EuSEC moved to August, 2011

In order to accommodate some additional teams, the date of the first annual European Space Elevator Challenge (EuSEC) has been moved from June to August 19-21 (with a backup date of August 26-28).

Several teams have signed up including entries from England, Germany, Japan, Macedonia and Iran!  In addition to the Games themselves, there will be other presentations at the competition including;

  • 30m long Carbon Nanotube rope presented by the Cambridge Carbon Nanotechnology Society
  • The SpaceShaft” presented by Nelson Semino
  • An alternative concept for the Space Elevator presented by Anulekh Chauhan via Skype

A 30 m long Carbon Nanotube rope?  I hope they take pictures!  Anyway, this sounds like it is shaping up to be an awesome event.  More details about it can be found on their website.

ISEC is now a 501c3!

After over a year of work, ISEC is now officially recognized by the IRS as a 501c3 Corporation.  What this means is that memberships in ISEC are now fully tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.  And, it is retroactive to our corporate ‘start date’ (November 8th, 2008) so any and all contributions you made before are also deductible.

So, now you have NO EXCUSES for not joining ISEC!!

Seriously, if you have not become a member of ISEC, now is a great time to do so.  Membership donations are the lifeblood of any volunteer group and ours is no exception.

We have a very full schedule this year.  The first ISEC Report has been released, work is continuing on the 2011 ISEC Poster, the first ISEC Journal should be released in the next couple of weeks, we’re co-sponsors of the upcoming 2011 Space Elevator Conference, etc.  We’ve also improved ‘structurally’.  We now have a ‘dot org’ web presence, we’ve welcomed a new Board Member and we are now officially a 501c3 Corporation.

Please consider joining ISEC.  A professional membership is only $68 and will go a long way in helping us push forward this most magnificent concept – thank you!

5 years, really…

Once again, all together now;

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Space Elevator Blog!
Happy birthday to you!

Kind of hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for the past five years.  The number of posts I’ve put up has declined somewhat, but, conversely my involvement with the Space Elevator effort has been increasing.  Being President of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) has taken up more and more of my time…  In keeping with my tradition of writing an ‘anniversary post’ (first year summary, second year summary, third year summary and fourth year summary), the following is a list of, IMHO, the more significant happenings in the past 12 months that I was privileged to cover:

Easily the number one highlight in the past 12 mohths was meeting Yuri Arsutanov at the 2010 Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington.  I’m very proud that ISEC played the lead role in getting him (and Jerome Pearson) to attend the Conference.  We’ve also been given permission to name our annual prizes after Yuri and Jerome and for that we are very proud and grateful.  Hopefully we’ll be able to award one or both of them this year.

I would put the Space Elevator Conference and the EuroSpaceward Conference as a tie for “number two” on my highlight list for the past 12 months.  The Space Elevator Conference had, for the first time I can remember, ONLY Space Elevator content – nothing about other launch systems or other non-related topics.  I have nothing against “Loftstrum Loops” and other non-rocket alternatives, but I continue to think that the only one which could be viable someday is the Elevator system.  The EuroSpaceward Conference was also outstanding – with the first day being targeted towards developments in the carbon nanotube arena.  At this year’s Space Elevator conference we’re hopefully going to go one-better by having one day (Friday, August 12th) targeted solely towards developments in carbon nanotubes as related to strong tethers.  There are many other research efforts going on with carbon nanotubes, but of course the potential strength of this material is what we’re all waiting for as fast as we can.

Third on my list would be ISEC’s release of its first ISEC Report – this one headed up by Dr. Peter Swan and focusing on Space Elevator Survivability – Space Debris Mitigation.  It’s our first report and one we’re very proud of.  Dr. Swan and his team did a great job with this.

Fourth on my list would be the Strong Tether competition, held last year at the Space Elevator Conference.  There were two carbon nanotube entries and one carbon nanotube “hybrid” entry, the first time that entries made out of this material have been the only competitors.  This competition would have rated higher on my “highlight list” had the Tethers performed any better.  I’m hopeful we’ll see much stronger competition this year at the Space Elevator Conference (the competition is being held on Friday, August 12th, as part of the “Strong Tether” day).

Other highlights for the past 12 months include ISEC’s new website, the Japanese Space Elevator Association’s JSETEC and LASER ’10 competitions and third annual conference, the awarding of two “Honorable Mentions” for the 2010 Artsutanov prize (here and here), the “Closure Party” for the Kansas City Space Pirates (as sad as that was), the release of the 2009 and 2010 ISEC Posters, the release of a Space Elevator app for the iPad, the strengthening of the ISEC team with Ben Jarrell (Legal Pillar lead), Matt Gjertsen (Public Outreach Pillar lead) and Skip Penny (Board of Directors) joining us and, finally, the continual amusement provided to all of us by the guys over at

What will the next 12 months bring?  Well, ISEC should be releasing its first Journal in the next month or so.  In addition, we should see the release of the 2011 ISEC Poster, the second ISEC Report (this one on strong tethers) and the first Space Elevator Concept of Operations report.  Also upcoming are the 2011 Space Elevator Conference and Strong Tether Challenge, the 2011 EuroSpaceward and JSEA conferences, the first European Space Elevator Challenge (EuSEC), the 2011-2012 JSETEC and LASER competitions hosted by JSEA and some other stuff which I probably can’t even imagine right now.

If you want to get involved, join ISEC!  We are helping to push this magnificent concept forward, but we can only go as far as our member donations let us.  We need you – we need your membership donations – we need your enthusiasm and ideas.

Stay tuned!

I can’t wait…

One of the activities we have going on right now at the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is defining how the thing is actually going to work – with the most detail we can get.  This “Concept of Operations” will then be used to drive Business Plans, plans that can show if/how a Space Elevator can be profitable.

We are now debating several different issues, one of them being will we or will we not have a Space Station attached to the Space Elevator somewhere in LEO?  Of course we would like one, but there is a weight penalty that must be paid if we have it.  It’s yet to be determined whether this is feasible or not.

What would we do with a Space Station?  Well, Space Tourism is the obvious example, but another opportunity has just been brought to my attention.

If you’re Poker fans (like me), you are aware of the many tournaments held each year world-wide.  I think a LEO Space Station would be an ideal location for yet another tournament – we could come with all sorts of interesting names for it (which I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader).  And, it seems, that we won’t be the first location off-earth that will host a Poker event. (along with Virgin Galactic) has come up with the outstanding idea of a Poker match between Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu – two of the top (if not the top) Holdem Poker players in the world (and now out of the world) today.

Read more about it here.

There’s an app for that!

For the very first (and, hopefully, only) time, I’m sorry I’m not an Apple guy.  The Japan Space Elevator Association has just released a Space Elevator app for the iPAD.  The graphic shown in the picture is the cover of a booklet that Mr. Shigeo Saito of the JSEA wrote & released a year or two ago (I have a copy somewhere, but can’t lay my hands on it at the moment).

The URL describing it doesn’t say much about the app other than “…can watch a movie of the Japan Space Elevator technology competition 2009…”.

This is bittersweet news for me.  I’ve been working on my own SE app – this for the Android and some other tablets, but the JSEA beat me to it.  Congratulations Shigeo Saito & JSEA and if anyone wants to spend the 99 cents for it and play it on their iPAD, please write me up a quick review that I can post here and share with everyone…

EuSEC – Looking for a few good teams…

A couple of months ago, I posted (here and here) about the upcoming European Space Elevator Games (EuSEC).  This post is just a reminder that registration is still open for teams who would like to compete in this competition.

On Saturday, March 12th, at 10:00 CET (09:00 UTC, 04:00 (4 am) EST, 01:00 (1am) PST, 18:00 (6 pm) JST) the game organizers will be holding a Skype conference call to answer any questions about the Games.  Tim Wiese, the Team Coordinator, will be hosting the call.  Just place a call (again, via Skype) to “eusec.warr” to be included in the call.

If you’re even just considering entering this competition, I would highly recommend that you attend this conference call to answer any questions you might have.

