Space elevator competitions

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A space elevator is a theoretical system using a super-strong ribbon going from the surface of the Earth to a point beyond Geosynchronous orbit. The center of gravity of the ribbon would be exactly in geosynchronous orbit, so that the ribbon would always stay above the anchor point. Vehicles would climb the ribbon powered by a beam of energy projected from the surface of the Earth. Building a space elevator requires materials and techniques that do not currently exist. A variety of Space Elevator competitions have been held in order to stimulate the development of such materials and techniques.

Space elevators were first conceived in 1895, but until the discovery of carbon nanotubes, no technology was envisioned that could make them possible. Building an actual elevator is still out of reach, but the directions for research are clear. This makes the area ripe for incentive prizes like the X Prize, and prizes and competitions have been set up since 2005[1] to encourage the development of relevant technologies. There are two main areas of research remaining, and these are where the competitions focus: building cables ("a Tether challenge"), and climbing and descending cables ("a Power Beam challenge").

In a Power Beam Challenge, each team designs and builds a climber (a machine capable of traveling up and down a tether ribbon). In a Tether challenge, each team attempts to build the longest and strongest cable. In the Power Beam challenge climber carry a payload. Power is beamed from a transmitter to a receiver on the climber. With each competition, the tethers reach higher altitudes, and the climbers are expected to climb further. Each competition can have minimum lengths and maximum weight per meter for cables, and minimum speed and distance goals for climbers.

Space elevator challenge results[edit]

Like many competitions modeled after the X prize, competitors have to meet a minimum baseline, and then prizes are awarded to the best entry that exceed that target. In 2005, there was only a climbing challenge, and none of the entrants met the minimum speed requirement of 1 m/s. Starting in 2006, Elevator:2010, sponsored by[2] and NASA conducted a series of competitions. For 2006, the prize was increased, and the speed requirement dropped slightly to 50 meters in under a minute. 13 teams entered, and one was able to climb the 50 meters in 58 seconds. In 2009 at Edwards Air Force Base, the challenge was climbing a 900 m tether, and one entry managed the feat several times, with a top speed of 3.5 m/s. NASA didn't renew their sponsorship after 2009,[3][4] pending "further advancements in material science".

The International Space Elevator Consortium was formed in 2008,[5] and has held annual conferences. They announced a $10,000 Strong Tether Challenge competition for 2013. The Challenge was canceled for lack of competitors.[6] The 2011, 2012, and 2013 ISEC conferences also featured FIRST-style High School robotics competitions for climbers.[7][8] and occasional competitions.

The Japan Space Elevator Association held a climbing competition in August 2013.[9] Hot air balloons were used to hoist a tether, and Team Okusawa's entry[10] succeeded in climbing to 1100 meters,[11] and a team from Nihon University reached 1200 meters. (The sources are in Japanese.)

The Japan Space Elevator Association held a climbing competition in August 2014.[12] Hot air balloons were used to hoist both rope (11 mm) and ribbon (35 mm x 2 mm) to 200 m and 1200 m. Team Okusawa climbed to 1200 m and descended twice. Kanagawa University carried a 100 kg payload to 123 m on the 200 m ribbon. Kanagawa University's three teams climbed respectively to 1200 m (rope), 1150 m (rope) and 1100 m (ribbon). Munich University of Technology reached 1000 m (rope).

