The Kansas City Space Pirates throw in the towel…

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

Well, At some point you have to give up and move on. The ideal point for this passed some time ago. Perhaps years ago. 😉

The risk/reward ratio is just no longer where it needs to be to make the power beaming competition worth our efforts. Without the TRUMPF 8 kw laser we have slim to no chance of beating LaserMotive. Lasers cost about $75,000 per kw. That makes the prize $333,000 and it will cost us $200,000 to make a credible run at that. I have said before that between 4 and 5  to 1 was the ratio that would get us to go for a competition. We have enough into the power beaming competition that I would be willing to lower that to as low as 2.5 to 1. We just are not close.

But just because we lost does not mean we’re not pirates! What do pirates do when they get beat? Have a party. It’s just my way of saying thank you to all the people that have helped along the way. Oh, and there is that whole closure thing. We’ll have a bawl… er… I mean ball. It may turn into a roast Brian evening but that’s OK with me.

So I am working up the invitation list now. If you think you should be on that list, drop me a line.

A quick recap of what we accomplished.

Three times over 5 years we turned in the second most exciting performance in a international high stakes NASA technical competition. We missed out on millions in prize money by slim margins and provided innovative solutions that the industry had never seen before. All of this on a budget that was from 1/2 to 1/4 that of the teams that managed to beat us.  We raised over a quarter million dollars in sponsorship and funding.  And put in over 4,000 hours of time.  It was quite a ride!

And because I don’t have a good way to invite companies to the ball I want to say thanks to them once again here.

Thor Labs
National Instruments
Barr Associates
Burns McDonnell
Optica Software
Citizens Bank & Trust
Palinurus Books
Diversity Model Aircraft

I also want to thank Tom and LaserMotive for being great competitors and the consolation prize arrangement that has let me keep my house.

Brian Turner
KC Space Pirates

So, what can one say about the Kansas City Space Pirates?  I think they were everyone’s favorite competitor.  I think even the other teams wished that if they themselves didn’t win the prize money, they hoped that KCSP would be the ones to do so.  Their work was so innovative and every member of that team was just a joy to be around.  They certainly demonstrated the technical capability to win the prize, but they were always thwarted by the unexpected event.

Their willingness to help everyone, their continued good humor in the face of adversity and, above all, their sense of fair play is going to be greatly missed.  I salute them, one and all…

And Brian’s appearance on the Conan O’Brien show is a highlight that will live on in Space Elevator Lore.  We at ISEC are collecting some items we’ll want to broadcast during the maiden run of the first Space Elevator and this Conan O’Brien show clip will certainly be one of them.

So, major bummer.  I have had several conversations with Ben Shelef about the future of the Climber / Power-Beaming competition and, while it is much too early for me to spill any of the beans, I can safely say that some significant changes in the structure of the Games appear to be in the cards.

One thought on “The Kansas City Space Pirates throw in the towel…

  1. Tom N.

    I want to thank Brian and his team in return for being such excellent competitors. KCSP was always, in our minds, one of our top two competitors, even way back when there were a dozen or more teams. We were glad to have such a strong and upstanding team involved!

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