Headlines > News > 1st Space Elevator Competition Set for Mid-2005

1st Space Elevator Competition Set for Mid-2005

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Mon Aug 30, 2004 10:52 pm
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chabot imagemywisecounty.com By My Wise County: Mountain View, California — Millions of Americans are aware of the private industry race to space beginning next month with Burt Rutan’s SpaceShip One seeking to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize by launching and landing a manned vehicle capable of lifting three humans to 62.5 miles altitude twice within 2-weeks but a new private space race is now underway as well.

The new race to space is emerging that may be an even more exciting and challenging than that of the Ansari X Prize and may hold the promise of low cost Earth-to-orbit and beyond launches that would make SpaceShip One technology appear to be from yesteryear.

The Spaceward Foundation has launched a new prize called “Elevator: 2010to bring technology and engineering focus to the many challenges associated with the design and construction of a space elevator. The ultimate goal is to build the equipment components needed to lift payloads into space by light-powered platforms. Such platforms, also known as climbers, would move up and down super strong carbon nanotube ribbons rising as high as 62,000 miles above Earth’s surface.

It is estimated that a function space elevator could low the costs of getting packages into low Earth orbit from the current rate of approximately $10,000 per pound to less than $100 per pound revolutionizing space travel and space construction activities as never before.

“We firmly believe that the set of technologies that underlie the infinite promise of the space elevator can be demonstrated, or proven infeasible, within a five-year time frame,” the Web site for the competition declares. “And hence our name. Elevator:2010. We promise to get an answer for you by then.”

The Spaceward Foundation goal is to enlist both the private sector and academic institutions in a series of competitions to develop the various pieces of a space elevator for demonstration projects with the first Space Elevator Competition set for June or July 2005 in conjunction with the 4th Annual Space Elevator Conference in San Francisco, California.

The competition will be in three areas: Climber Competition, Tether Strength, and Power Beaming Competition. The fastest-moving climber would earn its team a $50,000 prize, with a $20,000 second prize and a $10,000 third prize. The strongest ribbon would win a $10,000 first prize, and the best power-beaming system could win $10,000.

“We are working with several large organizations on collaborating with the competition, but since we want to allow universities to consider this ahead of the academic school year, we have decided to announce the competition now, and will be releasing details soon about our partners,” Ben Shelef, a member of the Elevator:2010 team, told MSNBC in an e-Mail published Saturday.

“We’ve gotten feedback from the universities, so we know it’s feasible,” Shelef said. “It’s the same thing as the solar cars, but on steroids.”

“For so long, this was a science-fiction concept,” Michael Laine, president of the LiftPort Group, a Seattle-area company that is working to commercialize space elevator technologies told MSNBC. “And now that people are seeing that serious people are doing research on this, they’ll start to think, ‘Oh, maybe we should get involved, too.’”

It has been estimated that an operational space elevator could be built in the southern Pacific Ocean on a converted off-shore oil rig for about $10 to $15 billion dollars within the decade. Yet many technologies will have to be developed far beyond the laboratory testing in which they exist today such as the carbon nanotube tether 100-times stronger than steel yet much, much lighter.

read also: Alan Boyle; Space elevator contest proposed

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