The latest from the Kansas City Space Pirates

I received the following update from Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates:

“Lots going on. We are quite busy around here. All of our scheduled testing is happening.

We recently returned from Detroit and had an eventful and ultimately successful round of testing. The troubles ranged from minor stuff like flood related detours stealing our sleep and poison ivy oil on the steering wheel, to a tracking system that was overwhelmed by the brightness of the very laser it was meant to direct, and… a fire.

OK, I will start with the fire. A dust cover adjacent to the laser path was overheated by reflected laser light. This led to a cascading failure resulting an impressive amount of black smoke and a tiny little fire. It is a rookie mistake made by us rookies. That ended day 1 of testing but the team pulled it together while the frustrated and exhausted captain went to sleep, They cleaned all the soot off of the high power optics and had us up and running only a little bit into day 2. Yes, another all-nighter for the cause. Good thing too, as on day 2 we found a solution to the overwhelmed tracking system and finished off our scheduled testing.

These are exactly the kind of problems that this type of controlled testing is meant to reveal, it’s just that having them does not exactly make me happy. The final result is that all of the other critical performance metrics were square on the numbers. We beamed power a short distance with a laser and ran our climber’s motor with it.

The competition has been delayed. Yes, this is the third time. But the facility that Spaceward is working on looks to be an excellent place for the competition. And we had hit crash schedule to keep with former date of Nov. 7th. So I have to welcome the delay. The new date has not been set but Dec. and Jan. both look to be out.

We leave this week for long range testing with the real laser.  We have a rather hairy to do list in the next couple of days to get all the systems together.  This test should reveal any last/hidden weaknesses in our systems.  We are still wrestling with some other issues, so we are not done by any means but I will feel much better when we have hard data on power conversion at the full KM range.

On a personal note my oldest and second largest customer’s owner died unexpectedly of a heart attack.  Alan was the guy that got me started in the career that I have today.  I will be quite busy filling in for some of his duties and training his son to be the new general manager.  Again, I have to welcome the competition delay. And if you ever find yourself wondering if you should call 911 when you’re having chest pains, I hope you risk saying yes rather than no.  I will miss him.

Most research projects would consider this upcoming test the end result.  But in the Space Elevator Games it is just one step along the way and is a big part of what differentiates this challenge from a “Lab” experiment.

Brian Turner
KC Space Pirates”

So, it sounds like they’re making good progress (and from this team, I would expect nothing less).  As I’ve said before, I think they have to be considered one of the favorites for this competition.

I am very sorry to hear about Alan’s passing and I can only agree with Brian’s recommendation of calling 911 if there is any question of an emergency.