Recently, I had an (email) conversation with Ben Shelef, co-founder of Spaceward and CEO of Elevator2010. We discussed the recently completed Space Elevator Games and the ones scheduled for next year.
Q. In your opinion, what was the most significant accomplishment of the 2006 Games?
The most significant accomplishment was the scale of what happened – this was the first “real”, or full-form competition, and we had 12 teams arriving with real hardware, 2 from Europe, 3 from Canada, 7 from the US – we’ve got ourselves a Space Elevator competition now! A few more teams were registered and couldn’t produce hardware in time – all in all we had 20 teams that tried. This is a good base to building the 2007 games from. Obviously this year USST was head and shoulders above everyone else, with their 2-seconds-too-slow climb, but I’m betting in 2007 we will see plenty of climbers zooming up at over 2 m/s.
Q. The biggest mistake made by entrants in the 2006 Tether competition, was, in hindsight, fairly obvious; trying to push the 2 meter minimum length requirement too far. What, in your opinion, was the biggest mistake made by entrants in the 2006 Climber competition?
That would be maturity. Several of the climbers had it in them to go 1m/s, but they were just not fully prepared, were debugging the system on the pad – one of our strongest pushes this year is to whip the teams into starting early, and keeping a constant pace. We will require video evidence of a complete working system 1 month before the competition so they can spend the next remaining time fine-tuning and putting a nice paint job on the climber. This is a concept we came up with this year, but were too late to enforce properly. This year, it will be very high on our radar screen.
Q. What was your biggest regret about the 2006 Games?
None really. All you have to do is step outside of the day-to-day activities and look back – we’ve covered a huge amount of ground, and have a path forward that is both exciting and feasible – We couldn’t have asked for more.
Q. What are your thoughts on how well the “Games partnership” worked with XPrizeCup this year?
It was a good call for both of us to do this together. We complement each other, and it worked out fine for both of us.
Q. I know it’s early, but do you have any preferences on working with XPrizeCup for the 2007 games?
We’re already talking about this, but won’t know for sure for a couple of months.
Q. What are the most significant changes in this year’s Climber (Power Beaming) competition rules?
Other than the increased difficulty, it’s mostly about instilling process in both the teams (see the list of deliverables) and pad operations. We need to increase the level of technical maturity of the climbers, since it is clear now that plenty of people have ideas about how to build the power beaming part, but are failing at the nuts-and-bolts level. We also have to build a more complicated anchor point to deal with the effects of wind on the climbers. In space, there is no wind, so we have to provide a more protective environment for the climbers.
Q. What are the most significant changes in this year’s Tether competition rules?
Very little, actually. We have a slightly more clever way of rating a tether’s performance (best of its losing point and all of its winning points) and so now can have 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.
Q. How did the idea for a Climber “newbie” event come about?
We actually had “limited” registration this year. Experience obviously counts, and the 2006 format seems feasible as a first shot (e.g. TurboCrawler, MClimber, and of course – Kansas City).
Q. With the Prize money now up to $500,000 for a single winner, do you expect to see more significant corporate sponsorship in the 2007 Games?
We’d better…. we’re working on it.
Q. Do you think we have a realistic chance of seeing any entrants in the 2007 Tether competition that employ carbon nanotubes in their tethers?
Yes, and you can quote me on that.
Thank you Ben.
One other note; Elevator2010 is publishing the comments submitted to them on the 2007 Rulebooks and their response. You can find that here.