Welcome to the
May 2021 Edition
of the ISEC Newsletter
In this Issue:
The Green Road to Space
Inside Outer Space
Multi-Stage Space Elevator
Contact Us/Support Us
Dear Fellow Space Elevator Enthusiast,
The Chinese have been the news for many space-related reasons, but only two of them are related to the Space Elevator. The first one is a video with CG animation of their vision for what they have termed a “Sky Ladder.” It ends with a depiction of how a new lunar rover might look.
Their second contribution is not wishful thinking for the future; it has been launched! They now have a prototype robot that is capable of catching and incinerating space debris in orbit! Some of you may ask, “How is this related to the Space Elevator?” One of the first questions typically asked by people who first hear about the concept of the space elevator is, “What will you do about avoiding space debris? It was even the topic of the 2010 Space Elevator Conference: Space Elevator Survivability--Space Debris Mitigation. At the 2016 conference, a computer simulation game was set up where you chose how to mitigate space debris by choosing to either capture, de-orbit, or laser debris based on size. Your score was determined by your choices (laser for small, capture for medium, and de-orbit for large.) The Chinese seem to have combined the two options for medium and small. I hope this prototype works well because, as you can see, it is a major concern in the space elevator community!
by Pete Swan
Modern Day Space Elevator - 2021
The term “A Modern Day Space Elevator--2021” has surfaced as we have matured through the eight Space Elevator architectures described by David Raitt in his Quest Magazine article (2021). As the name implies, the Modern Day Space Elevator--2021 has evolved from a dream to a scientific reality that we can move into the second phase of development (Engineering Development). This change in maturity occurred as the limiting factor of the past has been overcome. The latest information on tether material is that Single Crystal Graphene (new material with 2D characteristics) has been shown to be strong enough and can be manufactured long enough. SCG is in the early phase of segment development, but it is very promising. Mr. Adrian Nixon (an ISEC Board member and a major player in the development of 2D materials) believes the material will “be ready in time for Space Elevator development.” Along with the 12 ISEC study reports (and the IAA reports and the Obayashi report), the baseline for the development of Space Elevators can be defined with processes outlined in how to proceed into this mega-project. The four major thrusts for the present Modern Day Space Elevator focuses on the following statements:
- Space Elevators are ready to enter Engineering Development (see March Newsletter article by Michael Fitzgerald)
- Space Elevators are the Green Road to Space (see 2021-1 Study Report on our website)
- Space Elevators can join advanced rockets inside a Dual Space Access Architecture Strategy (see Feb newsletter)
- Space Elevator’s major strength as a permanent transportation infrastructure is movement of massive cargo to GEO and beyond enabling new enterprises along the way.
Recently, the ISEC team, with several others, accomplished a full day of videos covering the Modern Day Space Elevator and its status. These were presented during Blue Marble Earth Space Elevator Day (9 March 2021) co-sponsored by ISEC and the Foundation for the Future. Each one of these presentations solidified the above four thrusts and explained incredible insights into Space Elevator development status. Each of these can be viewed on our YouTube channel by going to the page on our website entitled Modern Day Space Elevators (Go to our website page: Ready to Develop - https://www.isec.org/ready-to-go.)
Keep Climbing--and Dreaming!
Reference Material for above Article
Modern Day Space Elevators
A Quick Understanding with Videos at ISEC.org
ISEC and the Foundation for the Future sponsored a full day of Modern Day Earth Space Elevator presentations. The order and length of each varied while the talks were fantastic. The speakers presented the modern day space elevator and the fact that it is ready to move into engineering developments.
Go to our website page: Ready to Develop: www.isec.org/ready-to-go
Here are a few short introductions to the items of great interest:
Pete Swan, “Permanent Space Access Infrastructure - Customer Demands and Space Elevator Promises” https://youtu.be/0Lxfyieh-Bo
Dr. Peter Swan explained how Space Elevators are Evolutionary and taking their first big step -NOW- while being Revolutionary in that they are showing a liberating movement of massive cargo, with a green lift-off of our planet. This discussion compared visions from many and how we would leverage advanced rockets and Space Elevators in a dual space access architecture.
