Space Elevator

http://www.dbtechno.com/images/Space_elevator_race.jpgWashington (dbTechno) - The space elevator race is on yet again as the competition has those taking part truly reaching for the sky.

The competition has launched in the Mojave Desert and has teams trying to basically come up with a way to build an elevator that will take you to space.

As whacked-out as that sounds, it is actually true, and is something that could be a reality.

The Space Elevator Games will have scientists using robots to climb miles upon miles into the sky.

The whole idea behind this is to basically, someday, build an elevator that will take you right up to space.

This is being done now with the help of a cable held by a helicopter, and a robotic machine that uses laser beams for lower.

This could prove to be wildly helpful in the decades to come, as it would be far cheaper than actually having to take a rocket up to space.

NASA and the SpaceWard Foundation are offering $2 million in prize money.

dbtechno.com/space/2009/11/04/reach-for-the-sky-space-elevator-race-rises-up-in-us/

I remember they tried to do it with a helicopter a few months ago, but ran into problems.

Personally, I think it has too many problems to really be useful. I can see the main purpose eventually being to mine asteroids or the moon and lower equipment back down.

  • First off, how will you even lower the ribbon 100 miles, or 22,000 miles and keep the ribbon perfectly straight (unless you had some ribbon rotation mechanism).

  • Then there’s the laser that needs to be perfectly aligned with the climber. With a ribbon that long, it’s bound to be off by at least a few feet. It’ll act like a huge guitar string. Say, will it make music? :slight_smile:

  • It’ll have international legal issues. Who owns it? What if a country wants to use it to mine for resources in outer space? One country could have a monopoly over it.

  • It’s a political target. Go to war, and it instantly becomes a target. It can be blackmail too (threaten to dismantle a country’s space elevator).

  • “Space Tourism” wouldn’t be possible I would think. The time it takes to get to space is far too long (days long, if not weeks or months).

  • Where would you get a counterweight large enough for industrial use? As it stands now, a few hundred pounds isn’t much.

  • How would you keep the counterweight in place and not fall back to earth? (granted, a small counterweight would burn up, but what if you needed a larger asteroid…)

  • I sure wouldn’t want to be 100 miles up when an asteroid breaks the ribbon… (sending the counterweight out to space, too).

  • While 1 space elevator might be technically possible on paper, what do you do when you have hundreds, or even thousands, and one counterweight breaks, creating a cascading effect?

  • You only have limited places around the earth to put these things, with the Ecuadorian/Peruvian coast probably being the safest.

  • Could encourage coastal piracy if next to a very poor country… …Space Pirates, perhaps? I’ve read in an article once that water-based elevators would be mobile, but then you have the problem of synchronizing the counterweight…

What a bunch of Nimrods.

:rotfl:

Brilliant!

I agree. lol This is a crazy idea. :wink:

I prefer a space escalator myself. If it ever breaks, it just becomes space stairs.

Or at least 1/2 of a space mountain.

I think Arthur C. Clarke said about the Space Elevator that it would be possible 30 years after everyone stops laughing. I guess it isn’t going to happen by 2039! :smiley:

Oh, and they still haven’t found a fiber strong enough to withstand the weight needed, and the best they have is this lightweight nano-fiber (needs to be 25 times stronger).

Nimrods. Get it?! ;):bounce:

[quote=exoflare]Nimrods. Get it?!
[/quote]

:tiphat: :smiley:

It’s like a stealth Bible quiz. :wink:

In one of the comments to an article about the Space Elevator, someone mentioned, “Gee, it’s like the Tower of Babel!”, and someone replied, “Don’t jinx it!!”. :smiley:

Yeah…that didn’t work out so well… :stuck_out_tongue:

At least two space elevator competitions took place recently, with relatively successful results (at least with regard to the long term):
**
Space Elevator Contest Heats Up**

news.yahoo.com/s/space/20091105/sc_space/spaceelevatorcontestheatsup

Pull me up, Scotty. At least one team has qualified for part of a $2 million prize up for grabs in this year’s Space Elevator Games, a NASA-sponsored contest to build machines that can climb a cable in the sky – precursors for a futuristic transit system to space.

