2009 Power Beaming Archive

Your mission Jim, should you decide to accept it... This teaser clip (dated about a year prior the challenge deadline) highlights the amount of work done by the teams and the progress they've made in preparation for the games. People can be forgiven for thinking that this was an impossible mission - at times, so did we.

By the numbers:

Starting Height: 100 m
Target Height: 1 km
Target Speed: 2 m/s ($0.9M), 5 m/s ($1.1M)
Cable diameter: 4.7mm (3/16")
Number of Registered Teams: 3
Competition Date: November 2009
Location: NASA Dryden Flight Reseach Center

An early concept sketch of the challenge, showing the helicopter and cable, laser beam and climber, overlaid on NASA Dryden's distinctive lakebed backdrop.
Official results:

Winner: LaserMotive ($0.9M)
Top speed:
Avg speed:
Climber weight:

Second place: Kansas City Space Pirates
Third place: University of Saskatchewan

LaserMotive's Jordin Kare and Ton Nugent receiving the cardboard check from Andy Petro (NASA CC) and Ben Shelef (Spaceward).

From start to finish - a recap of the 2009 power beaming challenge, focusing on the three teams that made the final cut: LaserMotive (the winners), Kansas City Space Pirates, and the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team. I hope the movie manages to convey just how impressive these systems were, powering the climbers by means of laser power transfer at distance of up to 1 km.

A look at the entire operations cycle, as performed flawlessly by the Spaceward and Dryden crew at the 2009 Space Elevator Games Power Beaming Challenge.

To facilitate the laser power beaming challenge, we had to erect a 1 km tall vertical raceway - a thin cable for the climbers to climb on. This turned out to be not a trivial task at all, but with the help of a very talented crew, including Keith Mackey (Aviation consultant, a.k.a Helo-man), Michael Keating (Ground crew, a.k.a Tether-man), Doug Uttecht (an incredibly agile and precise helicopter pilot), and under the supervision of NASA Dryden's ops crew headed by Mike Kapitzke and John Piatt, this ended up looking like no tall feat at all - and that's saying something!

A point to consider: With the entire system in operation, Doug was able to hover at 5000', keeping the 1-mile cable taut, and maintaining altitude to better than 5' - probably an unprecedented achievement.

The Aviation Crew:

Doug Uttecht is chief pilot for NorthWest Helicopters in Olympia, WA, and makes his living pulling power lines with his MD-530F. He holds the distinction of having pulled the cables for the new Tacoma Narrows bridge.
Keith Mackey is an aviation consultant, 747 captain, helicopter pilot, airship pilot, train engineer... In short, if it moves, Keith has moved it. Did I mention the tugboat and hot air baloon? When he needs to get away from flying, he flies R/C helicopters and does commercial photography.
Michael Keating is a high school physics teacher! My high school physics teacher was 60 years old and had a thick Russian accent. Taking the role of "Tetherman" won him instant fandom with the viewers on the web-cast, some of whom were no doubt his students.
Beaming Station:

Death-star optics, by KCSP. The beam has to be intentionally defocused so as not to poke a hole in the climber.

Muscle Truck:

8000 Watts of laser power generated by TRUMPF's TruDisc Laser, streaming through the orange fiber optic and into the beam transmitter's optics. TRUMPF's David Marcotte (right) and NASA's laser safety officer John Piatt.

Live webcast of the first qualifying run of the winners of the 2009 Power Beaming Challenge, LaserMotive. The webcast has all the feel and excitement of a golf tournament (The whole point of the Space Elevator is that the travel to space should be as eventful as a train ride), and is narrated by Ted Semon of the Space Elevator Blog and Dr. Bryan Laubscher.

2009 Picture Album

Thanks to NASA Dryden's professional photographers for many of these beautiful photographs.

Mouse-over for descriptions

NASA Sponsors composite Team composite

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