Jerry Eddy, “Green Road to Space - Carbon Negative Operations” https://youtu.be/I1QSLM4HVpo
Dr. Jerry Eddy showed how the Space Elevator is the Green Road to Space: 1) its operations are carbon negative as they lift cargo with electricity through the atmosphere and to GEO and beyond, and 2) they enable Earth friendly missions such as Space Solar Power, Solar Shade, and removal of high-level nuclear waste.
David Dotson, “Space Solar Power Delivery to Orbit - Example of Enabling Environmental Programs” https://youtu.be/uxvUL_YVi4A
Dr. Dotson demonstrated how the Space Elevator enables a mission that can "stop global warming" with its electrical power from GEO. First, he showed the projected need for power around the globe; and then, how the Space Solar Power program intends to help. The quandary is that SSP needs 5,000,000 tonnes to GEO. With robust Space Elevators, the mission of reducing/stopping climate change can be accomplished within a reasonable time.
Kevin Barry, “Remarkable Economic Returns from Permanent Space Infrastructure” https://youtu.be/y8NG0wj8u8Q
Kevin Barry presented the argument for Space Elevators in big picture economic developmental terms. It is obvious that there will be remarkable economic benefits from an installed permanent space infrastructure. The value of empowering mining off planet, human habitats on the Moon and Mars, development of additional infrastructure (communications, navigation, etc.) and various enterprises within the CIS Lunar arena will be beyond our current comprehension.
Michael Fitzgerald, “Architecture of Galactic Harbors - Transportation System and Enterprise Enabler” https://youtu.be/BNx_y55lJcs
Michael Fitzgerald’s two presentations were combined into one continuous discussion about Galactic Harbours and how they are ready for development. The combination of a transportation infrastructure [SE's] and a Space Elevator Enterprise System ensures the movement of mass to GEO and beyond leverages the parallel development of government and commercial enterprises all along the tether. He also explained Space Elevator's status as they enter the second level of development with major engineering testing and demonstrations. His referencing Architectural Notes and ISEC studies emphasized the importance of the last eight years of research accomplished and reports published.
Adrian Nixon and Rob Whieldon, “Graphene Progress and It's Promising Future for Space Elevators” https://youtu.be/cj6zpfDSu0Q
From the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (Manchester England), Adrian Nixon and Rob Whieldon explained where the world is in the development and refinement of the new 2D materials, specifically graphene. This exciting and dynamic field of study has led to a material for our Space Elevator tether and speeds up our developmental arena. The current estimate is that it will be "long enough" and "strong enough" for our requirements and it will be ready on a scale commensurate with our mega-project development.
Dennis Wright, “Status of Necessary Body of Knowledge, International Space Elevator Consortium Reports, IAA, Obayashi Corp: https://youtu.be/4RfyIXO5Fg8
Dr. Dennis Wright showed his insight into the current body of knowledge (BoK) of Space Elevators and helped us understand that it is truly remarkable. This BoK has expanded almost exponentially with studies by major organizations (ISEC, IAA, Obayashi Corporation, JAMSS, IAF/IAC presentations, etc). He pointed out that our website has our study reports for download and over 600 citations on research. He also talked about the ongoing studies within ISEC - The Green Road to Space and Climber-Tether Interface.
Pete Swan, “Dual Space Access Architecture Combining Advanced Rockets and Space Elevators: https://youtu.be/1DAQs8rbmt0
Dr. Swan focused upon the amazing demands being discussed for the future movement into space. The discussions broadened out to understanding the limitations and strengths of both future rockets and Space Elevators leading to the realization that humanity must leverage both advanced rockets and Space Elevators in a dual space access architecture.
Vern Hall, “Permanent Space Access Infrastructure Leads to Global Transportation Intermodalism: https://youtu.be/vDQsKXLRhz0
Vern Hall, ISEC’s Harbour Master discussed Global Transportation Intermodalism while referencing the concept that the Galactic Harbour is no more than the vertical part of the global transportation infrastructure. The movement of payloads towards space would transition through all the modes of transportation until they reached the Earth Port where they will transition seamlessly into the vertical climber for delivery to GEO and beyond.