The Engineer’s Pulse

There is a new blog out there that I would like to inform all of my reader’s about – “The Engineer’s Pulse“.  It is authored by Stephen Cohen.

Stephen Cohen, earned his Bachelor’s (2004) and Master’s (2006) Degrees in Mechanical Engineering at McGill University.  His thesis describes the dynamics of a space elevator, and he has published several scientific papers on the topic.  He worked at MDA Space as a Structural Engineer, where he helped to design space antenna payloads to survive the rigours of space launch and the orbital environment.

Stephen presented a paper on tether dynamics at the 2009 Space Elevator Conference, a paper that was well done and was very well received.

Recently, Stephen submitted an article for our upcoming ISEC Journal.  The article was rejected, sadly, not because it was poorly done or anything like that, but because it was “too general”.  However, Stephen has recently posted this article, “The Space Elevator: Past, Present, Future” on his website and I highly recommend both it and his blog in general.

“…Science Fact or Science Fiction”

In a recent post on the Space Travel Exploration and Tourism website, the author(s) talk about the Space Elevator and bring up several potential problems.

The first one is the lack of a material strong enough and of course this is true.  As we all know, however, this problem is being worked on by an ever-growing body of scientists and engineers.

The article also says that “laser-power-transfer systems have never been built“.  The authors are clearly unaware of the NASA-Spaceward Space Elevator Games – Climber / Power Beaming competitions where several teams have built precisely this type of system.  Yes, they are small and essentially prototypes, but they show the concept works and a little birdie has told me that the next Power Beaming competition will be even more ambitious.  Also, there is at least one company (LaserMotive) that is now in business to provide precisely this type of product.

They also bring up the problem of Space Debris – perhaps I should send them a copy of the recently released ISEC Report on the topic (which concludes that this is a solvable engineering problem).

Finally they bring up the issue of what happens ‘when the cable breaks’ – they say you certainly wouldn’t want to be under it when that happens.  Let’s remember that the tether will be shaped as a ribbon for the great majority of its length (the length outside of the atmosphere).  This will not ‘fall’ to earth, but rather ‘float’ to earth.  It will almost certainly be winched in while it is fluttering down.  Messy, yes.  A disaster for those underneath it, no.

Finally they say that “Heights of up to 65,000 km have been suggested.”  Actually, the working model is 100,000km in height, not 65,000 km.

Publicity is almost always good of course, but at some point I hope that people will do a bit of research about the current ‘state-of-the-art’ of the Space Elevator before writing about it.

“A Space Elevator to replace the shuttle”

It’s very nice to see the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) get a mention in a non-English publication.

In the online article, “Un ascenseur spatial pour remplacer la navette” (A space elevator to replace the shuttle), we read that, according to ISEC, “…each kilogram into orbit returns to a few tens of dollars, against 20 000 for a launch with an Ariane rocket or Titan.  This is the google translation of the original French.  I’m not sure where the author got that information from – we haven’t made that promise, but perhaps there was an error in the translation.

Also, no mention of Yuri Artsutanov or Jerome Pearson, the real intellectual fathers of the Space Elevator.

But these are minor quibbles – in general the article seemed to be well-written and did mention the upcoming Space Elevator Conference.

The 2011 Space Elevator Conference – Official Announcement

Previously, I had blogged about the 2011 Space Elevator Conference, but now the Official Announcement and Call for Papers has been released.  You can access it here.

This year’s conference will concentrate a large portion of its schedule on materials research – where are we at with the subject of ‘Strong Tethers’ and what can we look forward to?  In addition to Space Elevator enthusiasts, the Conference organizers are working to encourage carbon nanotube materials researchers to attend and present papers on their subject expertise.  This is something that the EuroSpaceward conference did in 2010 with great success and we want to continue this collaboration at this year’s Space Elevator Conference.

Incidentally, potential authors of Space-Elevator related papers now have three venues they can use to get their papers published.  They can submit them to the Space Elevator Conference, they can submit them for the Artsutanov and Pearson prize (if the subject matter is on Tether Strength) and they can submit them to the ISEC Journal.

Each outlet has its own criteria, but all of them encourage beginning and experienced authors to submit their papers for review and possible inclusion.

So, getting back to the Space Elevator Conference, I encourage all of you who have an interest in this most-magnificent of all engineering projects to reserve August 11th-14th and plan on attending.  It promises to be an exciting conference – see you there!

An oldie but goodie…

This video is several years old, but I don’t think I’ve linked to it before on the blog.  It is a 5+ minute long presentation, narrated by the astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson.  It gives a very quick overview of carbon nanotubes and how they are grown in a furnace (and then pulled off to longer lengths) and then talks about the 2007 Space Elevator Games – Climber / Power-Beaming competition held near Salt Lake City, Utah.



It’s a bit depressing to realize that the state of the art in growing long, strong nanotubes hasn’t advanced that much in the last few years, but we have every reason to hope that is now starting to change.  The upcoming Space Elevator competition – Strong Tether challenge looks like it is going to have its strongest field of contenders yet.

Stay tuned!

28Feb2011 Update – As noted in the Comments by Brian Turner, the ‘original’ version of this video can be accessed at the PBS website here.  There are also links to other Space Elevator related broadcasts and videos and webpages that have more information about the Space Elevator.  Thanks Brian!

ISEC welcomes Robert “Skip” Penny as a new Director

ISEC is very pleased to announce that Robert “Skip” Penny has joined its Board of Directors effective immediately.  A brief bio:

Robert E. “Skip” Penny, Jr. graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1970 with a Bachlor of Science degree. Over his 20 year Air Force career, he held a breadth of command and staff positions in NORAD/ADCOM, Air Force Space Command, US Space Command, and Air Force Technical Applications Center retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Upon retirement in 1990, he joined Motorola on the Iridium satellite program. As a System Engineer, he initially provided operations input to the early Iridium system design including authorship of the Iridium System Operations Concept and the Control Segment Operations Concept.  He was a key contributor to initial release and multiple updates to A level specifications and segment interface control documents. He generated multiple Iridium Technical Notes on operations related functions including a probability of collision assessment with recommendations for debris mitigation.

In 2000, he went to work for General Dynamics as Senior System Engineer. He was Network and Communications Integrated Product Team Lead for General Dynamics-Lockheed Martin GPS III System Engineering and Integration Team. He was responsible for system and segment level requirements and resulting design of GPS III’s network of ground and space nodes including crosslinks.

Skip has a Master of Science degree from the US Air Force Institute of Technology. His Masters thesis was a computer simulation that predicted the probability of collision for the US Space Shuttle using a methodology that has since been adopted by AIAA, and many space operators. He also has a Master of Arts in Procurement Management from Webster College.

Skip has a long-time interest in the Space Elevator and was a co-author, along with Peter and Cathy Swan of the just released ISEC Report on Space Elevator Survivability – Space Debris Mitigation.

Skip’s initial focus with ISEC is going to be on designing a plausible Operations Scenario for a Space Elevator system.  To date, this has not been done and it is the crucial first step to satisfy one of our goals for 2011, coming up with a cost of Operations for a Space Elevator.  There have been several estimates generated for the cost of BUILDING a Space Elevator but none, to my knowledge, for MAINTAINING and OPERATING a Space Elevator system.  These costs will, over time, almost certainly far exceed the initial construction costs.

No justification exists (again, to my knowledge) for the oft-repeated statement that shipping cargo to space will be cheaper via a Space Elevator than via rockets.  I think we all feel that this is almost certainly true, but no one is going to build one unless they can have a handle on the actual costs.  And no one can estimate how much such a system costs unless they can first have a plausible, detailed scenario on how such a system might be run.  There are literally hundreds of questions which must be answered and now we have someone on board who has the interest and skills necessary to answer these questions.

More will be posted soon on how Skip plans to go about this; which scenario he is going to adopt, what tools he is going to use to generate costs, how he can make it a collaborative effort, etc.

In the meantime, we’re very excited to have him on our Board of Directors.  Welcome Skip – we’re very glad you’re here!

(Skip is pictured here at last year’s Space Elevator Conference, held at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington.  Click on the picture thumbnail to see a full-size version of the picture).