On Wednesday, an entry by the Washington state-based team LaserMotive climbed a 3,000-foot (900-meter) tether suspended by a helicopter at a speed of about 8 mph (13 kph). The feat was the best performance yet of a miniature space elevator prototype, though still a long shot away from what would be needed to carry humans to Earth orbit, as proponents envision.

The competition, called the Power Beaming Challenge, is being held this week at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in the California desert. It requires competitors to beam power from a remote source to propell their vehicles upward.

Space elevators were first popularized in the 1970s by the science fiction novels of Arthur C. Clarke, as a means to reach space without using a rocket. Instead, a ship could climb along a fixed structure, like a beam or cable, suspended in space by a permanent geostationary satellite 22,000 miles (35,000 km) above Earth. The sticking points are the need for a super-strong, yet light, material for the tether, and a good way to anchor the other end securely. Not to mention the vehicle to climb it.

That’s where the Space Elevator Games come in. Today offers a second chance for more climbers to compete, and any team that can power their entrant for an average speed of 11 mph (18 kph) will qualify for a portion of the total $2 million prize purse on offer. The competition is sponsored by the Spaceward Foundation and NASA’s Centennial Challenges program aimed to spur development in space exploration.

An attempt by the Kansas City Space Pirates on Wednesday fell short of the speed requirement. The climber from USST (University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team) is slated to compete today.

X-Prize Space Elevator Race Ends With No Winners

space.com/news/061026_xprize_nowinners.html

The Beamed Power and Tether Challenges at this year’s Wirefly X Prize Cup did not produce any prize winners, though teams came close in both competitions.

The winner of the Beamed Power Challenge had to create a crawler capable of climbing a 55-meter-long ribbon at a speed of at least one meter per second using external power (solar, infrared, microwave, laser, or other). The University of Saskatchewan (USST) crawler came closest, making the climb in 57 seconds, two seconds short, and it was unable to descend on its own power. However, USST can claim a first: they were the only team to hoist a cash payload aboard their space elevator: a Canadian $2 coin, a US $1 coin, a US $1 bill, and a tool tag.

Two other teams were scheduled to compete on Sunday, including “Punkworks,” which was to use microwave power, but neither team succeeded due to wind problems. USST made another attempt off-site on Sunday, operating with solar power only, but then the crawler lost alignment with the sun and slowed down. The prize will roll over to $500,000 next year.

Roger Gilbertson of the Spaceward Foundation was master of ceremonies for the Games. He suggested at least one “lesson learned” from this year’s competition. “This was the first time we held the competition in this environment [the middle of an airport]. We didn’t have the wind problem last year, so we’ll have to take that into account.” Gilbertson was impressed by the way teams helped each other. “We’ve invented a new word: ‘coopertition’.” This was demonstrated by the German team offering to loan USST a generator to power their light source in exchange for a percentage of their prize money; in another case, the Kansas City Space Pirates offered to rent their mirrors to USST to assist with their lift.

The other part of the Space Elevator Games, the Tether Challenge, required teams to produce lightweight (2 grams or .07 ounces) two-meter tethers capable of exceeding the strength of a “house” tether. Only one team qualified for the competition, as the other three tethers were too short. These competed anyway, with the winner being the only tether longer than two meters. In head-to-head competition with the house tether, the Astroaraneae tether broke at a force of 1,330 pounds. This year’s house tether could withstand up to 1,660 pounds of force. If the winning team had run last year, they would have won; last year’s house tether had a breaking strength of 1,240 pounds.

Dr. Brad Edwards of the Spaceward Foundation noted that “The house and Astroaraneae tethers both achieved over 80% of the expected theoretical strength of the raw material.” This bodes well for future competitions. According to a report by the LiftPort Group, which is designing and developing space elevator technologies (and helped judge the Elevator Games),** if material strengths continue to advance at the current pace, a functioning space elevator may be built as early as 2031. **

And one more article on the success of the beamed power system:

news.aol.com/article/space-elevator-contest-gets-one-step/752322

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (Nov. 5) – A robot powered by a ground-based laser beam climbed a long cable dangling from a helicopter on Wednesday to qualify for prize money in a $2 million competition to test the potential reality of the science fiction concept of space elevators.
The highly technical contest brought teams from Missouri, Alaska and Seattle to Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert, most familiar to the public as a space shuttle landing site.