Panel, “Engineering The Future: https://youtu.be/cJePTCmoeiU
On the Panel were: Fitzgerald, Barry, Wright and William Britton who all developed the discussions from the current arena of entering engineering testing and reached towards future successful operations. Several discussions differentiated economics and business, education and work force, and near term vs. long term visions and plans.
The latest study report is now available
Space Elevators: The Green Road to Space
This study report shows how the space elevator enables missions that cannot reasonably be accomplished with rockets and thus can help improve the human condition on Earth. Also covered are the "green missions" of space solar power, Sun-Moon L-1 solar shade and permanent disposal of high-level nuclear waste. It assesses the environmental impact from development and operations of space elevators. One of the main conclusions is that the movement off-planet demands the initiation of a dual space access architecture where future rockets and space elevators are complementary.
This new movement off-planet should include the space elevator's ability to:
- Depart the apex anchor at great velocity (7.76 km/sec)
- Support interplanetary missions (fast transit to Mars--61 days)
- Supply massive daily payloads (170,000 tonnes per year)
- Create entrepreneurial enterprises at GEO and the Galactic Harbours.
Inside Outer Space
The new publication, “Space Elevators: The Green Road to Space” was featured in the blog “Inside Outer Space” by Leonard David.
An advocate for space and space activities, Mr. David has long considered Space Elevators worthy of mentioning on his website. He is widely read as he has a history of seeing the remarkable and presenting it in an easy manner to understand. His coverage of our recent series of ten video productions about the Modern Space Elevator 2021 should initiate some discussions around the community. He starts it off with: “The International Space Elevator Consortium has blueprinted what they term the Modern day space elevator -- 2021." Please visit his page and provide him some feedback.
by Adrian Nixon
Space Elevators on other planets
Since the first extra-terrestrial planets were discovered in the 1990s , astronomy has been adding to the total. At the time of writing, NASA says there are 4375 confirmed exoplanets and counting . The galaxy is a big place with billions of stars, and there are a lot of planets out there.
This raises an interesting question. Given that planets appear to be commonplace with a high probability of earth-like planets out there, why have we seen no evidence of civilisations other than our own? This is the Fermi paradox .
The space elevator may offer a different perspective on this question. To address this, I’d like to take you on a journey using graphene materials as a guide from space elevator technology through to the latest developments in astronomy.
First, I need to start with my earlier career as a scientist working in industry…
Some time ago when I worked for a large multinational chemicals company, I was promoted from the laboratory to senior management and became responsible for global market intelligence. This involved gathering information about competitors and customers, then distilling the important market developments and trends for the top decision makers in the company. This is a skill set I still use when editing the Nixene Journal, focusing on the world of graphene and 2D materials.
Over the years, I have noticed how often similar developments appear on the radar at similar times. It is not simply copying. I gradually realised that something more fundamental is at work.
If you think about it, we all operate in a world where the same laws of physics apply. Given a specific problem, it is hardly surprising that different groups of people come up with very similar solutions. Appropriately enough, others have thought about this phenomenon. It is called multiple discovery or simultaneous invention .
Consider the problem of escaping the gravity well of a planet. We have settled on rocketry for the last half century. However, once we need to scale up the transport of mass from the surface of the planet to space, the limitations of rocketry become increasingly apparent. It takes a lot of propellant mass to take a small payload mass to orbit. This is known as the rocket equation and was again developed independently by at least two people; Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1903) and Robert Goddard (1912) .
A complementary technology needs to be developed to get us out of the gravity well of our planet. This is the space elevator. One of the key components of this technology is the tether. Regular readers will know that the leading tether candidate material is a form of carbon called multilayer single crystal graphene. Sheet graphene is now being produced in industrial quantities and has reached the point where we can seriously consider the manufacture of tether quality sheet graphene within the decade .
So, we are faced with a defined set of problems and defined palette of materials operating in a defined physical environment.
