Monthly Archives: September 2007

The latest from the Kansas City Space Pirates

I received this today from Brian Turner, fearless leader of the Kansas City Space Pirates:

“Well we leave in two weeks! The short time is currently our biggest problem. We have a second trailer so we should have plenty of room. I am attaching a photo of my driveway to give an idea of how much the project has overflowed my garage. Fortunately I live in the county and we can have a bunch of weird stuff all over the lawn. The neighbors are all rooting for us too. Sometimes they stop and ask what is going on.

This weekend I need to get several hundred holes drilled in the mirror frames. So those of you that are local, now is the time that we could use some help. Call me at 816-716-7077. The process is simple and I am planning on having a supervisor for those of you that have not drilled that many holes. Bring a cordless drill if you have one and a 3/16″ bit.

I also am including a photo of what happens on a windy day when we left a mirror tied to something too small.

Brian Turner”

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

Three weeks and counting…

Only three more weeks until October 19th and the start of the Space Elevator Games.

If you don’t know what these are, you can find all about them at the Elevator2010 website.

If you want to see a glimpse of the future of transport to and from space, you should plan on attending.¬† I’ll be live-blogging the games (assuming that the Verizon EVDO service works there ūüôā ) and posting summaries each night.¬† But it’s no substitute for actually being there, especially if you live in the Salt Lake City area.

Only three more weeks…

LaserMotive posts photos of one of their test setups…

This is an interesting post from LaserMotive with some neat photos of one of their test setups.

The post notes that LaserMotive needed to produce a video of their power beaming system in operation.  All of the entrants in the Climber / Power-Beaming competition needed to produce a similar video, a requirement from Spaceward (the organization running the Space Elevator Games) to help ensure that only serious entrants will be allowed to compete.  Last year, there were entrants who were totally unprepared for the competition but who showed up anyway and insisted on getting time on the test and competition ribbons.  This wound up hurting the teams that actually were prepared, something that Spaceward is determined to prevent this year.

(The picture is from the LaserMotive blog Рclick on it (or visit their blog) for a larger version.  They have another picture of the test setup on the blog as well)

From across the pond…

While poking around Team Recens website, I came across this interesting document¬†(Bob Munck alert – its a .pdf).¬† It covers the technical issues that arose at last year’s games and the suggested solutions to these problems for this year.

Team Recens is from Spain and is entered as a “Limited” contestant this year in the Climber / Power-Beaming competition.¬† Let’s hope that the shipping company in charge of getting their equipment over her this year does a better job than UPS did for/to them last year

Another LaserMotive “Meet the Team” posting…

In this posting, we ‘meet’ LaserMotive’s Tom Nugent.¬† For most of us in the Space Elevator ‘community’, this is a very familiar name.¬† He was the research director at Liftport and his name was as nearly synonymous with the company as is Michael Laine’s.

I’ve known Tom for some time now and can vouch for the fact that he is a genuine good guy.¬† He’s always eager to help and is always eager to do whatever he can to further the concept of a Space Elevator.¬† He’s a family man and a proud pappa and, in this posting, we learn about his education and experiences.

I look for the LaserMotive team to be one of the favorites this year, and much of that is due to Tom.

Space Elevator video as news item

I found this on the RooTV Australia website.¬† It’s a short clip discussing the concept of a Space Elevator.¬† It’s undated, but recent I think.¬† The most interesting item on the clip was the mention of creating carbon nanotube fibers “just over 3 miles long”.

And sorry, but you have to view the Levitra commercial up front – fortunately, the fast forward button lets you get through it quickly ūüôā

Dates finalized for the EuroSpaceward Climber and Tether Design Workshop

In May of this year, EuroSpaceward announced (via Brad Edwards) a workshop to be held in November of this year.  The tentative dates were initially Nov 14-16, but these have now been changed/finalized to Nov 12-14.

Read my original blog posting about this event here and Brad Edwards announcement at the Space Elevator Reference here.

