Latest version of Space Elevator competition rulebooks now online

The latest set of rulebooks for the Climber / Power-Beaming and Tether events at the Spaceward Games are now available online.

The general outline for this year’s Climber / Power-Beaming event has been known for some time; the climb has been increased to a full kilometer and the average speed needed to be in the running for a prize has been increased to 2m/sec (for the nine hundred thousand dollar prize) and 5 m/sec (for the two million dollar prize).  Note that there will be smaller prizes awarded to those teams who make it to the top at less than 2 m/sec but average at least 1 m/sec.  Amounts paid will be determined by the number of qualifiers and their overall ranking.  To date, a total of eleven teams have signed up.  All of them will be laser-powered and all but one (the TXL Group) will be using lasers in the ‘conventional’ sense, i.e. using photovoltaic cells to convert the laser energy into electricial energy.  The TXL Group will be using “…a combination of phase change and thermoelectric technology to provide energy to the climber.”

Newly released is the rulebook for the Tether challenge.  In previous years, the challenge has been to find a tether that is at least 50% stronger than the house tether.  The bar this year has been raised to find a tether that is a) at least 100% stronger than the house tether and b) stronger than 5MYuri (see below).  Two levels of prize money are available in this competition as well.  If a 2-gram competition tether proves stronger than a 4-gram house tether and 5 MYuri, this entrant is eligible for all or part of the first million dollar prize pool.  If a 2-gram competition tether proves stronger than an 8-gram house tether and 10MYuri, this entrant is eligible for all or part of the second million dollar prize pool also.  Amounts paid will be determined by the number of qualifiers and their overall ranking.  With the advances we’ve seen in carbon nanotube technology over the past several months, this may well be within reach – we all certainly hope so.  At the moment, no one has signed up for this competition – we hope to see the return of DeltaX and perhaps some other teams with carbon-nanotube tethers.  And hey, if someone can come up with something else strong enough to win the prize, we’d all be eager to see it.

Ben Shelef of the Spaceward Foundation has proposed a new measurement, the Yuri, named in honor of Yuri Artsutanov.  From the competition rulebook:

One Yuri = SI-Natural pa-m3/kg, or N-m/kg, and thus a MYuri (Mega-Yuri) is equivalent to the commonly used units of GPa-cc/g and N/Tex.

Only 136 days to go…

(Both picture thumbnails are from the 2007 Spaceward Games.  The first one is a night-vision shot of the USST Climber as it neared the top of the ribbon.  The second one is of the ‘Tether Torture machine’, before the Tether competition began.  Click on either thumbnail for a larger version.)

12 thoughts on “Latest version of Space Elevator competition rulebooks now online

  1. Mike

    Is anybody else worried about the scope and complexity of this year’s competitive arena? Last year there were difficulties in getting a simple cable to work on a crane.

    Before anybody raises a bunch of money or invests a bunch of time I would be asking what the contingency plan is.


  2. Michael Remington

    That is a good point and definitely something to be wary of. Especially, if you only have one prototype and can’t prove you could have won. I remember KSC’s climber getting shaken apart, like a straw house in a tornado! Some repairs were definitely on order..

  3. Michael Remington

    I’d like to express to those who were not on the distribution, that we do not expect to compete in the Tether Challenge this year, or possibly any other year in the future (Team Astroaraneae). Although we are working with carbon nanotubes, and are making progress, our ability to attract sponsors based on this performance criteria (2X State of the Art) is extremely difficult. I also anticipate our progress to be greatly slowed, if we do not find other sources of support.

    We are one of the most dedicated teams on the planet, who are working to make this happen; but you just can’t run on empty! If you would like to support our efforts, either through participation, sponsorship, or investment please feel free to contact me. General information about us can be found at:

    Thank You,

    Michael Remington
    Team Astroaraneae, Team Leader

  4. Ted Semon Post author

    And to “Mike”, the first person to post a comment on this thread, all I can say is this. Even with all the problems we ran into last year (and prior years), every climber that was viable had MULTIPLE chances to make a prize-winning climb.

    This is all new stuff – you can’t just order a “Climber test rig” off the shelf.

    You know what? I’ll bet there will be problems this year, too. And I’ll bet that they’ll be solved, too…

  5. Michael

    USST lost their solar panels? I thought it was KC Space Pirates…anyway, my point was that it was a wild ride at the top.

  6. Dan

    No USST did not have solar cell problems (or at least not problems with them falling off, but i do seem to remember them having other problems with their solar array)
    They had their cells mounted onto a sturdy aluminum sheet.

    KCSP had problems with the wind and tether movement causing solar panels to whip around and damage themselves (and a few to fall off), but i wouldn’t say it was ripped apart like a straw hut in a tornado, Repairs did happen and by the next morning after a lot of work we had at least 80 % of full power. it looked really bad at first only seeing the cells that fell to the ground. but the ones on the climber were not as bad as they seemed.

    And Ted, he meant he was clarifying his previous comment that called KCSP “KCS” he wasnt referring to the picture in your post.

  7. Stephen Steiner

    The space elevator is a complex engineering problem filled with unexpected challenges. Although Spaceward has tried to create as close to an ideal of an arena for testing the critical parameters that the competitions aim to optimize, reality introduces a lot of additional variables (i.e., wind rattling a climber, cloudy days killing solar flux, humidity warping structures) which, although may not explicitly outlined by the competition rules, are still critical to successful operation in the competition. I think the past two years have served as useful testbeds for highlighting what the true scope of a power beaming entry needs to be, and I have the utmost confidence in the competitors’ ability to compete successfully in what will be a very challenging environment due to both expected and unexpected variables.

  8. Michael Remington

    I had not been able to stick around much longer, after seeing those panels come off. But to a tether guy, it probably looked worse than it was.

    This is definitely challenging, and there will be unknown variables coming into play with the venue change. They can be overcome, although you will need to take the a conservative view on your design and your business model to ensure it can handle some of the conditions experienced in the past, and unpredicted for the future.

    Spaceward should also have a backup plan for climbers to exhibit their performance, if the new rig doesn’t work out. Or, at least test it out well ahead of time, so that they may have the opportunity to opt out for the better known crane span. A major risk for a team is to invest a full year of money and resources into a competition, to find out that can’t prove they earned the right to the prize.

    I wish the climber teams, and any tether teams the best!!


  9. Mike


    I appreciate your response and understand this is a difficult challenge. My post was not meant to offend; rather to spark dialogue. I certainly wasn’t claiming that last year’s (or previous year’s) competition was not fair.

    My concern was more focused on ensuring that a set of ‘organizer responsibilities’ is also outlined in the rulebook. It is important that teams have a fair chance to show off their stuff, and given the complexity of proposed ribbon/cable structure a alternative climbing platform (perhaps a backup crane with a shorter cable) should be established. It costs a pile of money and time for teams to compete in this competition and it’s imperative that they should be able to.


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