Any planet-bound, extra-terrestrial civilisation faces the same problem. As far as we can tell, they will also be constrained by the same physical laws as we have . This means an alien culture with the intent to leave the confines of their planet may well have developed space elevator technology.
So, we have a hypothesis. The space elevator technology may have been invented multiple times by civilisations on other planets. The next question is, how might we know if this is true? To answer this, we need to be able to see what is going on out there. Observing the universe is the province of astronomy, and the field has some interesting new developments that may help this quest.
A new form of astronomy is emerging using the terahertz (THz) part of the electromagnetic spectrum. In just a few years, the number of active THz researchers has substantially grown, due to increased interest in terrestrial remote sensing at THz frequencies .
Graphene has the potential to revolutionise THz spectroscopy, because it can make very sensitive and low power THz sensors which would be ideal for space-based THz telescopes .
Graphene has many other properties. It is highly reflective in the THz region of the spectrum , and we know that stars like our Sun are natural sources of THz radiation . Graphene is also a very stable material and lasts a long time. Some researchers have deduced that the closely related graphite could be among the oldest materials in the universe .
So, what does all this mean?
We have a hypothesis that extra-terrestrial civilisations could have already invented space elevator technology, because they are faced with the same problems and have the same physics, chemistry and engineering toolkit available to create solutions. A planet with one or more space elevator tethers will be spinning and orbiting its star. The tethers are reflective particularly in the THz region of the spectrum and will shine with flashes of reflected light for any observer who may be watching.
One of the arguments used to explain the Fermi paradox is that civilisations tend not to last a long time, and this is why we have seen no evidence of life elsewhere. We know that graphene lasts a very long time, and it is possible that if a culture develops a graphene space elevator tether, it could outlast its creators.
THz astronomy has begun, and graphene technology will accelerate the development of this field. When astronomers of the future train their telescopes on planets orbiting distant stars, they may be puzzled to see lighthouse-like flashes of light. These flashes just might be the reflected light from space elevator tethers developed by civilisations other than ours. Time will tell.
 E-education.psu.edu. 2021. The Search for Planets around Other Stars | Astronomy 801: Planets, Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe. [online] Available at: <https://www.e-education.psu.edu/astro801/content/l12_p3.html>
[Accessed 14 April 2021].
 Exoplanet Exploration: Planets Beyond our Solar System. 2021. Exoplanet Exploration: Planets Beyond our Solar System. [online] Available at: <https://exoplanets.nasa.gov> [Accessed 14 April 2021].
 En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Fermi paradox - Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox> [Accessed 14 April 2021].
 Merton, R., 1963. Resistance to the Systematic Study of Multiple Discoveries in Science. European Journal of Sociology, 4(2), pp.237-282.
< https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/european-journal-of-sociology-archives-europeennes-de-sociologie/article/abs/resistance-to-the-systematic-study-of-multiple-discoveries-in-science/8FEC108B3D8B0DAD60416B36BE342959 >
[Accessed 14 April 2021]
 En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Tsiolkovsky rocket equation - Wikipedia. [online] Available at: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsiolkovsky_rocket_equation > [Accessed 14 April 2021].
 Nixon, A., Whieldon, R. and Nelson, D., 2021. Graphene: Manufacturing, Applications and Economic Impact. 1st ed. Manchester: Nixene Publishing, pp.21-26.
 Davies, P., 1993. The mind of God. New York: Penguin.
 Walker, C., 2019. TERAHERTZ ASTRONOMY. Boca Raton, Florida: Routledge.
 Chalmers.se. 2021. Graphene detector can revolutionize space telescopes | Chalmers. [online] Available at: <https://www.chalmers.se/en/departments/mc2/news/Pages/Graphene-sets-the-stage-for-the-next-generation-of-THz-astronomy-detectors.aspx> [Accessed 14 April 2021].
 Santos, C.N. et al. 2016. Terahertz and mid-infrared reflectance of epitaxial graphene. Scientific Reports, 6(1).
 Trottet, G.et al. 2015. Origin of the 30 THz Emission Detected During the Solar Flare on 2012 March 13 at 17:20 UT. Solar Physics, 290(10), pp.2809-2826.
