have all your power and divergence information in the form submitted and include the distance at which each beam’s irradiance (Watts / cm squared) drops below the sun’s irradiance.
D) Get this done ASAP.
E) Bring a copy of your form and your approval letter with you to the games as a part of your safety package.

3) Laser Teams – Must file the form below. My recommendation to assure passage are:

A) Have a team member designated to look for aircraft and be ready to shut off the lasers.
B) Explain your system for automatic beam shutoff if the beam strays.
C) Have a person designated at the power switch to shut off the lasers in the case of an unanticpated problems.
D) Make the point that the beams are terminated (by the climber). His concern is eye damage to people on an aircraft.
E) Have all your power and divergence information in the form submitted and include the distance at which each beam’s irradiance (Watts / cm squared) drops below Maximum Permissible Exposure.
F) Get this done ASAP.
E) Bring a copy of your form and your approval letter with you to the games as a part of your safety package.

On the FAA website search for:

Form 7140-1 and for information Advisory Circular AC70-1

This form needs to be filled out by the teams indicated above.”

And on a related note, LaserMotive has announced on their blog that they have already received permission from the FAA to operate their laser-powered climber.  You can read about here.  Congratulations LaserMotive!

What’s a “Solar Laser”?

That was my question when I read the previous posting from the Andromeda Connection.  A Laser is coherent light, sunlight is not.  I did a quick Google on the term and found a few sites that discussed “Solar Lasers” (including selling them to heat swimming pools).  It still didn’t sound right to me and, with today’s posting at the Andromeda Connection’s website, the mystery is cleared up.

From the post:

“On the other hand, even though the MOLPSoL doesn’t use a single frequency of light as defined by a true laser, it can be tuned to a relatively narrow bandwidth. A collimated beam of white light cannot maintain convergence due to the different frequencies of light interfering with each other thereby causing divergence in the beam (in English: the photons, or light particles, traveling at different speeds collide with each other and cause the beam to spread). However, a well tunned MOLPSoL, using a fairly narrow bandwidth, can maintain convergence for fairly long distances.”

This is, in essence, a similiar technique to what the KC Space Pirates did last year.  The Space Pirates used a large number of mirrors to focus sunlight onto a collector on the climber itself.  The climber then further focused this light onto the photovoltaic cells onboard.  However, if I’m reading between the lines correctly here, the Andromeda Connection technique will be to do the “final focusing” at the ground and beam the convergent output to the climber.

Read the whole post here

News from the Andromeda Connection

The Andromeda Connection has updated their blog (they entitle it “Progress Report”).  The latest news reads, in part;

“It seems the solar laser will be easier and cheaper to build anyway, and the odds of cloud cover during the 3 day event are acceptable. It was therefore decided that a MOLPSoL solar laser would replace the spot lights, providing 6 suns of light energy instead of the original 2 suns expected from the spot lights.”

The man has confidence, no doubt about it.  On his “Why AnConn” page, he states;

“True, there is a lot of competition in this event. Some of this year’s competitors have big names. Some have proven their muster in past events. But given what I have seen from past events, the research I’ve done and my ideas for overcoming the problems mentioned below, there is no doubt in my mind that this year’s competition is in the bag.”

Due to his change in Climber power supply, he also now has some items for sale;

“I have 6 – 2500W/220V long throw spot lights for sale. Asking $1200.00 each, plus shipping. Any takers?”

Their website also has a number of photos and videos on it – definitely worth checking out.  The thumbnail shown on this post is from their gallery and is of the two halves of their drive system.  Click on it for a larger view.

LaserMotive – Problems and Solutions…

The latest posting on the LaserMotive blog discusses ongoing problems they’ve had with their climber’s motor controller.  These types of problems are typical engineering ones; I’ve seen many like it during my time of gainful employment.  It’s what the engineering process is all about, and it’s why it will take real engineering skills to build something that has a chance in winning the climber/power-beaming competition (this year, or any year).

One engineering “skill” is employing testing, testing and testing some more.  I remember when I was working at a company called InFlight Phone Corporation.  Our product was phone and entertainment systems for commercial and private aircraft (my job was managing all of the software development).  We were having a problem with the phone cord mechanism on many of our commercial plane installations – it kept failing.  Our new corporate owner, MCI, brought in a “SWAT” team of people to help us make our product more robust.  Some of their people were competent, some were not.  One of the not-so-good ones got involved with the problem of the handset cord failures.  He looked at our current solution and soon came up with a new one, one he was sure would solve the problem.  He was so sure that he said it didn’t need testing – just get it out to the planes ASAP.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and, over his objections, we brought in an ME to do some real analysis and testing on it.  The ME rigged up a mechanism that repeatedly pulled the cord in and out of its holder, simultaneously dragging it over a plastic arm, simulating the type of motion it would be subjected to on a plane.  Within 12 hours, the new, “improved” design failed.