ISEC Releases its first ISEC Report

I am very happy to announce that the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) has released its first ISEC Report (formerly known as ISEC Red Team Studies).  In our first strategic plan (2010), we set out a goal of releasing a report every year addressing the ISEC Theme for the year.  In 2010, our theme was “Space Elevator Survivability – Space Debris Mitigation” and this is the title of our first ISEC Report.

The report was co-authored by Peter Swan (a Director and Vice-President at ISEC), Peter’s wife Cathy Swan and Robert “Skip” Penny.  The front cover design was done by ISEC’s own Graphic Artist Frank Chase and modeled after the 2010 ISEC Poster.  I just received a copy of it and I am very impressed with the quality of both the writing and the presentation of the book.  It’s in 6×9 soft-cover format,

From the summary:

The International Space Elevator Consortium has placed this position paper as a recognition that the space debris problem is an engineering one and can be mitigated. The question: “Will space debris be a show stopper for space elevators?” is answered emphatically. NO! The mitigation concepts presented change the issue from a perceived problem to an engineering concern; but, by no means is it a significant threat. This pamphlet illustrates how the development office for a future space elevator can attack this problem, predict probabilities of collision, and convert the concern into another manageable engineering problem.

You can purchase this book at for $14.50.

Thank you Peter, Cathy and Skip!

More adventures

And, while I’ve been not up-to-date in my blogging lately, our intrepid explorers have posted 3 of their latest adventures.

In the first, we get a belated Christmas wish…



In this next snippit, we see proof that one cannot escape ‘civilization’, even on a Space Elevator…



And finally, we have a band concert that is truly Grunge…



I hope they have a special Valentine’s Day adventure coming up…

Gearing up for JSETEC 2011

Shuichi Ohno, the president of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) sent me an email with some links to videos put on YouTube.  These videos show some of the preparation work underway for the third annual Japan Space Elevator Technical & Engineering Competition (JSETEC) to be held in August of this year.

These three videos (shot in HD, no less) show three different Climbers ascending / descending a 28m long tether.  All of these Climbers are battery powered, so a comparison to the beam-powered Climbers used in the Space Elevator Games is not really valid, but the ‘middle Climber’ zips up to the top with a speed of nearly 5m/second – very impressive.







I blogged about their 2010 competition here and their 2009 competition here.  I’m sure their 2011 competition is going to be the best one yet.

Announcing the 2011 Artsutanov and Pearson prizes

In 2010, ISEC announced the Yuri Artsutanov & Jerome Pearson prizes, prizes established to foster research into Space Elevator related topics.  There were no winners in 2010, though we had two papers that qualified for Honorable Mentions in the Artsutanov Prize.

The Pearson Prize, sponsored by the Leeward Space Foundation, is open to all Undergraduate students.   The Artsutanov Prize, sponsored by the Space Elevator Blog, is open to everyone (ISEC Directors and Officers excepted).

ISEC is very pleased to announce the 2011 Artsutanov & Pearson prizes.  Unlike 2010, where eligible papers for the Pearson prize had to be on the Yearly ISEC Theme while papers for the Artsutanov prize could be on any Space Elevator subject, for 2011, papers for both competitions must address the 2011 ISEC Theme.  This theme is “Developing stronger, lighter tethers – 30 MYuris or bust!“.  The specific topic papers for both competitions must address is:

The biggest hurdle on the way to building a Space Elevator is constructing a tether that is strong enough and light enough. We estimate that a tether with a minimum strength of 30 MYuris1 will be sufficient to construct the Space Elevator and ISEC wishes to promote research and thought targeted towards this goal.  Therefore, the 2011 Artsutanov and Pearson prizes will both be awarded for the papers that make the most significant contribution towards a 30 MYuri tether.

Now, we don’t actually expect anyone to submit a paper which shows us how to make a 30MYuri tether (though we will all be thrilled if this actually happens), but the paper must be a serious effort to advance the state of the art in this area.  Consequently, we expect people like chemists, physicists, materials engineers, etc., to submit papers on growing longer, stronger carbon nanotubes.  Other people may submit papers on turning these tubes into stronger threads.  Or perhaps the specific topic of a paper might be on how to use composites to make the overall tether stronger.  In any case, the paper must advance our understanding of how we can get closer to constructing a 30 MYuri tether.

Questions about the competition may be answered on the ISEC website.  You may also email the prize committee at or and the competition chair will get back to you promptly with answers to any of your specific questions.

One final note – though both prizes are going to be awarded for papers on the same theme, eligible contestants for the Pearson prize MUST be currently enrolled in a 2 or 4 year accredited undergraduate program.  Papers in the two competitions will be judged separately – they will not compete against each other.

There is a $1,500 cash award for the Pearson prize and a $2,500 award for the Artsutanov prize, so get those thinking caps on!  And, if you know of anyone who may not be a reader of this blog and might be interested in entering a paper, please let them know about the competition.

The 2011 Space Elevator Conference

I’ve gotten way behind in my blogging – there’s a lot to announce, so I’ve got plenty to blog about over the next several weeks.

First up is the 2011 Space Elevator Conference.  This is now ‘officially on’ for August 12-14 (with a public presentation on the night of August 11) at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington – the location of the last several Space Elevator Conferences.

I am on the planning committee and I can tell you that we are way head of last year (and previous years) in planning for the conference – and it promises to be the best one yet.

The Theme of the conference is going to be the 2011 ISEC Theme; “Developing stronger, lighter tethers – 30MYuri or bust!” (more about the theme in an upcoming post).  Because of this, we hope to attract a crowd of nanotube researchers as well as the more ‘traditional’ space elevator people (if you can use the words ‘traditional’ and ‘space elevator’ in the same sentence ?).

More details will be announced soon on the official website of the conference (  If you’re interested in space elevators and/or interested in ultra-strong tether technology, this will be a conference you won’t want to miss.

See you there!

“Carbon Nanotubes Could Create World’s First Space Elevator”

In a December 27th posting on, the statement was made that “…NASA has pledged $3 million over the next five years to research the idea and is working on scale models…”.

No reference to any specific NASA program was made, but my guess is that the author, Mr. Timon Singh, is referring to the $3 million still to be awarded by NASA in the Space Elevator Games.  I’ve emailed him to confirm and will post his response.

The article is also interesting in pointing out that Dr. Mark Miodownik, a materials scientist from Kings College in England announced a “new proposal”, creating a Space Elevator from Carbon Nanotubes.  Leaving aside the fact that this is not a new idea at all, it is cool that this idea was supposedly delivered at the Royal Institutions Christmas Lecture, set to be broadcast on BBC4 at the end of the month.

I have also emailed Dr. Miodownik, asking for more details about the lecture and broadcast and will post them if/when I receive them.

The article has been, in various forms, picked up in several blogs / sites around the ‘net.  The source is apparently an article in 12/26/2010 issue of The Sunday Times which one needs a subscription to access.

The Leeward Space Foundation

John Lee and his Leeward Space Foundation is a sponsor of the Pearson Prize – a prize awarded by the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) each year for the best paper on the yearly ISEC theme submitted by an undergraduate student.  We at ISEC are very grateful for John’s generosity and continuing support of all-things Space Elevator and I thought that it would be a good time to inform my readers about the many activities at Leeward.

The goals of the Leeward Space Foundation (LSF) are very straightforward; “…100% of all contributions are used to a) to develop the Space Elevator concept or any other technology that will offer the opportunity for an affordable access to space b) to develop local chapters of Leeward to be known as ‘Space Is The Answer’ chapters.

Some of LSF’s current activities include:

A local chapter and scholarship plan – the idea here is to encourage the creation of local LSF chapters to “…support the mission of Leeward Space Foundation by promoting the idea that the development of space and space resources can provide many, if not all the answers to Humanity’s most pressing concerns…” and to  “…help Leeward develop a Scholarship program for High School Seniors or equivalent and a separate scholarship for college level.”  This is a very worthwhile goal – more details about the local chapter and scholarship plan can be found here.

