Monthly Archives: March 2015

Nine years – and that’s enough for now…

Today marks nine full years that I’ve been hosting and authoring the Space Elevator Blog and I’m going to call it quits, at least for the time being.  I have several other projects on my plate and I’m not getting any younger…

Being a part of the effort to promote the idea of a space elevator over the past nine years has been fun and interesting and full of highlights with my being a part of the Space Elevator Games topping the list.  This competition was held over several years and in several venues and was a joy to participate in.  Spending several days at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (now known as the Armstrong Flight Research Center) with NASA personnel and all the contestants for the 2009 Space Elevator Games was beyond awesome and I want to thank Ben Shelef, the Spaceward Foundation and, of course, NASA for allowing me to be a part of it.  It was truly special.  A close number two was the formation of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), an organization that I was very proud to be the president of for four years.

What is the status of an earth-based space elevator?  In the most important area, tether strength, we’re still where we were nine years ago.  No one has produced a tether from new materials that matches, let alone exceeds, tethers made from conventional materials and until that happens, an earth-based space elevator remains a pipe-dream.  But research continues, and perhaps someday material like this will become a reality.  If and when it does, then perhaps I’ll restart this blog.  I still love the idea of a space elevator, but the reality is that right now (and for the foreseeable future), it’s just not possible to build one…

Two groups still continue to press forward with this idea however, the aforementioned International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) and the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA).  ISEC, under the current leadership of Dr. Peter Swan, is in very capable hands.  While they are not working with the materials science necessary to make a super-strong tether, they continue to investigate other areas in order to, in the very appropriate phrase from Ben Shelef, “increase our understanding of the space elevator“.

If you are interested in keeping up with developments in this arena, you can visit the ISEC web page, “Like” their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

So, goodbye for now and thanks for reading!

The Lonely Astronaut finally gets a Space Elevator

TwistedMojo has a new episode out in the Lonely Astronaut series and it has a space elevator!

If you’re not familiar with the series, an Astronaut is stranded on the moon and somehow survives several decades.  There are rescue attempts, Sexual Harassment training, hallucinations, etc. – but all funny (if you have a warped sense of humor like I do).

The latest episode is about another rescue attempt, this one based on the idea of a lunar and earth-based space elevator.  Forget the ‘science’ – everything is wrong, but it’s still funny.

Oh, and this is definitely NOT workplace safe…



Shoot the Moon update

The folks creating Shoot the Moon – a story about Liftport‘s effort to build a space elevator – have posted another update for their Kickstarter funded project.

Hey, everyone!

Since our last update, we’ve converged on the Seattle area for a month of shooting. This week alone has been packed with activity. Here’s a quick recap:

Our storyboards our in! The talented Ben Granoff has visualized what our special effects sequences might look like. Now that we have these in hand, we’ll pass them onto our model designers/makers (more on that later), and they’ll get started building. Take a look at some of Ben’s work below.

On Tuesday, we stopped by the Tethers Unlimited’s (TU) headquarters in Bothell, Washington. Since a tether is the central component of a space elevator, you can imagine why we wanted to chat with CEO Rob Hoyt and VP of Engineering Jeff Slostad…

You can read more, including seeing some of the storyboard pictures (one shown above) and pictures from the workshop of the people who are designing the model miniatures being used in filming.

As noted above, the team visited Tethers Unlimited and spoke with VP of Engineering Jeff Slostad.  Mr. Slostad gave the Keynote presentation at the 2012 Space Elevator Conference and spoke about “Thinking Unlimited” – not letting your thought process and expectations being bound by previous experiences.

He’s a handsome man…

I’m looking forward to the film…

Weekend Walkabout – Thailand to Japan to Fantasy Land…

Welcome to this edition of Weekend Walkabout.  In this post, we visit India Thailand to see a ‘possible competitor’ to a space elevator, then journey to Japan to see the latest with our favorite anime series, Gundam, and then wind up in what can only be described as “Fantasy Land”.  There’s also a programming note concerning this blog and Facebook.  And without further ado…

A new “lift system” has been demonstrated in India Thailand and it is just awesome.  Frankly, I don’t ever think it will be a competitor to the space elevator 🙂 but it ranks pretty high on my cool-o-meter.  Make sure you watch it to the end…

At the very end, when all of the pieces are falling, it reminded me of one of the qualifying runs by the Kansas City Space Pirates at the 2007 Space Elevator Games.

Next up is a stop in Japan.  If you’re a fan of Anime, you almost certainly know about Gundam.  This started as a TV series in Japan in 1979 and now has grown to be much more than that.  According to Chris Beveridge, who knows much more about these things than I do, something very cool has happened:

While fans of Gundam Build Fighters Try have been treated to a proper simulcast for that series and its previous incarnation, fans of Gundam Reconguista in G haven’t made out as good. But that’s now managed to change some as the series has begun streaming on the official Gundam Info YouTube channel with English subtitles (as well as streams in other territories/subtitles). The addition comes as about twenty-two episodes have been broadcast in Japan since it’s debut last year.

Chris tells us that the plot concept of Gundam Reconguista in G is:

The Universal Century, an era of historic migration into space and space wars has ended, and some time has passed. Now, mankind believes that their pursuits and prosperity will continue on peacefully into the new era, the Regild Century (R.C.)

R.C. 1014. The Capital Tower is a space elevator which towers over the land connecting Earth to space. The tower’s purpose is to bring down Photon Batteries from space that power the Earth, and as such is perceived as a holy place…

Read more about it here.

Finally, we wind up in “Fantasy Land”.  The baseline model for today’s concept of a Space Elevator was defined in the book by Dr. Brad Edwards and Eric Westling; The Space Elevator: A Revolutionary Earth-to-Space Transportation System.  If you want to understand how a space elevator could work in the real-world, this book is a must-read.  I’ve often referred to it on this blog.