Testing, testing, testing – an absolute key ingredient to success…

Energy from Space

Longtime readers know that I am very interested in how Solar Power Satellites (SPS) might become a viable option for providing clean energy from space.  According to the calculations I’ve done, it doesn’t seem like a realistic possibility.  The sheer scale of the problem (i.e., how much electricity humanity consumes) means that SPS won’t be more than a minor player on the scene until the efficiencies of Solar-2-Electric conversion get better by at least an order of magnitude (or more).

But I still try and follow developments in this field, hoping for some new breakthrough (or hoping that I’ve misplaced a decimal point somewhere).  In a recent issue of Marc Boucher’s SpaceRef Daily, he points out a presentation which was given at the George C. Marshall Institute titled “Energy from Space: Examining the Potential of Space to Provide Energy for Earth“.  Although I didn’t attend this, the slides from the two presentations are on the Marshall Institute website (and are available here and here).

Space Elevator fans might take note of slide number 13 from Dr. Hoffert’s presentation.  He uses a comparison from Ivan Bekey’s Advanced Space System Concepts and Technologies showing an earth-based Space Elevator operating “40-50 years out” and it’s launch cost as $2/kg (vs. $20,000/kg using a Shuttle today).  He also makes the case that SPS could eventually be cheaper than earth based Solar power because of the increased efficiencies.

Neither presentation, unfortunately, deflates the argument I made earlier; that because of the sheer size of the problem, SPS will not be a major contributor to earth’s power usage unless and until efficiencies get a whole let better.

Interesting presentations nonetheless…

Kansas City Space Pirates start blog

Taking up the challenge offered by LaserMotive, the KC Space Pirates have updated their web site with a blog.  Their latest posting is titled “Its a great day to be a Space Pirate”.

Dan Leafblad from the Space Pirates has this to say about the blog:

“Hi, We have been working hard testing and preparing for the competition but also accepted LaserMotive’s challenge to start a blog, something we have been planning on for months but just now got around to doing. we hope to update it regularly, i dont know how often it will be but we hope to keep it updated.”

Their website is very interesting and is one of the better Team sites out there.  Take a look…

(Older) interview with Brad Edwards

I’ve seen this video before and can swear that I had posted it prior to now, but I’ll be darned if I can find it.  Either I never got around to posting it or have misfiled under the wrong category.

In any event, here it is – an AP story about the Space Elevator.  I don’t know the date, but it was some time ago – it still has Dr. Edwards associated with ISR…

LaserMotive issues blogging challenge…

In the latest post from the LaserMotive blog, Tom Nugent says that they’re going to increase their already (relatively) prolific blogging and challenges the other competitors in this year’s Space Elevator Games to do likewise.

Tom points out the diminishing risks of doing so; it IS getting late in the game to be changing an entry and so teams would be risking little, if anything, by letting us know what is going on with them (hint, hint)…

I know USST is in the process of updating their website, and the KC Space Pirates, Snowstar, RAMCO I and E-T-C have been updating us semi-irregularly, but from the others, essentially nada.  Several of the teams don’t even have websites.  Of course we can’t read too much into that as one of the teams without a website, LiteWon (now the Technology Tycoons?), came in with the second fastest time last year and should only improve this year.

So, do we have any takers for this blogging challenge?

Note to other teams – wanna buy some equipment?

I received this news today from Clayton Ruszkowski, captain of the USST Space Design Team:

“…we are putting our 1kW laser stack, highly reflective mirror and solar cells (GaAs) up for sale to the other teams. They will be posted on our new and updated website next week…if anyone is interested to contact me via my email address; usst [AT]…”

Clayton has emailed me some pictures of the stuff for sale (here and here – both are 1mb files).  So, either USST has given up or has upgraded.  I would lay a large amount of cash on the latter.  They are also sporting the spiffy new logo shown on this post (click on it for a high-res version).

Finally, Clayton and I have also entered into “serious discussions” on what type of Canadian beer may be brought to yours truly… 🙂  You know, I wonder if I could talk the German, Japanese and Spanish teams into bringing along a six-pack or two…

The Canadians are coming! The Canadians are coming!

In this year’s Space Elevator Games, no fewer than five teams from Canada have entered the Climber/Power Beaming competition.  Returning from last year are teams from the University of Saskatchewan (USST) and from the University of British Columbia (Snowstar).  New Canadian entries this year include the McGill Space Elevator Team (from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec), the Queens Space Elevator Team (from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario) and the University of Alberta Space Elevator Racing Team (from the University of Alberta in Edmonton).

USST has to be considered the early favorite for this competition.  They finished first in the competitions in 2005 and 2006 and missed out on the prize money last year by just two seconds.

I’m personally very glad that we have so many entries from north of the border.  My wife is a Canadian citizen so fully half of my extended family are Canucks.  In addition, this land of Moose, Hockey, and Mounted Police brews a plethora of fine beer.  Now, I’m an American and I love my country (and my beer), but it is my personal opinion that most American beers are not up to world standards.  So, I would take it as a very great personal favor if each of the teams would bring yours truly a six-pack of their favorite brew.  If you do, I promise to reimburse you in American or Canadian dollars and to post a very favorable story about your team 🙂

CBC news, a Canadian news organization which did a fine job of covering the games last year, has posted a story about this year’s Canadian invasion of the games.