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The Space Elevator Challenge

Official Results: www.SpaceElevatorGames.org


  • What's a Space Elevator? See here.
  • Ted's Excellent Space Elevator Blog - read back to learn about the world of the Space Elevator.
  • Spaceward Publications and the Space Elevator Library. See here.

Bitter Jester Creative

Bitter WHAT?!

Exactly.   This is what Nic DeGrazia, Creative Director of BJC, told me about their company's name. Nobody ever forgets it, and the same is true about BJC's work.

BJC are continuing their 2-year project of documenting the games, now in its third year.   Find out all about them at www.BitterJester.com.

Can we or can't we build the Space Elevator?

Over the last decade, the underlying assumptions that went into the design of the Space Elevator have undergone rigorous examination.

We now know that the strength of the Carbon Nanotubes tether will likely not be quite as high as we'd originally assumed, though of course that assumption was just a working number, not a requirement. The effect of a weaker tether material is simply that the Space Elevator tether becomes heavier than we thought it would be.

Similarly, the performance of the power beaming system might not be as high as we'd hoped it would be. As with the tether, however, this in and of itself is not a show-stopper. A less efficient system simply mean that the climbers will move slower.

As we look at the way technology is shaping up, the natural question that we face is: Are these new estimates simply a matter of reduced performance, or do they impact the actual viability of the Space Elevator concept? The Space Elevator Feasibility Condition tries to answer this question.

... So What Now?

"Aim high, or you are liable to shoot your toes off" - so goes the saying.

In this spirit (and based on what we saw in the 2007 games) we've decided to up the ante this year and set the challenge target at 5 m/s over a 1-km climb, (10 times as high and more than twice as fast as last year's!) and place the entire $2,000,000 on the table. (details)

We're thrilled to announce that machine tool manufacturer TRUMPF has stepped forward with a lucrative offer to support teams with its state-of-the-art laser equipment.

Being the world leader in laser technology, TRUMPF took a natural interest in the power beaming games, and is providing both hardware and expertise to enable the 1-km climb.

Stay tuned to this page for more updates on both the Power Beaming competition, the Strong Tether competition, and other Spaceward news, or subscribe to our newsletter for periodic updates.

Happy 2008 everyone!

Success !!!
"I have seen a laser-powered climb, and I have seen a Carbon Nanotube Tether" (Ted Semon - SpaceElevatorBlog.com)

The goal of Spaceward's Elevator:2010 project is to advance and showcase the technologies necessary to build the Space Elevator. With this in mind, we're thrilled to announce this year's official results:

  • Team USST from the University of Saskatchewan was the best performer, moving their laser-powered 25 kg climber [55 lb] at an average speed of 1.8 m/s [6 ft/sec] over a 94 m run. This corresponds to over 400 Watts of mechanical power maintained for almost a minute. They did this four times within 40 minutes, demonstrating the simplicity of the Space Elevator design.
  • Team Kansas City Space Pirates demonstrated the fastest short climb, moving at over 3.5 m/s using directly reflected sunlight. They were later damaged by a wind gust and never regained their full power. Their full length run was 1 minute, 15 seconds, corresponding to an average speed of 1.25 m/s.
  • Team Lasermotive from Seattle entered a laser-based system comparable in potential to the USST entry, but did not get the system working in time.
  • Team Astroaranea kept their title as the maker of the strongest tether.
  • Team delta-X from MIT demonstrated a 2 gram pure Carbon Nanotube tether.
  • None of the teams reached the threshold necessary to win the prize money.
  • Both prize purses are now set at $2,000,000, with first prize depending on performance.
These achievements include first-ever results, completely erasing the results of last year's challenge.
These achievements are just the tip of the iceberg in what the underlying technologies can deliver.
These are the first steps of a newborn giant. Watch what we can do next year!

A brief recap of the last 3 years:

  • We started the Elevator:2010 project in 2004. At that time there were no established Space Elevator teams.
  • In 2005, a handful of teams built climbers for the partial-form competition in Mountain View.
  • In 2006, 12 teams registered, and 5 teams completed the 50 m course, using mostly searchlights as the underlying technology.
  • In 2007, 22 teams registered for a 100 m track that was twice as difficult. The leap in underlying technology was huge, with two teams putting together laser-based systems complete with automated tracking and ground-to-climber datalinks.
  • Towards 2008, we're already getting interest from industry groups, and are contemplating a leap forward larger even than the one we've seen this year.
  • In the tether competition, which we always expected to lag behind the power beaming competition, we've see our first Carbon Nanotube based entry this year. This was very impressive, and we're looking forward to awarding the money next year to a CNT based competitor.
We are very proud of this track record, and most of all, we are proud of our teams.

E pur si muove!

Kansas City Space Pirates'
Space Elevator demonstrator toy,
wielded by late one night.

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by Ted Semon

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© The Spaceward Foundation 2008 - www.spaceward.org - Mountain View, CA