 Hazen, R.M, 2013. Carbon Mineral Evolution Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry. 75(1), pp 79-107
Multi-stage Space Elevator
by John Knapman
A Progress Report
The first stage of the multi-stage space elevator will be a slender tower reaching a height of 100km (see the 2018 ISEC report). At present, the team is working on an indoor prototype, and this will be followed by an outdoor version more than 1km high. We have established a new company called Skyframe Builders Inc., with an initial injection of working capital. Skyframe Builders is registered in the Marshall Islands, and it will have a subsidiary in Panama, where we intend to carry out the main construction work.
The indoor prototype will be a test of the components and their integration into a working system. It will enable us to assess and improve the reliability and to study the vibration modes. We anticipate that the outdoor version will be among the tallest artificial structures in the world.
We will soon be recruiting engineers to add to the team in order to take this exciting and revolutionary project to its next phase.
John Knapman, Director of Research, ISEC
Research Adviser to Skyframe Builders Inc.
by David Raitt, PhD
Space Elevator Fun and Games:
Part 1B, United States
Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a multi-part article due to length. For the first part, see the April 2021 issue. For the next part, see next month’s edition.
As noted in last month’s newsletter, tether and climber activities had been taking place in conjunction with ISEC’s annual conference in Seattle, and since 2011, ISEC has organized its own youth robotics competition known as Robo Climb (not to be confused with the Duke University annual Robo-Climb competition where innovative wall-climbing robots have to ascend vertical surfaces) as part of its Family Science Fest. The aim is to motivate teams from schools to build and program autonomous robots that are able to climb a tether and that simulate space elevators carrying payloads into orbit. Prizes are awarded for best performances as well as innovative robotic designs and climbing mechanisms. As before, and elsewhere, rules were established for the competitions in which there were two classes of robots: LEGO Only, and (Almost) Anything Goes. Each class was judged separately. LEGO Only are robots built completely from LEGO, using standard LEGO building techniques with as many motors or sensors as necessary and any programming language was permissible. Robots in the (Almost) Anything Goes class could be built with anything else -- any processor and any materials. The only restrictions were that the power source had to be electric batteries, and all processing had to be done on the robot.
In the 2018 Robo Climb competition, student-designed robots had to climb 22 feet (6.7m) in the air while carrying a payload, simulating space elevators transporting cargo into space. For the first time, there were more Anything Goes robots than LEGO Only robots and most of the Anything Goes robots were built out of unique materials. There was a laser cut plywood robot, a 3D printed robot, a robot using a raspberry pi, and several others that were very different from what had been seen in previous years.
As in previous years, the 2019 ISEC space elevator conference was to sponsor a robotics competition in the T.A. Wilson Great Gallery at the Museum of Flight venue in Seattle where teams would compete with robotic climbers simulating space elevator satellite deployments. However, it was unfortunate that the planned competition had to be cancelled. The 2020 competition had also to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Notwithstanding the above history, it seems that in fact, the first space elevator competition might well be the event organized by ROBOlympics in 2004. ROBOlympics was founded in 2004, but almost immediately changed its name to RoboGames and it has grown into the world's largest open cross-pollination robot competition. Competitors from all over the world can compete in over seventy different events sponsored by RoboGames, one of which is Ribbon Climbing. Inspired by astronaut John Young and the work of Brad Edwards and HighLift Systems to urgently build a "ribbon to the stars" and help guarantee the long-term future of humanity, since 2004, RoboGames has had a Space Elevator Ribbon Climbing Robot Competition. (http://robogames.net/rules/climbing.php)
There are strict rules. The mission profile is to build a robot to climb a thin plastic ribbon in minimum time, performing one 5 second pause on ground command, then stop automatically at the top. The length of the event was 3 minutes. The robot weight range was from 0-1kg and the dimensions were 10 cm long by 10cm wide by 30cm high. The arena dimensions were 20cm high by 20cm wide by 2-6 meters high. The ribbon (thin polyethylene) was to be 30 mm wide and 2-6 meters high, depending on limits of contest venue. The robot control had to be autonomous and the engineering principles could be electrical engineering, solar energy or mechanical engineering. In summary, a robot must collect light energy and climb a thin ribbon under its own power.
Gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded to successful teams each year and it is interesting to learn some of the countries and team names participating in the ribbon climbing event -- countries/teams that seem not to have participated in any of the Space Elevator Games! Although the RoboGames website does have several photographs and videos from the various events, unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any showing the ribbon climbing competition.
In 2004 the results from the (first) ROBOlympics held in San Francisco in March which had participants from 11 countries for the 31 events, listed Racing Slug from the USA as winner of the ribbon climbing competition (teams from the USA were also second and third).
In the 2005 RoboGames, again held in March in San Francisco, the winner of the ribbon climbing event was Tenzing from the USA (teams from which country also came second and third).
2006 saw the RoboGames move to June and the winner of the ribbon climbing event was Reach 4 the Sky from the USA, but second place went to a UK team and third place to a Canadian team.
The ribbon climbing event did not seem to be held in 2007 or 2008, but appeared again in the 2009 RoboGames held in San Francisco in June. The winner was S E R from the UK, with the USA coming second, the bronze medal was not awarded.
In 2010 the venue was San Mateo, CA in April and again the UK team S E R was first, with a Spanish team second and the USA third.
At the same place and month in 2011, the winner was DU112 SE from Indonesia, with the USA second and UK third with S E R.
The ribbon climbing event in April 2012 in San Mateo was again won by Indonesia with DU112 SE-V12, the UK’s S E R was second and Mexico was third.
At the same venue in 2013, Indonesia came first with DU112 Solar V13, and second with DU112 SE-V13, and the American Skyhook 1 took third place.
RoboGames seems not to have taken place in 2014, but in 2015, again at San Mateo in April with 20 countries participating, the ribbon climber competition was again won by Indonesia with its entry DU112 Solar-V15, Indonesia also came second with Slamang, and the UK’s S E R was third.
2016 saw RoboGames switch to Pleasonton, CA but there was no ribbon climbing event.
In the same place in 2017 the ribbon climbing event was won by the American team AntiGrav, with Mexico coming second and no bronze medal awarded.
The 14th annual games were announced for April 2018 in Pleasanton once again and out of the many events the ribbon climbing competition was included. However, the RoboGames website fails to give any further information on either this or future events. The press does, however, say that there would not be a 2019 RoboGames in California.
ISEC Chief Historian
ISEC Mid-Year Interns for 2021
Each year ISEC sponsors interns to conduct research and other tasks, with the aim of encouraging college students to continue in science and engineering as well as actually give them experience conducting research in an innovative arena.
The interns work from their homes with a mentor from ISEC on a schedule for a research paper to be completed Q3/Q4 2021. There is a small grant and a letter of recommendation at the conclusion of the work for each student. In addition, they could be presenting their work at the next International Space Elevator Conference.
The first two interns for 2021 are both supporting the ongoing Climber/Tether Interface Study, they are:
- Ryan Harker, attending Purdue University Northwest, Indiana USA, where he is a fourth year Engineering student and President of the NASA Rover Club. His mentor is Larry Bartoszek, ISEC Director and Chair for Design. His primary study topic is to support Larry with the detailed design of a baseline Space Elevator climber.
- Zamzam Hersi, attending Leicester University, UK, where she is a third year Aerospace Engineering student, Secretary of the “Women in STEM” committee and previous intern at the Space Research Centre. Her mentor is Peter Robinson, ISEC Climb Dynamics Engineer. Her topic is a feasibility study on using a Linear Induction Motor to drive the Space Elevator climber.
We hope to select more interns in the next few weeks: the application deadline is 15 May, see https://www.isec.org/interns.
Space Elevator Conference
Dual Space Access Architecture
Sponsored by the International Space Elevator Consortium
International Space Development Conference (ISDC)
Is delayed and has now gone virtual
Sponsored by The National Space Society
72nd International Astronautical Congress
Sponsored by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF)
Monday, October 25th through Friday, October 29th, 2021
Dubai World Trade Center
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