However, it appears that this book has become worth its weight in Gold.  Longtime Space Elevator Blog reader Paul R. recently sent me this snapshot from Amazon:

When I checked this item yesterday, this price was still advertised.  Just to let everyone know, I have a copy that I will sell for just $1,999.99!

Finally, some programming notes.  I have killed, once and for all, with a wooden stake to the heart, the “Subscriber” function for this blog.  I’ve tried it twice now, but all I get are registrations from spam-bots and it’s just a waste.  So, if you want to subscribe to this blog, you’ll need to do it via RSS or…

There is now a Facebook page for this blog.  Yes, I’ve gotten with it with technology that’s only several years old 🙂 but still is relevant.  “Like” The Space Elevator Blog on Facebook and you’ll get a notification every time a new post appears on this blog – Thank you!

Hat Tip to Dr. Peter Swan, president of ISEC, for the URL of the new Indian Thai “Space Launch system” and to reader Paul R. for letting me know about the “greatly in-demand” Edwards-Westling book – thank you both!


09Mar2015 Update – Thanks to reader Bob Munck for pointing out that the “space lift” is from Thailand, not India and also that they are called “Girandola” – you learn something new every day…

Book Review – Celestial Phoenix

Yes, I said that my next post was going to be on tether capacities and power systems, but that can wait – a new space-elevator themed book is available!

Celestial Phoenix is written by new (I think) author A. P. Williams and is available on Kindle at Amazon.

Be warned – this book is NOT politically correct.

The gist of the book is that an engineer and his beautiful and talented wife orchestrate the building of a space elevator set against the backdrop of the world gone mad and falling apart.  The elevator is eventually used to start a lunar colony, a place of perhaps the “last, best hope” for humanity when the crap really hits the fan.

In the category of “Did I enjoy the book?”, the answer was an unqualified “Yes”.  I started reading it yesterday evening and only put it down when I was too tired to hold my eyes open.  I spent a good part of today finishing the book.

The space elevator which was built was designed mostly according to the principles described in the Edwards-Westling book on this subject.  Build it on the equator?  Check.  Build it out of carbon nanotubes (or other super-strong material)?  Check.  Increase the capacity of the “seed” tether by using the elevator itself?  Check.  Power the climbers with lasers?  Check.

But there are some differences too.  Williams has the elevator based on an island rather than an ocean-going platform that was described in the Edwards-Westling book.  While this simplifies some things, it also becomes more difficult in other ways as there are no unclaimed islands – wherever you want to build a land-based space elevator, you will have a local government to deal with (Williams writes about this a lot in the book).  Also, and this is my second biggest quibble with the design, Williams describes multiple tethers going up to a single space station.  According to technical people I know and trust, this is just not realistic.  Tethers spaced so closely together will inevitably touch and get tangled up, causing all sorts of problems.  The counterweight (“Apex Anchor” in the current vernacular) will keep everything generally taut.  But there will be oscillations in the tether which will naturally occur and also those that have to be propagated throughout at least some parts of the tether to avoid satellites and other large space debris.  And my biggest quibble with the design is on the subject of space debris, this book ignores the issue.

Still, all in all, it’s not a bad depiction of a possible space elevator – certainly better than some of the half-baked ideas I see on various internet forums…

The writing of the book was, in general (and IMHO of course), fairly well done.  There were a couple of loose ends, some spelling/grammar errors, etc. and also some stereotypes which, for me anyway, detracted from the story.  For example, the “evil government bureaucrat” was an ugly, single, middle aged woman who owned a cat.  Hello!  And the “journalist” who was portrayed as being biased and uniformed was named “McYaps”.  The good people were really good and the bad people were really bad – not much grey there.  Corporations could do no wrong and government could do no right.  And some of the villains, the Chinese and Iranians, were fairly predictable.  Finally, things seemed to go just a bit too well in every technical aspect of the space elevator and colonization of the moon – only one accident was recorded.  Again, that’s just not realistic.  But all in all, the book kept me very interested in what was going to happen next.

And, as implied earlier, Williams is not afraid to offend various ethnic and religious groups, in ways that one usually doesn’t see.  As this is The Space Elevator Blog, and not FoxNews or MSNBC, I’ll not comment on his political leanings.  I will say, however, he has a unique take on how things could fall apart and how they might be put back together again…

Overall, I give this book a rating of 3.5 stars.


Many of you remember, I’m sure, a cartoon on the most-excellent XKCD website entitled Payloads.  This cartoon compared and contrasted, in increments of “horses” (which I calculate to represent 1,200 pound increments), the differences in Launch Vehicle Capacity and Spacecraft mass of various space craft from the past, present and future.

The kicker for Space Elevator fans was, if you moused over the original cartoon, the comment “With a space elevator, a backyard of solar panels could launch about 500 horses per year, and a large power plant could launch 10 horses per minute” would briefly appear.

I have no idea where he got the space elevator numbers from but, as a proponent of the idea of a space elevator, I have to compliment the enthusiasm on his part 🙂

How much payload COULD a space elevator launch?  The answer to that is, as you might expect, complicated.  It depends almost exclusively on the carrying capacity of the tether and the power system.  I’ll talk more about this in the next post, but for now, you can read the Space Elevator Power System Analysis and Optimization document written by Spaceward CEO Ben Shelef.  It lays out very clearly why power systems have such a profound effect on the throughput of a space elevator.

Here is my contribution / augmentation to the XKCD cartoon showing the weight of the Climber and the Payload which can be carried by a Climber for the Edwards-Westling baseline 20MetricTon space elevator.

Total Climber mass, with Payload, is 20 Metric Tons.  Payload makes up about 40%.

Click on the graphic to see a larger version.