Daily Archives: October 8, 2007

Another way to skin the cat?

In last year’s Space Elevator Games Climber / Power-Beaming event, the University of Michigan’s MClimber achieved the distinction of being the first Climber to make it to the top of a competition ribbon.¬† They are entered again this year, but have been very quiet about what they are going to do (psst – there are no Climbers entered from Appalachian State, so it’s safe ūüôā )

In this article, Engineers from the University of Michigan have come up with this “By mimicking a brick-and-mortar molecular structure found in seashells, University of Michigan researchers created a composite plastic that’s as strong as steel but lighter and transparent.”

The traditional understanding of how carbon nanotubes will be used to construct the Elevator is by weaving or bonding¬†ultra-long fibers together (at least that’s my understanding).¬† This approach from the U of M is different and may present an alternative way of creating a tether.¬† Yes, I know, there are issues with doing it this way.¬† But this is “rev 1” of this approach and it may turn out to have some promise.

And if it does, next year we may see a University of Michigan entrant into both the Climber / Power Beaming event and the Tether event.¬† Here’s hoping…

Associates and competitors…

“If the Space Elevator is our best option [for an alternative way to space], it’s going to be a long, long road” – so says Dr. David Livingston in this very interesting interview¬†from July of 2006 with Dr. Jordin Kare, the same Dr. Kare who is part of LaserMotive, one of the entrants into this year’s Space Elevator Games.

In this interview, Dr. Kare’s¬†describes using Laser propulsion¬†for getting payloads into orbit¬†differently than using lasers to power a Space Elevator.¬† Dr. Kare¬†touts the capabilities of “Laser Launch”, using a¬†ground-based laser to power a spacecraft¬†by heating up¬†a propellant it carries¬†rather than the Space Elevator concept whereby a ground-based laser, again aimed at the space craft (the climber) would power a photovoltaic array, generating electricity for the Climber to use.

In this interview, Dr. Livingston asks Dr. Kare for his¬†opinion of the Space Elevator.¬† Dr. Kare replies that he considers people working on the Space Elevator to be “associates and competitors”…

Competitors indeed.¬† Dr. Kare also stated in the interview that the highest any¬†device had been sent using the “Laser Launch” approach was a couple of hundred feet.¬† So, perhaps he and the LaserMotive team will beat this in the competition this year.¬† At the Games, I’ll be sure to seek out Dr. Kare and ask him his opinion of the Space Elevator now and to see what the status of “Laser Launch” is at this time…

In the show notes, Dr. Livingston also states: “Certainly [Laser Launch] can be brought on line faster and cheaper than the space elevator.”¬† We shall see…

While poking around the ‘net, I came across this article, describing using the concept of Laser Launch to dispose of nuclear wastes, a potential use of the Space Elevator, too…