Fundraising by giving donors a chance to win a Space Elevator poster autographed by Yuri Artsutanov and Jerome Pearson.  You can donate for a chance to win here.

Fundraising by allowing you to purchase limited-edition pieces of some very cool items cast in silver and bronze.  You can find the details of this artwork here.

And finally, you can painlessly donate to LSF by getting a no-annual-fee Capital One Credit Card.  The first time you use this card, LSF receives $50!  Each time you use it after that, a percentage of the amount charged is donated to the Leeward Space Foundation.  I have my LSF Credit Card and use it all the time now.  Details on how you can apply for this card are here.

Please help the Leeward Space Foundation by participating in one or more of their activities.  They are a true friend of the Space Elevator, a direct contributor to ISEC and the yearly Space Elevator Conference and they deserve our support.

Thank you John!

A new Space Elevator Song

I was recently contacted by Tris Lucas of galaxyswan, letting me know that they have created a new Space Elevator song (titled, creatively enough, “Space Elevator”) and posted it on the web.

The vocals remind me a little bit of Julie Miller (of Buddy & Julie Miler fame) and I think it is a very worthwhile effort.

You can listen to the song here.

If we get 2-3 more versions of a Space Elevator song, I’ll be able to make a compilation – and that would be very cool.

(And thank you Michael Laine for putting them in touch with me.)

What’s Happening Magazine

ISEC’s own Dr. Martin Lades has written an introductory article about the space elevator for the the online What’s Happening Magazine.

It’s a good primer on what a space elevator is and what it can be used for.

Money quote from the article:

…Getting material from the ground to Earth orbit is tough. To reach a real orbit one needs approximately Mach 25 with a high lateral velocity component. A standard chemical rocket expends around 95% of its mass to do that. This leaves about 5% payload, following the rocket equation.

That is why most of today’s private space tourist industry only aims for ballistic launches. Anything going into orbit currently also has to be disassembled to fit into a rocket payload bay, i.e., down to 20-30tons.

The payload has to be vibration-proofed because of vibrations encountered during a rocket launch. Once in orbit everything has to be reassembled and tested. The process ends up being really expensive and prevents substantial space infrastructure from being built.

There are few alternatives to chemical rockets to launch anything from the ground to orbit. The Space Elevator is one possibility that holds the promise to beat the rocket equation for scalable access to space…

I recently attended the EuroSpaceward conference where Dr. Lades gave a talk on Project Clavis – a proposal for an international research project on ultra-long CNT growth.

Thank you Dr. Lades and thank you What’s Happening Magazine.

Happy Birthday Sir Clarke!

Had the great man continued to be with us, today would have been Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s 93rd birthday.

I found this video of him (thank you Universe Today) from 1964 as he tried his hand at prognosticating.  Nothing about Space Elevators or anything like that, but he predicted the demise of cities because of the coming communications revolution.  He was wrong about the demise of cities – they’re bigger and more numerous than ever before, but he was spot on about the communications revolution, even successfully predicting that surgeons in one location could actually ‘operate’ on a patient in another.  We’re not quite there yet, but we’re darn close.

Happy Birthday Sir Arthur – and when we build it, we’ll name it after you!


LASER 2010

On November 21st, the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) held another of their LASER (Lego bricks Activity and Space Elevator Race) competitions.  Mr. Hideyuki Natsume, a Director at JSEA, informs me that 36 teams with more than 100 people participated and that the competition theme was “payload-juice can”.

The LASER website is here and they have posted several photos on Picasweb which you can access here.  The event looked like a lot of fun and I’m sure all the contestants and spectators had a great time.  JSEA is to be again congratulated on holding another successful event!

And, incidentally, their annual JSETEC conference (which I posted about earlier) should be underway as I write this.  I look forward to being able to post details about this conference when I receive them.

3rd JpSEC conference – JpSEC ’10

And, no sooner than we have wrapped up the Fourth EuroSpaceward conference than it’s time to remind people about the upcoming Japan Space Elevator Conference (JpSEC ’10) to be held next weekend (December 11th and 12th).

I would love to go, but the conference will be all in Japanese and my knowledge of that language is limited to a few uncomplimentary words and phrases I’ve heard from my (Japanese) wife…

The Director of the Japan Space Elevator Association, Mr. Hideyuki Natsume, has sent me an updated flyer of the conference – you can access it here (.doc format / .pdf format).  All of it looks very interesting, but the presentation I would like to hear above all is Dr. Yoku Inoue’s discussion of Progress in constructing Lightweight, High-Strength carbon nanotubes.  Dr. Inoue is from Shizuoka university – a CNT tether from them was the only entry in the 2009 Strong Tether Challenge.  I’m surprised they did not return for the 2010 competition and can only hope we see an entry from them for the 2011 competition.

I’m sure this will be a very successful conference and I hope to be able to report on some of the presentations which were made there.

2010 EuroSpaceward conference wrapup

So, the 2010 EuroSpaceward conference is over – it sure went by quickly.  It was a very enjoyable conference and Markus Klettner, the Executive Director of EuroSpaceward deserves a lot of credit for the work he did in organizing this event.  Dr. Vessilin Shanov remarked to me at the end of the first day that this conference “keeps getting better each year” and I can only agree.  Saturday’s presentations were all about CNTs and the state-of-the-art in their development while Sunday was focused specifically on Space Elevator topics.  The synergy between the two sessions and their speakers was wonderful to see.  Space Elevator people are obviously critically interested in the status of CNT development while the CNT theorists and developers were able to see what “the dreamers” (and I include myself in that group) want to do with the fruits of their efforts.

I enjoyed all of the presentations, but a couple stood out in my mind.  First was the presentation by Dr. Yakobsen.  I think his theoretical insights as to how/why CNTs actually start growing and continue growing is crucial in understanding how to make them long/strong enough for our needs.  A second particularly noteworthy presentation (IMHO, of course) was Dr. Martin Lades’ presentation on Project CLAVIS – a new, European initiative on the study of CNTs.  One can only hope that they succeed in getting this project off the ground.  Third was Dr. Nicola Pugno’s presentation on ‘self-healing’ CNT tethers.  Being able to actually build this self-healing capability into a Space Elevator tether may prove to be critical to it actually succeeding.  The final presentation which I thought particularly noteworthy was ISEC’s own Dr. Peter Swan’s summarization of his group’s study of Space Debris and the mitigation strategies that must be built into the design of Space Elevator to deal with this hazard.  Dr. Swan’s efforts are not only important for the Space Elevator community in general, of course, but this study was the very first “Red Team” study produced by ISEC – giving our “official position” on this topic.  It’s something we all can refer to in the future when the naysayers and other skeptics throw questions/comments such as “Well, what are you going to do about space junk?”  “It’s going to blow your Space Elevator to hell!”  “You can’t avoid it!” at us.  We can now refer to this study and definitively say to them; “Look, it appears that one, small segment (LEO) will be subject to debris strikes every 10 days.  We’ll build in repair capabilities to deal with it.  It’s not a critical problem.”  If they still argue, we can show them the figures that Dr. Swan’s team came up with.  His team’s study satisfies an overall goal of ISEC – taking away reasons people can say “No” to the Space Elevator.

You did us proud, Dr. Swan, thank you!

One last picture thumbnail to share with you.  On the left is Akira Tsuchida and on the right is Dr. Martin Lades.  Both are well know in the Space Elevator community.  Akira gave Sunday’s presentation on a Japan roadmap for building the Space Elevator.  They now have their ‘estimated operational date’ as 2050 (twenty years later than they had previously predicted – mostly due to their opinion as to the state-of-the-art of CNT development).  This roadmap is going to be updated every year until 2017.  It’s too long to go into now, but part of his presentation was about toilets on a Space Elevator Space station and how they are being tested out in an orphanage in Mongolia (really!).  The discussion about this initiative was absolutely priceless – you had to be here to really appreciate it.  Akira also headed up the E-T-C team that competed in the 2007 Space Elevator Games and is famous for, among other things, selling his car (a Mercedes, no less) to help finance the project.  He is definitely a true believer and is a genuinely nice guy.

