(Note: During the 2013 Space Elevator Conference, several workshops were held, delving more deeply, with audience participation, into specific Space Elevator related topics.  This is a summary of one workshop.)

Champion: Bryan Laubscher

Initial Presentation: “Planning and Executing Experiments to Push Space Elevator Knowledge” – Bryan Laubscher

Goal: To begin identifying and building teams that will perform a series of balloon-borne experiments to further the understanding of elements for the Space Elevator system.

Outputs: Summary Report to be posted on ISEC website in 60 days


  1. 30 minute major talk on topic – status of topic, past history, future approach, technological, legal and other challenges.
  2. 30 minutes of discussion to find the first team leaders
  3. 30 minutes of brainstorming in small teams [breakup along the lines of the teams identified to be discussed]
  4. 25 minutes of discussions by small groups to large audience on results of brainstorming
  5. 5 minute summary
  6. Champion and helper will summarize the results and put online
  7. Issues:    Parallel activities are keeping the idea of a space elevator alive and energized.  This free-flowing discussion will focus on a near term set of experiments that will simulate the tether climber on a tether hung at high altitude by balloons.  This will be an early demonstration of the approach for both a tether and climber design.

Mini Workshop Description:    The NASA sponsored, Spaceward-led Space Elevator Games produced tremendous progress in the Power Beaming Challenge segment of the games. In one year, one team went from using the stage light supplied by Spaceward to developing a 2-kilowatt laser! In the end, teams were using 9-kilowatt lasers, and climbing 1 kilometer at high speed.  Odysseus Technologies, LLC is looking to lead the space elevator community in a series of balloon-borne experiments. These experiments will:

  1. Develop technologies to further understand elements of Space Elevator systems
  2. Involve students from elementary through college in various and diverse teams
  3. Involve the Space Elevator community as leaders and participants of these projects
  4. Involve the community and businesses as participants, leaders and sponsors
  5. Further education about the Space Elevator and its future promise
  6. Have some fun!

The basic approach is to begin with battery-powered climbers, ascending a short tether suspended from a balloon that is rising through the atmosphere. Thus climbers can be developed that operate throughout the broad temperature and pressure range experienced during ascent. A progression from battery power through solar to beamed power will challenge climber engineering as well as power beaming technology. In the end:

  1. Space Elevator technologies will be further developed,
  2. Many students will have participated in near space experiments and will expect more from space in their futures and
  3. The Space Elevator community will encompass many more groups, communities and businesses.

Topic: Diagnostics

Team: Bryan Laubscher, Caanan Martin, Laurie Reynolds, Sandee Schaffer,         Lynessa Schaffer

Major Points:

  • The maximum lift for each balloon is 6 lbs.  As such, multiple high altitude weather balloons must be launched to hold the experiment during lift and some maintaining of altitude.
  • There would be a gondola below the balloons so that the whole apparatus would be reasonable in size and mass.  The gondola and the balloons will return by themselves and would have a “safety” approach to ensure that the whole experiment was done according to the safety rules.
  • Each of the tethers, andits climbers, would return back to the Earth using its own parachute and safety apparatus.
  • On each tether climber there will be sensors to determine altitude, velocity and some internal items such as voltage.  In addition, the sensors would include rpm, gps, video, etc.
  • The estimate is that there could be four schools competing on each balloon flight with four tethers hanging down from the gondola.  Trades would be made as to how many competitors vs. carry capacity of each gondola configuration.
  • At the top of each tether is a video camera for real time broadcast or memory storage.

Topic: Alternative Contests [Demonstration Contests]

Team: Vern McGeorge + others

Major Points:

  • Demo heat dissipation in a vacuum – classroom demo
  • Run a climber on a vertical treadmill – for weeks
  • Add power beaming to #2
  • Demo copper tubing and neodymium magnet
  • metal fatigue demo
  • #2 in a partial vacuum – how partial?
  • Demo standing on an aluminum can – compressive vs. tensile strength.
  • Demonstrate that you cannot straighten a coat hanger or paperclip.
  • Keep the wheels from slipping with different tether materials from
  • Rubber tubing to as slick as you can find.
  • Friction – same normal force – vary surface area
  • Laser tracking at very long ranges.
  • Demo chemical vs. beamed energy
  • Laser power beaming – lower and/or higher power lasers

Topic: General Competition, objectives and other ideas.

Team: Peter Robinson, William

Competition Objectives

  • Technology Development
  • Publicity: must present a professional image and be newsworthy for best image advancement, a named prize with some prestige.
  • Climber design & performance
  • Secondary objectives:
    • Ribbon material development
    • Power transmission


  • Must attract worldwide entries
  • Probably best to have two entry classes, ‘Open’ and ‘Educational/Non-profit’.  There would be a prize for each category (based on climber speed); plus, perhaps an extra prize for best or most innovative engineering.
  • The ribbon used will be the current best guess for an earth elevator ribbon geometry
  • The ribbon height must be long enough to impress; but, not remote from the ground.  News cameras and everyone else will be able to get their own images independent of the competition cameras; and, there will be a tangible physical focus for the event.  Perhaps 1 km?
  • The climber would have a weight limit high enough to enable serious engineering, perhaps 40 kg ( 10% of the 400 kg mass of one element of a 10-climber 4-tonne train).  There will be no size constraint, this will encourage weight-efficient design.  There will need to be some constraint to prevent ribbon damage; otherwise, someone could use spikes to improve grip and I assume we don’t want that.  We shouldn’t mandate the use of smooth wheels in case someone can develop a ‘mountain-climber’ or something else we haven’t thought of yet.
  • The payload would be a battery pack, 60-100kg ?  These will be supplied by the organizers (maybe electric car battery packs donated by a sponsor ??), the competitors can then concentrate on the mechanical climber design alone.

Topic: Team Teacher

Team: Several in parallel

Major Points:

  • The specifications must be simple for students.
  • There must be monetary expenditure limits
  • Must have motivation to excite both boys and girls into STEM
  • Any approach to climb the tether at low costs will be good.
  • Form an outreach facility to get to the teachers, motivation, information, maybe funding
  • Multiple level approach is important.  If it could be year-after-year, student progression can be shown and influence more follow-on participation.
  • Start at a certain altitude rather than at max, as the battery could run out prior to reaching that last 2 percent of the atmosphere.  80,000 feet vs. 102,000 feet. [can get to 108,000 feet]

Topic: Publicity

Team: Ted Semon, Peggy Alonso, David Appel

Major Points:

  • Find out best way to contact schools + corporations for a robotics competition [clubs or tech organizations]
  • Build social media presence with all the usual suspects
  • Negotiate a Publicity and Public Relations budget
  • Compile list of local media [Seattle/Wash state], tech bloggers, etc. who’ll advertise the event.
  • Coordinate local media for teams
  • Create 90 second video descriptions/ selling the event
  • Work with fundraising teams – synergy in advertising
  • SOMEONE in charge

Topic: Ideas for School Activities

Team: Martin

Major Points:

  • Tether engineered strength contest. Use whatever materials you desire to twist, wrap-up, weave the strongest tether you can. Testing and competing is easy, immediate, and exciting as you test to the breaking point within a limited amount of stretch. (ie on half meter of tether is allowed no more than 2mm of stretch between xnm and breaking.) Scoring would be a factor of weight vs. breaking force.
  • Anchor contest. Mechanics and knots.
  • Creative writing contest as to what it might be like book, play, screen play
  • Artwork – Picture of what it might look like. Artistic and/or engineering drawing.
  • Orbital change maneuvers in cars.
  • Various basic science experiments to demonstrate principles of physics.
  • And be international.