Competition Type Prize Target Date Location Entries Winner? Records Comments
X Prize Cup[13] Climber Aug 2005 NASA AMES, Mtn Vw, CA, USA no
Tether Aug 2005 NASA AMES, Mtn Vw, CA, USA no Centaurus: 1300 Lbs (2 gr, 2 m)
2nd Annual X Prize Cup[14] Climber $200K 50 m, 1 m/s (climb + descend) Oct 2006 Las Cruces, NM, USA 6 (USST, LiteWon, TurboCrawler, Climber 1, KC Space Pirates, Snowstar) no USST: 1 m/s climbing 10 cm ribbon, searchlights for power
Lander ??? take off, hover, land Oct 2006 Las Cruces, NM, USA none no
Tether $200K Max Strength (min len 2 m, max wt 2 g) Oct 2006 Las Cruces, NM, USA 4 (UBC, Astroaraneae, Centaurus Aerospace, Bryan Laubscher) no Astroaraneae: 1335 Lbs (2 gr, 2m)
Space Elevator Games[15] Climber $500K 100 m, 2 m/s Oct 2007 Salt Lake City, UT, USA (USST, KC Space Pirates, LaserMotive) no USST: First laser powered climb; 1.8 m/s climbing First lasers for power
Tether $500K Oct 2007 Salt Lake City, UT, USA Astroaraneae, Delta x (MIT) no Astroaraneae: ???
2009 Space Elevator Challenge[16] Climber $1.1M 5 m/s $.9M 2 m/s 900 m, 5 m/s or 2 m/s Oct 2009 NASA Dryden FRC, Edwards Air Force Base, California, U.S. 6 (USST, KC Space Pirates, LaserMotive, Umich, McGill, NSS) yes LaserMotive won 900K for their climber, which reached speeds of 3.6 m/s[17]
Tether $2 M Oct 2009 NASA Dryden FRC, Edwards Air Force Base, California, U.S. no First carbon nanotube
JSETEC 2010[18][19] Climber 300 m Aug 2010 Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka-ken, Japan 15 teams (USST, Kanagawa U., Nihon U., Shizuoka U.)[20] yes Kanagawa University was top finisher; USST reached 18.3 m/s (battery-powered) before crashing
2011 Strong Tether Centennial Challenge[21] Tether 5 MYuris 12 August 2011 Redmond, WA, USA no
JSETEC 2011 Climber Aug 2011 Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka-ken, Japan 16 530 m in 39 s, 450 m in 27 s
EUSPEC 2011[22] Climber 25 m Aug 2011 TU Munich, Germany 6 yes Efficiency: 43.85% Either rope or belt tethers
JSETEC 2012 Climber 1200 m Aug 2012 Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka-ken, Japan 16 no No one climbed 1200 m Either rope or belt tethers
EUSPEC 2012 Climber 50 m Oct 2012 TU Munich, Germany 6 yes Either rope or belt tethers
JSEA 2013 Climber 1200 m Aug 2013 Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka-ken, Japan Okusawa,[23] Nihon U 1200 m
TechnoBrain 2014 Climber 10,000 NIS 25 m June 2014 Technion, Israel Ishai Zimerman and Ronen Atzil[24] yes Yuri Artsutanov, who developed the concept of the "space elevator", was the guest of honor and one of the judges of the competition
SPEC 2014 Climber 1200 m and 200 m August 2014 Japan Team Keio & Manten Project, Team Okuzawa, Kanagawa University Egami Ken, Technical University Munich[25] no Team Okusawa climbed two round trips to 1200 m ; Kanagawa University climbed 123 m on the 200 m rope with a 100 kg payload Both rope (11 mm) and ribbons (35 mm x 2 mm) were available at each altitude, held aloft by balloons.
EUSPEC 2016 Climber 100 m and 50 m September 2016 Germany Aoki Lab (Nihon University); Last.minute (TUM); Space Group Hof (Schiller Gymnasium); Meier's Eleven (Gutenbergschule Wiesbaden); [26] Both rope (10 mm) and belt (30-40 mm x 2 mm) were available, held aloft by balloons.


  1. ^ "Space Elevator Competitions". International Space Elevator Competition. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  2. ^ "The Space Elevator Challenge". The Spaceward Foundation. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  3. ^ "NASA, the Space Elevator Challenges and the Kansas City Space Pirates". SpaceElevatorBlog. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  4. ^ "Strong Tether Challenge". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  5. ^ "Leading Players in the Space Elevator Movement Join Together to Form New International Consortium" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  6. ^ "ISEC Space Elevator Conference".
  7. ^ "2013 Space Elevator Conference". International Space Elevator Consortium. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  8. ^ "2013 Space Elevator Conference – Day 2". Space Elevator Blog. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  9. ^ "On the implementation results of the SPEC2013". Japan Space Elevator Association. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  10. ^ "Orbital elevator group". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  11. ^ "Team Okusawa 1,100 m elevation climber video". Japan Space Elevator Association. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  12. ^ "On the implementation results of the SPEC2014". Japan Space Elevator Association. Retrieved 2014-11-25.
  13. ^ "2005 Power Beaming Archive". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  14. ^ "Space Elevator Challenge Results". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  15. ^ "2007 Power Beaming Archive". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  16. ^ "2009 Power Beaming Archive". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  17. ^ "LaserMotive finally wins NASA's Elevator:2010 Beam Power Challenge, climbs at 3.9 meters/second (video)". Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  18. ^ "Results from Japan's 2010 JSETEC Competition". Space Elevator Blog. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  19. ^ "2010-08-12-JSETECH2010" (PDF). JSEA. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  20. ^ "Japan holds space elevator competition". Telegraph UK. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  21. ^ "Strong Tether Challenge". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  22. ^ "EuroSpaceward announces EuSEC – the first European Space Elevator Challenge!". The Space Elevator Blog. Retrieved 2013-11-27.
  23. ^ "Team Okusawa 1100 m elevation climber video". JSEA. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  24. ^ "Technobrain 2014: Screwdriver Power". Technion. Retrieved 2014-11-25.
  25. ^ "SPEC 2014 results bulletin". JSEA. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
  26. ^ "Participating Teams". Retrieved 2017-01-02.

External links[edit]