(Thank you Markus Klettner for pointing out the revised dates to me.)

News from the Kansas City Space Pirates

The latest from Brian Turner, fearless leader of the Kansas City Space Pirates:

“Well it’s now less than one month to the competition. We are down to the heavy work of getting ready. If it was still August I would be ecstatic. As it is, I feel quite pressured by time. But all systems are progressing well and we are not expecting any surprises. All of the custom electronics showed up on schedule and that was the last of the potential show-stoppers.

Every test for the last month has been as expected or better. We also will have cool Space Pirate collateral. Including flags, t-shirts, tattoos and mirrors. Speak up if your interested in some of this loot.

Press coverage:

You can find a picture of my garage in the October issue of Kansas City Business Magazine. It’s located just inside the back cover. The magazine should be on sale now. I mistakenly told some of you that this would be in the Kansas City Business Journal. The KC Business Magazine website is]


Secret weapon revealed for 2008 Space Elevator Games

In this article from NewScientist, we learn about a new possibility in the laser field, a gamma-ray laser.¬† All you have to do is to (somehow) have “an electron hook up with its antiparticle, the positron, to form positronium” and then have the “positronium atoms merge into a kind-of a ‘super-atom’ condensate” which could then lead to “gamma-ray lasers a million times more powerful than standard lasers”.

No problem…

I fully expect to see at least two of these in next year’s Space Elevator games ūüôā

(Picture from here – click on it for a larger version)

“NASA Issues Challenges and Prizes to Spur Technological Innovation”

This is an interesting post from Brant McLaughlin.  While his mention of the upcoming Space Elevator Games is not unique, he does list a number of consumer products that we take for granted today that were offshoots of the Space Program.

And, he¬†has a modest motto:¬†“People who think they know it all are very irritating to those of us who do.”

New YouTube video from the McGill Space Elevator Team

This video was posted on YouTube a few days ago.¬† It showed that the country of origin was Canada, but, as there are several teams from Canada entered this year, I had to email the person who put the video up to see which team it was from.¬† The McGill Space Elevator Team’s Simon replied to my query:

“We’re on the McGill team.¬† I’ll be posting more videos soon.”

You can’t see too much on the video, so I’m looking forward to the additional postings.

Yet more views of the Competition Site

Ben Shelef, CEO of Spaceward, the organization that is putting on the Space Elevator Games, has come up with two additional mockup views of the venue for this year’s Space Elevator Games.¬† Ben tells me that these views are to scale.

If this is true (and I’m sure it is), it is mind-boggling how high the Climbers are actually going to have to go this year – 100 meters is a long way up there.

If you plan on attending the Games this year, make sure you bring your binoculars or ensure that your camera has a decent telephoto lens!

(Click on the pictures for a larger version)

Another view of the competition site

Following in the footsteps of the Kansas City Space Pirates’ Brian Turner, who created an animated view of the upcoming Space Elevator Games Climber / Power-Beaming competition, Tom Nugent of LaserMotive has come up with his own version.¬† He talks about it in LaserMotive’s latest blog post, here.

Dr. Bryan Laubscher and Eric Westling appear on the Space Show

Space Elevator afficianados will instantly know who both Dr. Laubscher and Eric Westling are.¬† For those of you who don’t, let me quote a (very) abbreviated bit from their resum√©s as posted on the Space Show website:

“Bryan E. Laubscher received his Ph.D. in physics in 1994 from the University of New Mexico with a concentration in astrophysics. Bryan has just returned to Los Alamos National Laboratory from a year-long Entrepreneurial Leave to Seattle. There he started a company to develop the strongest materials ever created. These materials are based upon carbon nanotubes…”.¬† Bryan is also heavily involved in the Space Elevator Games, taking the role of Safety officer for this year’s games.