The Kansas City Space Pirates, a scientific team that participated Wednesday in NASA’s Space Elevator Games in the Mojave Desert, prep their robotic climbing entry.
The contest requires their machines to climb 2,953 feet up a cable slung beneath a helicopter hovering nearly a mile high.
LaserMotive’s vehicle zipped up to the top in just over four minutes and immediately repeated the feat, qualifying for at least a $900,000 second-place prize.

The device, a square of photovoltaic panels about 2 feet by 2 feet and topped by a motor structure and thin triangle frame, had failed to respond to the laser three times before it was lowered, inspected and then hoisted back up by the helicopter for the successful tries.
LaserMotive’s two principals, Jordin Kare and Thomas Nugent, said they were relieved after two years of work. They said their real goal is to develop a business based on the idea of beaming power, not the futuristic idea of accessing space via an elevator climbing a cable.
“We both are pretty skeptical of its near-term prospects,” Kare said of an elevator.
The contest, however, demonstrates that beaming power works, Nugent said.
“Anybody who needs power in one place and can’t run wires to it — we’d be able to deliver power,” Kare said.

Earlier out on the lakebed, team member Nick Burrows had pointed out how it grips the cable with modified skateboard wheels and the laser is aimed with an Xbox game controller.
It had never climbed higher than 80 feet previously, he said.
The day’s competition began late after hours of testing the cable system, refueling the helicopter and waits for specific time windows in which the lasers can be fired without harming satellites passing overhead.
The Kansas City Space Pirates went first with a machine that initially balked but eventually began climbing. Its speed was too slow to qualify for any prizes, but it got within about 160 feet of the top before the laser had to be shut down for satellite protection.
Ben Shelef, CEO of the contest-sponsoring Spaceward Foundation, said the Pirates had a minor laser tracking problem, but the real problem appeared to be in the mechanical system.
As the afternoon grew late, the University of Saskatchewan’s Space Design Team had to put off its attempts until Thursday. All three teams had further chances to qualify through Friday.
The competition was five years in the making, Shelef said.
“A lot of hurdles to cross,” he said. "Now that it’s happening I’m actually happy already. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is."
Funded by a NASA program to explore bold technology, the contest is intended to encourage development of a theory that originated in the 1960s and was popularized by Arthur C. Clarke’s 1979 novel "The Fountains of Paradise."
Space elevators are envisioned as a way to reach space without the risk and expense of rockets.
Instead, electrically powered vehicles would run up and down a cable anchored to a ground structure and extending thousands of miles up to a mass in geosynchronous orbit — the kind of orbit communications satellites are placed in to stay over a fixed spot on the Earth.
Electricity would be supplied through a concept known as “power beaming,” ground-based lasers pointing up to photovoltaic cells on the bottom of the climbing vehicle — something like an upside-down solar power system.
The space elevator competition has not produced a winner in its previous three years but has become increasingly difficult.
The vehicles must climb at an average speed of 16.4 feet per second, or about 11 miles per hour, to qualify for the top prize. A lesser prize is available for vehicles that climb at 2 meters per second.
The rules allow one team to collect all $2 million or for sums to be shared among all three teams depending on their achievements.
While the concept of an elevator to space may seem too fanciful, Andrew Williams, 26, a mechanical engineer on the Saskatchewan team, said he has no doubts it will come about.
“Once we put our minds to something, it’s just a matter of time for us to achieve it,” he said.

I’m sure there’s some science fiction writer out there going, “I came up with the idea first! And you need to use [insert fake element here] for the elevator!”

I’m going to make my own space elevator. All I need is a group of dumb blonds and a lift gate… :D:D:D

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