TRUMPF and Laser testing…

Over the past several days, I’ve put up posts relating to both the KC Space Pirates and the National Space Society (NSS) Power-Beaming / Climber teams and their ongoing tests.  Both teams (along with 3 others) are recipients of an extraordinarily generous offer from TRUMPF – an offer to provide an 8kW laser (with crew!) for their entries in the upcoming Space Elevator Games.

I thought it would be interesting to see the ‘other side’ of the tests; i.e. what TRUMPF had to say about them.  I asked Dave Marcotte, TRUMPF’s point man in this project, what he could tell me.  Here is what he had to say:

TRUMPF recently completed three days of testing with two of our Space Elevator teams, the Space Pirates and NSS.  Two days of testing were held outdoors and one day indoors.
The three days of testing were somewhat high pressure for the TRUMPF crew.  The schedule of the “road show” would not allow for any equipment malfunctions. Three days, three startups, and three decommissions were required to meet the needs of the teams.  It was unusual for us to move a pre-assembled laser system across the state on a soft sided flat bed truck and startup the 8kW laser system outside, in cold weather, powered from a portable generator. 

For the three days of testing, TRUMPF supplied both teams with clean dry compressed air, chilled re-circulating water, 8kW of laser power through a 30 meter long fiber optic cable, an EStop Button and a “laser on/off” switch.
The first day of testing was with the Space Pirates. After accommodating a few forgotten items we were underway.   Outside testing was very controlled to ensure absolute safety.  The Space Pirates tested on the first day until after dark.
On day two of testing we woke to a bit of a surprise. At 7 a.m. we came out of the motel and found Ice, not frost, Ice on the trucks.  With the cooling water left in the laser from the first day of testing, we had visions of a frozen laser, burst laser pumping chambers and expensive repairs. With high hopes, we returned to the outdoor test site and connected the generator.  Tension was high while we waited for the laser to come up to operating temperature.  Everyone was relieved when over 8kW laser power was generated without issue. 

Day two of testing was with the NSS team which continued until dusk.  That evening when decommissioning TRUMPF removed every drop of water from the laser and chiller – just to be safe.
Day three was the easiest and most exciting of the three.  The truck driver left the outdoor site at about 4 a.m.  Just prior to 8 a.m. he pulled the tractor trailer into the interior of a large building near Detroit.  The Space Pirates team pulled inside next to the flatbed.  The cold temperatures of the early morning trip from the outdoor test site to the indoor test site resulted in a slight delay in laser start up because the Freon in the chillers was too cold to circulate.  Once up and running, the equipment performance was again “per specification”.  Using a block and tackle and a couple of steel tri-pods anchored to the floor, we suspended a 3/16″ diameter cable horizontally for the length of the building.  The suspended cable provided an additional testing resource for the team.
We decommissioned our road show at about 7 p.m. and went to our homes, very tired, and very happy.  Both the Space Pirates and NSS are great teams.  TRUMPF looks forward to the start of the Space Elevator competition.

In an update, Dave informed me that “…all testing was in Michigan.  Equipment assembly was in Plymouth Michigan. We traveled about 4 hours to the Northern Michigan site, then south to the Detroit site and then back to Plymouth.”

Thank you to Dave and his team (Sheila LaMoth and Rolf Biekert) for this update and special thanks for what you and TRUMPF are contributing!  It’s due, in part, to efforts like this that I feel our chances of awarding prize money this year are better than ever.