“Eric Westling is a science writer, pundit on science, technology, and economics. He is the co-author of “The Space Elevator‚ÄĚ with Dr. Brad Edwards . In addition, Mr. Westling is retired and is a former Army officer and helicopter pilot, civilian Airline Transport Pilot (ATP), former consultant to many small companies regarding engineering, computer, and business troubleshooting.”

To be able to listen to one or the other expound on the Space Elevator and the reasons we should build one is a treat.¬† To be able to listen to both of them on the same show is¬†something special.¬† Both of these gentlemen appeared on Tuesday’s edition of The Space Show.¬† From the show summary:

“Dr. Bryan Laubscher and Eric Westling were the guests for this Space Show program. We began our discussion with a review of the rocket equation and both Eric and Bryan took us through the chemistry and physics of rockets, mass ratios, etc. With extensive questioning by listeners as well as myself, both guests explained why chemical rocket propulsion breakthroughs were unlikely. I urge listeners to pay attention to this discussion. If you disagree, send our guests a note and explain why they are not correct. We next turned out attention to the science, engineering, financing, and politics behind developing the space elevator. We went through ribbon development, propulsion development, political decision making for basic R&D funding, what’s in it for a private sector profit motivated company and much more. This program is a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of the space elevator. Toward the end of the program, listeners asked about other nations being able to develop the space elevator, primarily India and China. You will want to hear what both Bryan and Eric have to say about this and about our technology and science compared to the same in other countries. They also explained what it means politically and economically for another nation to control the space elevator technology. As a result of another listener question, we discussed black budget financing and R&D as a possibility for the space elevator – right now. Bryan answered the question from his perspective as a Los Alamos scientist.”

You can listen to the interview by visiting The Space Show website or else clicking here.

Highly, highly recommended…

Check out the animation on the KC Space Pirates website

On the KC Space Pirates website, Brian Turner has placed an animated version of the launching pad to be used for the Climber/Power Beaming event in this year’s Space Elevator games.¬† He also shows where he is going to be placing his team’s¬†mirrors (but the anti-rotation wire and Belay line are not shown).

And, he displays great confidence by displaying the (in)famous line: “Abandon Hope all ye who enter here”…

Wireless power transmission in 1974

Ben Shelef recently sent me the link to this clip.¬† It’s very cool and is an early harbinger of power beaming technologies we now see being developed in the Space Elevator Games.

This clip has been around for a while – I vaguely remember seeing a portion of it some time back.¬† But thank you, Ben, for pointing it out to me so that I can put it up on the blog…

The latest Spaceward Foundation News Bulletin

The latest newsletter from Spaceward:

Spaceward Foundation News Bulletin

Newsletter #3 – September 08, 2007

Hello Folks!6 weeks to go, and the excitement is mounting!In this newsletter:

  • Announcements: EuroSpaceward, The Space Show, Hotels, Light Racers
  • Venue pictures and sneak preview
  • 2007 Team Profiles
  • Volunteer positions

Announcements:For those of you new to this newsletter, previous letters are archived at, including the power-beaming technology overview from newsletter #2. This will help you keep up with some of the comments in the team preview below.Fans of Dr. David Livingstone’s Space Show as well as Space Elevator enthusiasts can find our 90 minute SE special conversation with the good doctor here. We talk about the coming games, the Space Elevator, Light Racers, and a little bit about the Space program and Space politics.

A quick reminder on behalf of the European Spaceward Foundation – Registration for the 2007 Climber Workshop in Luxemburg is open – read all about it at

Team registration for Light Racers: Welcome to our new team from Farmington. If you’re considering participating in the Great Light Racer Championship, please sign up to the Light Racer mailing list, since we’ll use this list to announce special offers (Solar Panels!) rule updates, practice times, etc. Take a couple of minutes and read through the pages available at A new picture-by-picture guide to building a Light Racer is available too.

And finally, as if you’ve forgotten, the 2007 Spaceward Games – October 19-21 2007: Be there or be square! For details, tickets, special hotel rates, go to A new hotel rate is now available at the Hilton Garden Inn in Layton (In addition to the Holiday Inn Express next door.) The discounted prices expire about 3 weeks before the games, or if they sell the entire block – so get your tickets now!