And on the right is Dr. Martin Lades.  Martin is one of those ‘behind-the scenes’ guys that just helps makes things work.  He was part of the Kansas City Space Pirates team that competed in the Space Elevator Games.  He is on the Board of Directors for ISEC and is also a key member in trying to get Project CLAVIS up and running.

So, if you weren’t here this year, you definitely missed a very worthwhile event.  I have tried to summarize the presentations in this blog, but I know that it is only a poor representation of what actually went on.  I would urge all of my readers to consider coming to the 2011 EuroSpaceward Conference – thank you again Markus!

(As always, click on the photo thumbnail to see a full size version of the picture)

2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Sunday afternoon (2)

First up is Akira Tsuchida from Japan (here in person!).  Akira headed up the E-T-C (Earth-Track-Controllers) Climber / Power-Beaming team that was in the 2007 competition in Salt Lake City.  He is a long-time believer in the concept of the Space Elevator and has done much to popularize the concept.  He is a member of JSEA – the Japan Space Elevator Association.  His talk is on a roadmap to building a Space Elevator that he and some collaborators have created.

I’m up next – I’ll post my presentation for all to see.  It contains an important announcement which I’ll cover in a separate post.

Markus wrap-up.


2010 EuroSpaceward conference – Sunday afternoon (1)

First up is Andreas Hein from WARR.  Andreas is a long-time contributor in the Space Elevator field.  His talk today uses the Brad Edwards model of constructing a Space Elevator and where he believes it must be changed / updated.  The upshot of his presentation is that, in his opinion, CNTs may not be strong enough to feasibly build a space elevator and that we should investigate an alternative material – colossal carbon tubes.  Andreas also believes an alternative method of deployment, reeling, will be needed along with a round cable in the atmosphere, rather than a ribbon.

Next up is Nelson Semino, the designer of the Space Shaft; an inflatable, atmospherically bouyant structure that allows one to haul up large amounts of cargo to low-space.  He proposes a 100km tall structure built out of Hypercubes – boxed-shape bladders that are filled with Helium.

The next talk was by ISEC Board Member, Peter Swan.  His talk is “Space environment for space elevators: new insights on space elevator and debris collision probabilities.”  Peter headed up the ISEC “Red Team” that has produced a definitive study of the problem of space debris as it relates to a space elevator.  Right now, this paper is in peer review.  The details (and calculations behind them) are in this report and I recommend that you read it when it comes up, but the upshot is that only at LEO do we have an issue and then, only from the untrackable pieces.  It is estimated that the Space Elevator at LEO (200-2000km above earth) will be hit on average every 10 days by a piece of this untrackable debris.  A self-repair mechanism must be built into the Space Elevator system, but if that is done, and the design is correct, there should not be a concern that a piece of space debris will ‘take out’ the Space Elevator.


2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Sunday morning

First up is Dr. Pugno of the Laboratory of Bio-inspired Nanomechanics at the polytechnic Institute of Torino, Italy.  Dr. Pugno originally came tot he notice of the Space Elevator community when he began to discuss defects and other potential problems with making a tether suitable for a Space Elevator.  I remember Brad Edwards being somewhat dismissive of Dr. Pugno’s work, but I think time has proven him correct.  Dr. Pugno has been turning his attention to making these cables as strong as possible and today’s talk was on the same theme.  He drew parallels to the organic world; if bones, for instance, can heal themselves, why can’t CNTs?  If some sort of self-healing capability could be introduced into a cable, then it could become more robust.  This was a very interesting presentation and I think there is a real future in this work.  The SE community had always postulated repairing the tether, but from macro-size breaks (introduced by space debris, etc.).  Dr. Pugno brings this down to the atomic level and his idea may turn out to be vital.  He still believes that the maximum strength possible for a cable is 38 GPa…

Next up is Sourabh Kaushal and Nishant Arora from India, presenting via Skype.  Sourabh and Nishant prepared a paper, entering the 2010 Pearson prize and also presented at the 2010 Space Elevator conference in Redmond, Washington.  Their presentation was general in nature, discussing Space Elevator concepts.  We had technical difficulties with Skype and so their presentation was abbreviated.  I believe they were proposing using graphene as an alternative to CNTs, but I’ll have to review their presentation slides to be sure.  All of us at the conference were very happy to have a presentation from India.


Professor Kai from Japan then presented his talk; “Who can establish the space elevator?”.  Dr. Kai presented the case that only an international organization would be allowed by the world community to build & operate a space elevator.  He uses Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty as his justification.  This organization would initially be modeled on the existing treaty for the International Space Station, but must be open-ended so that any country can join it.  Professor Kai presented his paper via Skype – no technical issues this time.

Professor Kai was followed by Shuichi Ohno, the president of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA).  Ohno-san talked about the 2010  JSETEC (Japan Space Elevator Technical & Engineering Competition) event hosted by JSEA, including summarizing the teams that competed and the results of the competition.  Ohno-san included several very interesting pictures from the competition in his presentation.  Next year, JSEA plans to double the height the climbers must ascend from 300 meters to 600 meters – it will be interesting to see what they use to hold the tether aloft.  Ohno-san said that there will be teams from Japan competing in the upcoming EuSEC (European Space Elevator Competition).  The JSEA-sponsored LASER competition was also discussed.

Next up was a presentation by Franciska Volgyi (from the Technical University of Munich – TUM) on EuSEC, Europe’s first Space Elevator Challenge.  This is targeted towards student teams and the goals are to establish a European Space Elevator Community, to introduce the Space Elevator concept to he European public and to increase the understanding of the Space Elevator System.  They have set up four categories of team entries, starting with remote-controlled, battery powered systems working their way up to autonomous, beamed-power systems.

The last presentation before lunch was by Mikhail Schwarzbart from the Institute of Mechanics and Mechatronics on the stability of the Space Elevator.  This presentation had the most equations of any of them ? but I think the upshot of his presentation was that the modern day concept of a Space Elevator is long enough and has enough mass to be inherently a stable system.  His model was a simple one, including only the earth and the tether – climbers were not included.


2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Saturday wrap-up

The first day of the 2010 EuroSpaceward Conference has ended and it’s been an excellent first day.  There is just so much going on in the CNT world – hearing about new research from the people who are doing it is intellectually very stimulating.

For a Space Elevator fan such as me, listening to the presentations about the development of CNTs is both exciting and depressing.  It’s depressing hearing about all of the problems that the researchers are running into in trying to create the “long strong tubes” that we need to build an SE, but it’s exciting to hear about the new approaches being tried, advances being made and real, undeniable progress (though not fast enough for me ?).

I have a couple of photos to share with you.  The first is a ‘formal picture’ of, from left-to-right, Markus Klettner (Executive Director of EuroSpaceward – the person principally responsible for these conferences), Dr. Boris Yakobsen of Rice University and Dr. Vessilin Shanov of the University of Cincinnati.  Dr. Yakobsen and Dr. Shanov are at the absolute forefront of CNT research.

The second picture is a more informal one of Dr.’s Yakobsen and Shanov comparing notes during a break in the proceedings.

And the third picture is kind of neat.  It is a screenshot of the cover of the issue of American Scientist magazine where Dr. Yakobsen and the late Dr. Smalley published their article talking about CNTs and Space Elevators (I blogged about that issue here).  However, this is a cover that never made it to publication.  Dr. Yakobsen talked about how difficult it was for the artist to get the concept right.  When he finally had something to Dr. Yakobsen’s satisifaction, he requested one more change – putting in a couple of 5-7 (Stone-Wales) defects in the nanotube structure to make it a bit more realistic.  The artist did so and the cover you see in this post is the result – if you look carefully, you can see the defects.  However, the magazine editors decided to run with the cover with the perfect nanotubes (no defects) and that was the issue which was printed.

