Daily Archives: October 19, 2007

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 52)

Tether torture…

The Tether competition is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, at 5:00pm.  That time is subject to change (visit http://www.spaceward.org for the latest details).  We have only two competitors this year, last year’s champion (Astroaraneae) and a newcomer to this event, MIT (yes, THE MIT).  Astroaranaea is not saying what kind of tether they’re bringing this year, but I’m sure it’s going to be better than last years. And that tether was good enough to beat everyone else who had entered. It was even stronger than the house tether, but it wasn’t 50% stronger (as the rules stipulate), so it wasn’t eligible for the NASA Award.  MIT is said to be bringing a carbon nanotube-based tether.  This will be very interesting to see.  From a very recent article in Nature.com;

Stephen Steiner, who leads one of the entries, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he is taking an academic attitude to the games. The MIT tether is the first ever entry to be made entirely of carbon nanotubes — touted as the most promising material to make a rope strong and light enough to reach space. “We know that our materials cannot win this year,” he says, but predicts that by 2010 carbon nanotube fibres will be up to the job.

I hope he’s right.  There are so many companies and governments pouring money into this type of research, one would expect the state of the art to be advancing very rapidly.

The competition will be run similarly to last year.  Two tethers will be mounted on a “tether torture rack”.  Pressure is applied slowly and evenly to each tether.  They are stretched and stretched and stretched until one breaks.  That one is the loser.  The winner goes up against the “house tether”, made from Commercial, Off-The-Shelf (COTS) materials.  The house tether will weigh 50% more than the competition tether (3 grams vs. 2 grams).  Then the same torture test will be applied.  If the house tether breaks first, we have a winner; a winner that will receive $500K from NASA.

Last year’s tether machine was horizontal.  It had some problems (see my post from last year on this subject).  The machine has been redesigned and is now vertical in nature.  The thumbnail on the left shows a front view of the machine while the one on the right shows a side view of the machine.



This thumbnail demonstrates a kind of “macro-view” of what a carbon nanotube tether could look like.  The individual fibers would be held together by some sort of adhesive horizontal band.  For a real tether, of course, the fibers would be bound (or woven, or perhaps both) tightly together.




This thumbnail is of a sign that is posted at the tether exhibit, hosted in the middle of “Climber Row” (Building 2).  Other items in this exhibit include the “tether torture rack”, the demonstration ribbon and some other tethe-related items.




(As always, click on the thumbnails to view a larger version of the picture)

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 50)

There will be no climbs today.

The operator of the 400′ crane that we will be using for our competition climbs told us that the anemometer at the top of the crane was registering a wind speed of 10 meters per second.  That translates to about 22.4 miles per hour.  The crane is not supposed to operate in speeds about 6 meters per second, but the load we’re putting on it is so small, the crane operator felt confident in leaving it up.  But the climber teams don’t want to run in this wind.

And the wind has picked up since that reading was made.  See the video below for a demonstration of this.  It’s a shame, really.  The weather is really nice today; about 75 degrees and a mostly sunny sky, a real relief from the last two days (complete with cold rain, hail and a bit of snow).

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 48)

The latest newsletter from the Spaceward Foundation:

Spaceward Foundation News Bulletin

Hello Folks!

Sorry for the lack of communications so far – we’ve been battling very bad weather and have had to stay indoors with a lot more equipment than originally intended.

We will be setting up the light racers area for tomorrow.

One of our searchlights is still in lost in transit somewhere, but we’ll be able to run you, in the worst case, one by one.

We’re getting a slight weather break today and tomorrow, Saturday is still looking iffy.

We’ll keep you posted, but you’re welcome to come test out your racers tomorrow starting at noon. If we don’t communicate again, we’re on as originally planned Saturday morning.

Another note – Brian Turner of the Kansas City Space Pirates is looking for added volunteers to steer his mirrors.  If you’re interested, please contact him at brian@kcspacepirates.com, or call him at 816-716-7077.


The Spaceward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit dedicated to furthering Space exploration in educational curriculums and the public mindshare – http://www.spaceward.org.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 47)

No one ran at 11:00.  The KC Space Pirates were out there and ready to go, but the wind picked up to about 24 mph, more than the Space Pirates were willing to risk.  As their captain, Brian Turner, told me, “I’m a brave man, but 24mph is more than I’m willing to chance.”

Let’s hope for a climb at 12:00.

In the meantime, here are a few shots of the venue today.

One of the “almost-made-its” was the Michael Harvey’s Andromeda Connection.  He brought his climber to the show to demonstrate the technology he was using to build his competition entrant.  This is a thumbnail of his entrant.




Here is a thumbnail of Dr. Brad Edwards using a meter to accurately measure the length of the competition ribbon.


Posters and signs are on display throughout the venue.  Here’s a closeup of one of them.





There is also also a small “forest” of signs which explain about the technology, applications, etc.  Here’s a shot of the “forest” and one of the “trees”.

As always, click on the thumbnails for a larger version of the picture.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 46)

It’s October 19th, 2007 – the first day of the 2007 Space Elevator Games.

In this morning’s all-hands meeting, the official Qualification results were announced.  As I posted last night, the KC Space Pirates, the Technology Tycoons, UBC-Snowstar and USST are the only teams to have qualified.

Climbs are scheduled to take place every hour, on the hour, while the fairgrounds are open to the public.  That is from 11-6 today and 10-6 tomorrow and Sunday.  All of this is weather-permitting, of course.

The four non-qualifying teams will also get a chance to climb the 400′ tether if slots are available.  But preference will be given to the teams competing for Prize money of course.

The first of the two teams competing in the Tether competition have arrived – Astroaranaea attended the all-hands meeting this morning.  It’s good they are here – now we are just waiting for MIT and their tether.

The following video was taken shortly after I arrived at the fairgrounds this morning.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 44)

Centaurus failed to qualify.  They were unsure of the reason, but the climber only moved a few inches, not enough to consider this a qualification.

There may be one more run tonight.  LaserMotive may get one more shot at this.  I don’t know at the moment, but will put up at least one more post tonight, letting all of you know what is happening and summarizing the evening’s results.

It’s starting to rain pretty hard here…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 43)

USST has qualified!!

They took two shots at it.  The first failed for reasons I will find out.  In the second attempt, their climber moved upward several feet very rapidly, but then began to slip.  It had just started raining out and the belt was beginning to be slippery.

So, the judges determined that weather related conditions prevented a full climb (as they had determined with Technology Tycoons).  Weather conditions are not allowed to disqualify a climb.  USST’s climber clearly moved up under power.

So, finally a success tonight.  I have no pictures – my new Sony HDR-CX7 just doesn’t do this well.  Marc Boucher, from the Space Elevator Reference DID get good pictures and I will link to them as soon as they are up.

Congratulations USST!!

Next (and last) up tonight is Centaurus with their second attempt of the evening.

Update – I posted earlier on this blog that USST’s climber had been slipping on the ribbon (due to the rain) and this is why it had stopped.  I had heard this comment from someone in the crowd who I thought was a USST member.  It turns out this person is NOT from USST, and was just speculating.  Clayton Ruszkowski, team captain, told me that USST had deliberately shut the laser down.

Also, in listening to a conversation between Clayton and Dr. Brad Edwards, Dr. Edwards said that USST’s climb represented the FIRST laser-powered climb of this type outside of a lab.  So, double-congratulations are due to USST!