Venue Sneak Preview:(Since some email readers do not show images by default, I used links instead of embedded images – just click the image name to view it)I just recently returned from another scouting week in lovely Salt Lake City. Things are coming along great, and I thought I’d share some of the pictures and some of my thoughts with you.

The first image is probably familiar to you already, a Google aerial shot showing the general layout of the grounds. The signature square concrete path will be the epicenter of activity ‚Äď this is where the climbers will launch from.

The second image is of the launch pad location, taken from where the crane will be located. This year’s crane has an “elbow” type boom, and so will be almost 100′ away from the ribbon, which in my mind makes for a much prettier setup. Still, at almost 400′ tall, even 100′ doesn’t seem like much…

From the launch pad, you can follow the concrete pathway through the lawn to “climber row” – the hangar where the teams are parked when they are not on the pad. Serving as a real life Space Elevator museum, climber row features the climbers hanging from the roof beams at eye level, so you’ll be able to walk up close, talk to the teams, and get a first hand look at what makes them (both the climbers and the teams) tick.

The concrete paths are great for moving the team entries around, and the square pattern allows us to de-stage one team while the other one sets up – No traffic interference. This event center seems to have been built for our games.

Right outside climber row stands this concrete pedestal, which will be transformed (by October 15) into an 8′ Earth hemisphere, complete with Space Elevator attached. This model will also feature the moon, and mars – all to scale!

There is much more that I haven’t snapped pictures of: The question Maze, the A/V facilities where we will screen unique Space Elevator movies, the Light Racer arena, the media center (more on this in the next newsletter)

I will be headed back to SLC in a couple of weeks, and will make sure to have more show and tell for the next newsletter.

The rest of this email is dedicated to an overview of our teams – both the veterans and the newcomers. I recommend that you check out their web sites… You’ll find that the teams are about as diverse a set as we could have hoped for – universities and hobbyists, 4 countries – some are prolific bloggers, some are more secretive. One thing’s for sure: On October 19, all their secrets will be revealed.So here we go, alternating between veteran and newcomers. You’ll notice that not all 22 teams are here. As was the case last year, some teams are not able to complete their climber in time. Since we’re nice people, we allow them to roll over their entry to next year, and so we hope to see them compete yet in 2008.

