Monday, June 02, 2008

ISDC 2008 - NSS Space Elevator Team Status

As with all such conference notes that I make, take to heart my usual warning that the following is just a rough approximation based on scribbled notes (I don't like using a laptop in a conference), partially correct hearing, etc. If you want a fully accurate account, check the sources.

You can see more about this talk at the Space Elevator Blog - ISDC2008 Day 3.

NSS Space Elevator Team Status - Bert Murray

Ben Shelef had a presentation before, or at the beginning of, this one on Power Beaming. He explained the Space Elevator and Power Beaming Challenge concepts. They want to leave the power source on the ground, and move up and down a cable. The teams must move a certain payload mass.

He then gave a history of the past Games. In 2005 at NASA Ames, it was the first time, so everyone needed to get experience in the competition. In 2006, they were at the X PRIZE Cup. This time Spaceward didn't give the teams the lights. This event had the first working models, more teams, 2 teams with microwave architectures, and 1 team with a laser architecture. The event was so close that they decided to make it harder so they wouldn't just be giving the money away the following year ... but in compensation, there was more money to be won. In 2007 there were even more teams, and they went faster and higher. Ben showed a night laser movie from 2007. Several teams got to the top. There has been lots of improvement from year to year.

That year, the laser industry saw the videos, and got interested. They decided to make the challenge harder again, but with more prize money to be won again. In 2008 the challenge will be to climb 1km at the same speed. They are talking about holding it at Meteor Crater, but they may or may not end up there.

Note that they had a detailed 3D display at the conference of what they competition would look like if held at Meteor Crater, with a model of the crater, the huge tether to climb, and a balloon holding the tether. The Space Elevator Blog has a video of the display.

Next the NSS Space Elevator Team was up with Bert Murray. This is their first year at the competition. Their motiviation is to demonstrate power beaming technology for the Space Solar Power and Space Elevator concepts, and to win the money.

The design uses a lightweight climber and a TRUMPF laser. They will have a 5-20kg climber with a 5 m/sec speed. They will use strict safety and standards. Bert went over what TRUMPF provides. The team needs to make their optics match TRUMPF's. They are looking at 2 optics solutions to deal with tracking their thermal PV array from 50m to 1000m range. Optics and tracking is the big challenge to them, not the climber. Tracking involves a small target at 3 times the height of the Empire State Building (1km).

The climber challenge is to get the most power per pound. The tradeoffs involve weight, dumping heat, and PV efficiency. The climber frame needs to hold the structure together in winds. For communication and control, they are using an on-board system to monitor things like temperature, and a PC ground system.

They have an article in Ad Astra (the NSS magazine), they blog, and they have a BBC appearance. They are looking for funding. They have a quilt raffle going on now.