I’m looking forward to today’s sessions very much…

(As always, click on any photo thumbnail to see a full size version of the picture) 

2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Saturday afternoon

First up is Dr. David Ruch who heads up the department of Advanced Materials and Structures (AMS) at the Centre Recherche Public Henri Tudor.  He talked about the work they were doing at their institute including using CNTs for “…plasma polymerization of materials to make them suitable for energy and barrier systems.”  Possible applications include fuel cells, anticorrosion layers on galvanized steel, etc.

Next is Dr. Jerome Guillot, a researcher on CNT functionalisation at the Department for Science and Materials Analysis (SAM) at the Public Research Centre Gabriel Lippmann.  Dr. Guillot is a partner in the proposed Project CLAVIS I posted about earlier.  His work centers on research about the concept of gas detection using functionalized carbon nanotubes.  The number of potential applications that CNTs have is truly amazing.  In this application (and in many others), it relies on the very huge surface / volume ration that CNTs enjoy.  Because of my interest in using CNTs to build a Space Elevator tether, I am guilty of having ‘tunnel-vision’ regarding what CNTs can do, but the nanotube workshop I attended in Cincinnati a couple of months ago opened my eyes – and now what I’m seeing here at the 2010 EuroSpaceward conference is just reinforcing it.  Dr. Guillot’s work with CNTs is ‘backwards’ in what others are trying to do with them.  When trying to maximize the strength of CNTs, you want them to be as defect-free as possible.  However, when doping them with metals (or whatever), as Dr. Guillot is doing, he wants to have defects – these are the nucleation sites.

The next speaker was Dr. Philippe Poulin, a CNT fiber production expert at Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal.  His talk was entitled “Liquid processing of carbon nanotube composite fibers”.   This approach to creating CNT fibers (or composite fibers) is an alternative to the “forest growth” which comes from carbon-vapor deposition (CVD) CNT growth.  One type of Liquid processing is good for low CNT concentration, very useful for making items such as conductive textiles. (‘smart’ fabrics, anti-static packaging, strain sensors, etc.).  Another type of liquid spinning is good for high CNT concentrations, a method similar to how other synthetic fibers (such as Kevlar) are spun.

Next up is Mr. Matthew James from Cambridge University.  This is the home of Dr. Alan Windle and his “special kind of smoke” CNTs.  His topic ks “Advancements on CNT fibre strength” – a topic near and dear to my heart (and to anyone else who wants a Space Elevator).  They claim for a 1 mm fiber a specific strength of 9GPa-g/cm3.  This would be strong enough to win the $2Million Strong Tether competition if they (and a to-be-named US partner) would enter.  They also claim numbers of 1pound 35 to send a kilogram to LEO!  I have to see how they came up with their numbers.  Also, he discussed using the SE tether itself as a solar panel, collecting energy from the sun and transmitting it to the Climber(s).  I have to think about this – I’m going to write up a separate post on his presentation.  Very innovative, but too good to be true, I fear…

Now up is Dr. Karl Fleury-Frenette from the University of Liege in Belgium.  His topic is Laser micro-processing of carbon nanotubes, including laser ablation, laser generation of nanoparticles, laser induced forward transfer (a coating technique), thermo-reflectance, local laser continuous heating (early 2011) and laser assisted CVD (2012)


2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Saturday morning (2)

Next up is Dr. Martin Lades.  Martin is a long-time Space Elevator guy.  He was a member of the Kansas City Space Pirates and a founding member of The Internatinal Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC).  Martin is a Board Member of ISEC as well as taking care of all of our day-2-day IT issues.  I’ve know Martin for several years now and am happy to count him among my friends.  His talk is on Project CLAVIS, a European CNT initiative.  The CLAVIS objectives are 1) Overcome CNT growth termination, 2) Determine appropriate catalyst selection, 3) Develop techniques for in-situ tracking of CNT growth and 4) Increase growth rate of CNT array to minimize defect formation and amorphous carbon.  This is the first time I’ve heard of this project – I hope that it gets off the ground as the more minds that are working on this problem, the better.

Next is Dr. Boris Yakobsen.  I was able to have dinner with him and a few others last night and participated in a very stimulating discussion about carbon nanotubes, politics, Wikileaks and all the rest…  He opened his presentation by quoting a section of Arthur C Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise – always ‘red meat’ for a Space Elevator enthusiast.  He then discussed trying to understand why carbon nanotubes failed under stress.  This was followed by a theoretical discussion of why carbon nanotube growth starts and how does it continue to grow.  I am reminded of a comment that Ben Shelef made to me once when he was talking about why nanotube growth stops after a while.  He said that someone (Dave Lashmore from Nanocomp?  Steve Steiner from MIT?) said “Why does CNT growth stop?  We don’t even know why it starts!”  I’m not a physicist nor a chemist, so much of what he said was over my head, but the talk was fascinating…

We then heard from Dr. Michael De Volder talking about Tailoring the self-organization of CNT growth.  I was introduced to this topic at the Nanotube workshop in Cincinnati from a talk given by John Hart from the University of Michigan.  It turns out that Dr. De Volder is collaborating with Dr. Hart and so his subject matter is a bit familiar to me.  His talk centered on using capillary forces to create nanotube structures.  A nanotube ‘forest’ is mostly empty space.  This forest is saturated with a liquid and then the liquid is removed.  This causes the nanotubes to form various structures, depending on how they were originally grown.  According to Dr. De Volder (and Dr. Hart), these structures are much more rigid than the original nanotube forest – this process is called capillary densification.


2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Saturday morning (1)

And we’re off.  Markus Klettner, Executive Director of EuroSpaceward, is giving the kickoff address.  He is talking about why we are having this conference.  His rationale is to help humanity become a Type I civilization and a Space Elevator (and all of its associated technologies) is a key to making this happen.  EuroSpaceward brings together leading scientists & engineers, supports research on mechanical properties of CNT and expects cross-fertilization of ideas & activities in order to achieve a breakthrough in growing ultra long (m) CNTs for the development of the SE mega cable.  Here’s a news flash – a European Strong Tether Challenge?  EuroSpaceward is working on this.  More details later…

Next up is Dr. Vessilin Shanov from the University of Cincinnati.  I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Shanov at the recent workshop held at the U of C last October and it is a great pleasure to be able see him again.  His talk is about developments at the U of C including growing CNTs that approach 1 inch in length this past January.  He is NOT talking about why CNT growth seems to stop and the CNTs detach from the catalyst saying he doesn’ know why and it is the “Million Dollar question”,  With respect, I would call it the “Billion Dollar question”.  CNT applications he is discussing include tiny biosensor electrodes, ‘dry’ adhesives, etc.  They’ve patented the name of the type of CNTs they grow; “Black Cotton”.

Coffee break…

In Luxembourg…

I arrived in Luxembourg yesterday afternoon (local time) – cold and snowy in Europe already.  The flight from Chicago to Munich was delayed by several hours due to the snow in Europe.  I neglected to pack my power adapters so had to buy new ones here – the walk to the bus stop was on snowy, icey sidewalks – winter is here for sure…

Elton John was in town last night and his conference was only a few blocks from the hotel.  I’m not a huge fan of his, but do enjoy his music.  I thought (briefly) about seeing if I could get a ticket, but the bed in my hotel room looked much too inviting after 15 hours on airplanes and in airports…

I’ve got my first picture to share with all of you – can anyone guess what it is?  I hope to have a ‘better’ picture of it later on in the conference…

Click on the picture thumbnail to see a full-size version of it…

(Update: 05DEC10 – Both David and Brian are correct – this is a “Space Elevator (Kit) in a box”, produced by Lego of Japan.  The white straps are the elevator tether / tape that the climbers run up and down on…  No instructions came with it, so no one has been brave enough yet to try and put it together.  However, Akira Tsuchida is supposed to be here today, so maybe he can give us some guidance.)

I guess he shouldn’t have done that…

Will “Lick the Owl” join the lexicon?



Don’t mess with Chuck Norris or you’ll lick the owl“…

If you don’t leave me alone, you’re going to lick the owl“…

When the Lions play the Bears on Sunday, they’re going to lick the owl“…

I’m sure someone can do better than this – come on guys, let’s get creative!