  • USST ‚Äď the University of Saskatchewan. (
    USST was last year’s best performing team, having come in only two seconds too slow to claim the prize money. This year is a brand new game of course, so while they are natural favorites, they are by no means a hands-down sure bet. Last year, USST was the only team to attempt an Infra-Red power beam, and they are planning to pursue the same idea again this year – only with a much more powerful system in mind. They are ambitious, and are definitely a team to watch. Clayton Ruszkowski is the leader.
  • Lasermotive (
    This new entry from Seattle is led by Laser expert Jordin Kare, also working with an Infra-Red based system. The Infra-Red systems are closest to what is currently planned for the real Space Elevator – we explained a little bit about the power systems in the previous newsletter. Definitely one of the favorites.
  • The Kansas City Space Pirates (
    The Pirates were by far the most original design last year, and also one of the more powerful ones, pioneering the use of a Solar light collector and what Brian Turner termed “Helio-Beaming”. Look for another original design this year!
  • E-T-C (
    ETC is our first ever Japanese team! ETC is one of the teams that have chosen to use a commercial off-the-shelf white light beam. Led by Akira Tsuchida.
  • MIT (
    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology doesn’t join competitions in order to come in second. That’s right – If you’re not first, you’re last! MIT is one of our new entries, and we’re expecting them to uphold the school’s reputation. MIT’s system is based on a Microwave beam, and they have been working on their entry for more than a year, so expect to see sparks fly!
  • Team Zero G(
    A home grown Microwave-based team, lead by Arthur Shay and assisted by daughter Katie.
  • Team Tesla (
    Last year the German team was one of the more robust designs, so if that’s any indication, we’re looking forward to see Team Tesla’s entry. They are pursuing a MW based system, and from their web site they will certainly have this year’s best looking climber! Team leader is Joachim Sturm.
  • The Technology Tycoons. (
    Known last year as “Lite Won”, this high-school team is another one of the teams using redirected Solar light. Last year’s direct-solar climber performed quite well, and so they have the potential to pull a fast one (get it?) over the grown-up teams. Team leader is Larry Grattan.
  • McGill University (
    Another member of the Canadian invasion, McGill is also pursuing a Microwave power beam. Lead by Cyrus Foster.
  • Snowstar (
    The team from the University of British Columbia is one of our two-year veterans, having fielded entries in both the 2005 and 2006 games. They’re back this year with an all-new Solar based design. Led by Damir Hot, this team is one of the better sponsored teams in the line-up.
  • Starlifters
    A new team this year, featuring a solar design. Led by Donald Longerbeam.
  • Centaurus Aerospace.
    A private team from Logan, Utah, Centaurus is our second two-year veteran. Last year Centaurus we already attempting a Microwave based design, and so they have an extra year’s worth of MW experience under their belts.
  • Andromeda Connection (
    A new team this year, featuring a solar design. Led by Mike Harvey
  • University of Michigan MClimber (
    A veteran group, University of Michigan’s MClimber was the first of the climbers to reach the top of the track last year. Lead by Brian Baca, this team is using a white light beam, similar to that of ETC.

Next on our agenda is the “help wanted” sectionWe’re looking for a few good men and women to act as guides – this event will draw on the larger SLC area population, and a lot of people coming to the games will never have heard about the Space Elevator before. (Gasp!) Do you know your Space Elevator basics? Can you explain them well?¬† We’ve got a “Guide” badge waiting for you!If you feel you’re up for it, please browse to and register, so we can keep you informed. Please also email with a description of what you want to do at the competition.

We look forward to seeing you at the games!   The Spaceward Crew

The Spaceward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit dedicated to furthering Space exploration in educational curriculums and the public mindshare –

Doh! The Simpsons invade the Space Elevator Games!

Who knew?¬† Ben Shelef, CEO of Spaceward (the umbrella organization organizing the Space Elevator Games) has enlisted the help of Homer and Marge Simpson.¬† I can’t wait to meet them at this year’s Games!

Homer and Marge are shown at the anchor station for the Climber/Power-Beaming competition.  Homer is standing on the anchor plate while Marge is next to the Belay line.  In between them (but closer to Marge) is the Anti-Rotation wire, mounted on a damper and some weights.

And I just hope that’s not a Canadian Beer that Homer is holding…

(Click on the picture for a larger version)

The X-Prize Cup and the Space Elevator Games

As many¬†readers know, last year the Space Elevator Games were held in conjunction with the X Prize Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico.¬† While it was nice to have the two events together, it certainly wasn’t without its problems.¬† At times, the Space Elevator games seemed to be the “poor stepchild” of the games; events that were happening there were occasionally¬†not announced on the speaker system and therefore ignored by the crowds; the webcam/tv coverage of the Space Elevator portion of the entire event was nonexistant and, on a personal note, the Press tent was way the hell away from the SE Games – making it a royal PITA to cover the event and live blog it as I did.

On the Space Prizes Blog, Ray¬†writes about the other side of the coin; that not having these two events together will make seeing both of them much harder.¬† I can’t fault his logic, but I know that I’m not going to miss the “Rocket Man”¬† ūüôā

(Picture of the RocketMan from the RocketMan website)

We meet one more member of the LaserMotive team

In the latest installment of “Meet the Team”, we are introduced to LaserMotive’s Jordin Kare.¬† This guy has one impressive resum√© – a real rocket scientist with “degrees in physics and electrical engineering from MIT, and a Ph.D in Astrophysics from U.C. Berkeley“.¬† Rather than me list all of what he is and what he has done, read the blog post here.

(I can already hear Brian Turner of the KC Space Pirates saying “So what!¬† Has he made a radio-controlled lawnmower?¬† Did he get members of the US Military to aim his mirrors?¬† Has he been on the front cover of the NY Times Sunday Magazine?¬† Does he have a Great Dane? ūüôā )

More excuses…

So, I’ve only had two posts this week – far below my usual output.¬† And, as usual, I have a good excuse ūüôā

Each year around this time, I visit my mom down in Northwest Arkansas.¬† When my dad retired, he and my mom built their dream house in a retirement community and moved down there in 1989.¬† It’s right on a golf course.¬† You can look out their back porch and out onto the 18th fairway.¬† They would drive their golf cart from their garage, down their back yard, across the 18th fairway and right onto the 1st tee – a real dream for golfers (as they were).¬† My dad passed away in 2000 and I’ve made a point of visiting my mom at least once a year since then (as have my sister and her husband and my oldest daughter and her husband have too).

Why is this relevant?¬† Well, shortly after they moved down there, they got interested in computers and bought one – which they used for email, Internet browsing and not much else.¬† There wasn’t much in the way of access other than a modem and so this is what they used – and this is what my mom uses to this day.¬† It is so stinkin’ slow that I want to SCREAM!!!¬† It takes FOREVER to do anything and putting up the two posts I did while I was down there took so long that I just didn’t want to do anymore.¬† But I’m home now – I kissed my Comcast cable modem when I walked in the door.

They have DSL in NW Arkansas now and I tried talking my mom into getting it.¬† Lots faster and the price is the same as what she is paying for her modem!¬† But she doesn’t want to do it – I’m going to enlist the help of the rest of my family members to get her to change her mind – they all use the computer when they’re visiting her too…

So tomorrow, I’ll be back to posting with my usual frequency – and sorry, Ben, that I haven’t put together that list of Utah Universities yet – that is first on my to-do list and I’ll have that done for you in the next couple of days.

News from the Kansas City Space Pirates…

I received this email from Brian Turner, fearless leader of the KC Space Pirates:

“Well sometime mistakes are noteworthy enough to admit.

I made a mistake in that I started mixing budget and engineering numbers. I did this a few months back when the budget and the engineering were thoroughly mixed with each other in reality. I took the budget power output numbers and fed them into the engineering worksheet. This caused a fudge factor for motor efficiency to get doubled. I have been working with these numbers for the past few months.

The upside is now that I have corrected the problem it appears that not only do we have enough power. We have enough to be competitive for first place.

The UPS man is stopping by almost daily and the collections of unidentifiable parts in the garage are starting to come together.  Will still need to keep an eye on fund raising as the hotels and gas are a couple of thousand. With that in mind I am announcing the following:

Sale on unsold advertising space. 30% off of ad space less than $1500 and 50% off on the big ones. Plus I am going to offer a commission to other teams to cross market space on each others climbers. That will help advertisers be sure to get their message across. Check our web site for a details.”

“Next stop: Earth Orbit”

In this months US Airways magazine, Kristin Ohlson has written a fine article / overview of the Space Elevator.

She quotes a number of “leading lights” in the field (Dr. Brad Edwards, Ben Shelef, Michael Laine, Ken Davidian, etc.) as well as some “lesser lights” (including yours truly).

It’s a good article – well worth your time to read.

(Sorry for no graphics in this post – I’m on vacation and don’t have my usual web toolkit with me)

Yet another LaserMotive Team Member is introduced

In the latest installment of the LaserMotive blog, we meet Steve Beland, an engineer working on airplanes by day and someone who “helps LaserMotive with systems engineering and control electronics” by night.

Tom relates how me met Steve (yet another LiftPort connection) and talks about how Steve got involved with the whole project.  Read the blog post here.