On my “To-Do” list…

One of the things which I should be able to accomplish at the upcoming EuroSpaceward Conference is to finally meet Dr. Boris Yakobson.  He is a professor of material science, mechanical engineering and chemistry and works out of the Smalley Institute (yes, that Smalley) at Rice University.  Rice University has its own unique way of processing carbon nanotubes and that will be fascinating to hear about.

Dr.’s Yakobson and Smalley also discussed carbon nanotubes as a material possibly strong enough to build a space elevator in their paper Fullerene Nanotubes: C1,000,000 and Beyond, published by American Scientist in August of 1997.  Money quote from this paper:

In a 1978 science-fiction novel called Fountains of Paradise Arthur Clarke described a strong filament or cable being lowered from a geosynchronous satellite and used by the engineers of the future to move things up and down from earth-a space elevator. Let’s ignore for a moment the tremendous problems involved-atmospheric turbulence, the Coriolis forces, the ravages of ozone and radiation up there-and think about how strong such a cable should be. It takes freshman college physics to figure that the tension in a cable is proportional to its specific gravity ? = 1.3, a square of the earth radius R, and a simple integral: ?(1/r 2 – r/R s 3)dr. The integral spans 22,300 miles all the way from the ground to the synchronous orbit, accumulates a lot and produces a strength requirement of 63 gigapascals. As speculative as it is, the story benchmarks this number. None of the materials now known to humankind get close to such strength. Fullerene cables someday may.

I’m very much looking forward to meeting him.

The upcoming 2010 EuroSpaceward Conference

I get on a plane in a few hours to travel to Luxembourg to attend and present at the 2010 EuroSpaceward Conference.  I attended this very worthwhile event last year and enjoyed myself very much.  It’s nice to stay in personal touch with so many people and it’s exciting to hear people talk about technologies that are near and dear to my heart…

The final set of abstracts for the presentations have been released and you can view them here (Saturday / Sunday).  Carbon Nanotube technology is the focus on Saturday while Space Elevator systems are the focus for Sunday’s presentations.  As you can see, I give the penultimate presentation on Sunday, so I’m hopeful that people will still be awake ?

I’ll be blogging from the conference as time permits and will also post a few pictures for everyone to enjoy.  For those of you attending – I’ll see you in a couple of days!

2010 JpSEC – Japanese Space Elevator Conference coming soon

On December 11th and 12th, the Japan Space Elevator Agency (JSEA) will be hosting its annual (sometimes bi-annual) conference in Tokyo, Japan.

The conference will have discussions on Legal considerations, Nanotube update, deployment research, tether experiments and solar power satellites.

Most of the presenters will be from Japan University, although some will be from Nagoya University and Shizuoka University.

More details can be found at the conference website.

No translation services will be available; i.e. presentations will be in Japanese.  If anyone is interested in attending this conference, please contact me via email; ted [at] and I will put you in touch with the conference organizers.

ISEC awards its second “Honorable Mention” for the 2010 Artsutanov Prize

In an earlier post, I wrote about ISEC awarding an Honorable Mention for the Artsutanov Prize.

Based on a re-review of all of the papers submitted for the competition, ISEC is very pleased to award a second Honorable Mention for the Artsutanov Prize, this to Karen Ghazaryan,  S.A. Ambartsumian and M.V. Belubekyan for their paper “Optimal Design of the Space Elevator Tether“.  Karen attended the 2010 Space Elevator conference and presented this paper.

Their paper will be included in the upcoming Space Elevator Journal.  Remember, if you join ISEC, you will be entitled to a free copy of this Journal.

Karen has made presentations at the last several Space Elevator Conferences and we sincerely thank him for his continuing efforts to advance our understanding in this field.  Congratulations to Mr.’s Ghazaryan, Ambartsumian and Belubkeyan on their award!

(The top picture thumbnail is of Karen taken while he was giving his presentation at the conference.  The other picture thumbnail is of Karen (in the middle) discussing Space Elevator concepts with Yuri Artsutanov (on the left) and Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation (hosts of the Space Elevator Games).   As always, you can click on any thumbnail to view a larger version of the picture.)

More space elevator humor…

Our intrepid explorers have released two new episodes about life aboard their particular space elevator.

The first has a Halloween theme and so I am remiss in not posting about it earlier.  In it we can see the violent side of one of our friends…



In this second episode, well, I don’t know what to say about this second episode…


Updated information for EuSEC – Europe’s first Space Elevator Challenge

A few days ago, I received an email from Franciska Volgyi, Technical & Organizational lead for EuSEC; Europe’s first Space Elevator Challenge.  I had previously posted about this competition here.

In this email she sent me updated information about the competition.  This can be accessed here:


If you have any questions about this competition, you can email Franciska at “spaceelevator [at]”.

Thank you Franciska – I think this is going to be great event and I sincerely hope my schedule will allow me attend!

KCSP Closure party

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the official Kansas City Space Pirates ‘closure party’, a party hosted by KCSP Captain Brian Turner.  As I had posted earlier, KCSP has officially given up in their quest to win the NASA Centennial Challenge Power-Beaming competition (part of the Space Elevator Games).

Brian rented out a community center in Kansas City and invited all team members and their immediate family (who, almost inevitably, got involved with the project too) to thank them for all of their efforts and to briefly review KCSP’s accomplishments in the three Space Elevator Games they competed in (2006, 2007 and 2009).

Brian brought the optics box and climbers, as well as balloons for the kids.  There was lots and lots of food, and enough beer and wine to go around (and a local police officer to make the alcohol officially legal).

Brian’s speech was gracious and inclusive, and he singled out every person there, talking about what they had done and thanking them for their contributions.  From Brian, I would have expected nothing less – he and the whole team was a class act and we are all sorry that they were not more successful in the Games.

If anyone wants to pick up KCSP’s legacy and compete with LaserMotive in the future, please contact Brian (brian [at]  I’m sure their equipment (especially their optics and climber) can be obtained for a reasonable price.  But don’t wait too long as we’ll probably see bits and pieces of it up on Craigs List in the not-too-distant future.

I’ve included thumbnails of a few photos I took at the party.  The topmost is of a custom-made Pirate cake that Bryan’s wife made.  Very cool and very tasty.  Next is a picture of some of the children at the party drawing on one of the big balloons that Brian brought.  These are the same types of balloons that KCSP brought to the 2007 Games to use as ‘target-practice’ in sighting their mirrors.  The third picture is of Brian in mid-oration.  The last picture is of Brian, flanked by Dan (on the left) and Nic; the principals of the Chicago Video Production company, Bitter Jester Creative, Inc., the ‘chroniclers’ of the people-side of the Games.  They are located in the Chicago area, as I am, so we all drove down to the party together.  Nic and Dan took the opportunity to interview Bryan (extensively) and other attendees as part of their of project.  I can’t wait to see the final result – they literally have hundreds of hours of footage and it’s going to tell quite a story.

So, what does KCSP have in store for the future?  I’m going to leave that for a blog update on their part.  Suffice it to say that they have new challenges they are taking on, but they are staying close and true to their robotic roots.

Congratulations again to Brian Turner and the Kansas City Space Pirates.  Future Games will sorely miss your participation…

(As always, you can click on any of the picture thumbnails to see a full-size version of the picture)

What’s up with LaserMotive…

The day after the recent Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington, I needed to drive Yuri Artsutanov and his translator (Eugene Schlusser) back to the Sea-Tac airport so that they could catch their flight.  On the way, we stopped at the LaserMotive facility so that a) the LaserMotive people and Yuri could meet and b) we could see what was happening with them.

The visit was a lot of fun – Yuri, being inquisitive and generous as always.

LaserMotive is now demonstrating their beaming-power technology by remotely powering a toy helicopter for, essentially, unlimited amounts of flight time.  In late August, they demonstrated their technology at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America 2010 Conference in Denver, Colorado.  Yuri, Eugene and I saw their demo while we were at the labs and it was very impressive.  Turn on the laser and the helicopter takes off and flies.  Turn off the laser and the helicopter ends its flight.  Runs forever.  Very cool…

And, they announced on their blog a few days ago:

LaserMotive to Demonstrate Laser-Powered Helicopter at Future of Flight Aviation Center; Will Mark Longest Duration Untethered Laser Powered Helicopter Flight on Record. In partnership with Ascending Technologies, we will be flying their Pelican quadrocopter via laser power for at least 10 times (and maybe 20 times) the duration possible with batteries alone.

No updates yet on their website as to how well the demo went, but we’ll hear from them soon on this, I’m sure.

Finally, LaserMotive received the runner-up prize at the recent NWEN (Northwest Entrepreneur Network) ‘First Look’ forum earlier this month.  Congratulations to LaserMotive for this and all of their accomplishments!

(Picture thumbnails are, from top to bottom, Tom Nugent of LaserMotive showing Yuri the Climber that won the Space Elevator Games – Climber/Power Beaming competition, Yuri enjoying the $900,000 award check that LaserMotive won in the competition, the demonstration system (enclosed in a transparent case) – you can see the helicopter sitting on its ‘landing pad’, and finally Tom showing Yuri this demo system – you can see the helicopter in flight.  As always, you can click on any of these thumbnails to see a full-size version of the picture.)

Fatal Ascent

There is a new book out which has a Space Elevator as a central theme.  The title is Fatal Ascent and the author is Mr. Gordon McKinzie.  I’ve just recently learned that Gordon was supposed to be at the recent Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, but a sudden and severe medical issue prevented him from attending.  He does live in the area and so we can hope to see Gordon at the next Conference.

From the advert:

Near a remote scientific facility on the equator north of Tahiti, a small plane suddenly spins out of control and crashes. Only the scientists of Space Grid International at the secret atoll know what has happened: The plane has collided with thin carbon tapes that have been stretched taut from the atoll’s coral shelf to a point 62,000 miles into space. Conceived in absolute secrecy, the tapes are the critical element of the world’s first functioning space elevator that can transport men and materials to and from satellites without the prohibitive cost and logistics of rocket launches. Shortly afterwards, investigators from the National Transportation and Safety Board visit the facility looking for answers, but are too close to discovering the true cause of the crash and the atoll’s secret. Soon after their chartered aircraft leaves the facility it suddenly explodes in mid-air.

One of the team’s members, Michelle Kahana, shares a critical piece of information with her brother, Scott, just before she and her team depart the facility on their fateful flight. Scott, a promising Honolulu architect and F-16 pilot in the Hawaii Air National Guard, begins pursuing the details of Michelle’s disclosure only to uncover a trail of betrayal, deception and murder that implicates the FAA and the facility’s brilliant Research Director, Dr. Krishnamurty Karemcheti.

Karemcheti has recently been given a “no confidence” vote by the Board of Space Grid International. He has no use for the altruistic vision of CEO Mark Darden, who wants to deploy the revolutionary Ladder to Space as a means to connect the planet to space-borne solar energy “farms” that could ultimately supply all of the world’s energy needs.  Karemcheti, however, is intent only on selling the technology to a Chinese syndicate that would use the concept for military purposes to hold nations of the world hostage, and is already overseeing the construction of an identical facility in the South China Sea. The disenfranchised Karemcheti wants to completely eliminate Space Grid International and its core of scientists and executives, and has conceived a diabolical plan that has been in motion for many months: A rogue Chinese trawler has captured a Pakistani midget submarine in the Arabian Sea and clandestinely transported it over ten thousand miles to the doorstep of the tiny scientific facility.  The mission of the submarine Nishtar is too horrifying to contemplate—it carries two full-size torpedoes!

Months earlier, Karemcheti had imposed on Shakeela Kabir, a beautiful American-born woman of Indian ancestry and daughter of an old family friend, to befriend a FAA staff specialist and persuade him to illegally alter government records that would guarantee absolute secrecy of the Ladder to Space project. Scott’s personal quest for information leads him to the FAA and a confrontation with the object of Shakeela’s intercession, Kyle Broderick. In a panic, the young engineer nervously confesses to his benefactor Karemcheti that he fears his role in subverting FAA regulations will be discovered. Shortly afterward, Broderick is killed in his sleep when his small ketch mysteriously explodes in a marina near Annapolis.  When Scott first learns of Shakeela’s involvement with Karemcheti, he is immediately distrustful and finds himself obliquely linking her to the horrific series of events. Abruptly, the anguished young woman travels to Honolulu and personally convinces Scott of her innocence in the tragic circumstances that have darkened their lives. The melding of their mutual desire to bring Karemcheti to justice leads to a poignant love affair that blossoms in the face of terrible adversity for Shakeela and deep emotional scars for Scott.

The FBI joins forces with the NTSB and moves quickly to find answers, some of which are found at the bottom of the South Pacific in a tape recorder recovered by a deep-diving submersible. Special Agent Victor Savage is convinced that Karemcheti can now be linked to at least nine deaths, only to discover that the scientist has left the country and all contact has been lost.

Soon the trawler and submarine are within striking distance of the facility, and Karemcheti re-appears with his iniquitous Chinese partners to launch his final act of treachery.  He gives orders for the submarine to fire its first torpedo into the heart of the research facility.  The second torpedo is reserved for the cruise ship Polynesian Princess anchored nearby—it has top government officials and members of the press onboard who have been invited to the public unveiling of the SGI elevator as it clamps onto the tape and begins its incredible odyssey into space. Shakeela is also on the cruise ship, ironically as a guest of Karemcheti, and Scott is one thousand miles to the south on a National Guard deployment with his F-16 squadron.

The inhabitants of the research facility and the cruise ship are defenseless against the massive torpedoes poised to execute their deadly trajectories. In a race against time, only heroic actions can deflect the momentum of the destructive forces about to be unleashed against them– if it isn’t already too late.

I’m supposed to be receiving my copy of the book any day now and it’s going to go to the top of my Fiction reading list.  I’ll post a book review when I’m finished.  In the meantime, you can get the book at Amazon (but not yet on Kindle – at least I’m hoping that it will soon be available on Kindle).

More on USST’s entry into JSEA’s JSETEC competition

On the USST website, they have a summary of their activities at the recent JSEA LASER competition as well as a couple of videos.

I had previously posted about the climb where they crash-landed, but didn’t post the one where they did much better.  And I had posted a wrap-up of the competition here.



Their summary of the competition is very interesting and worth checking out and it’s good to see that they are still ‘in the game’, despite being no longer eligible for the Space Elevator games prizes…

EuroSpaceward announces EuSEC – the first European Space Elevator Challenge!

Exciting news – EuroSpaceward has today announced EuSEC – the first European Space Elevator Challenge!

This competition is being organized by WARR, the Scientific work-group for rocketry and space flight of the Technical University of Munich in cooperation with the Technical University of Munich, the Klaus Höchstetter Foundation,  Lrt, the Institute of Astronautics and EuroSpaceward.

The theme of the competition is:

make it ecology minded
make it efficient
make it European

And the focus of the competition is:

technical implementation
reference to the ‘real Space Elevator’

The competition is scheduled to be held from June 10-12, 2011, with backup dates set as June 16-18, 2011, and the location will be in Germany at the campus of the Technical University of Munich – Campus Garching (Garching Forschungszentrum).  Several prizes are offered, with the top prize being 2,000 Euros.

Enquiries about the competition should be sent to Franciska Volgyi, the technical and organizational lead, or Andreas Fleischner, responsible for the SE agenda at WARR.  Both can be reached at (spaceelevator [at]

Details about the competition can be found in this handbook.  A competition flyer, a powerpoint presentation and poster have been created as well as a website for this Challenge.

Mark your calendars – this should be a lot of fun!

This now makes a total of five space elevator games / challenges now in existence.  We have the two American Space Elevator Games (the Climber / Power-Beaming challenge and the Strong Tether Challenge), the two Japan Space Elevator Games (JSETEC and LASER) and now the European Space Elevator Challenge (EuSEC).  I love it!

Congratulations to WARR, the Technical University of Munich,  the Klaus Höchstetter Foundation,  Lrt, the Institute of Astronautics and EuroSpaceward for making this happen!

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.