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Space Elevator Competition Planned

Be aware of The Spaceward Foundation’s Elevator:2010 program, a challenge award offering a prize for the first laser-powered tether climbing demonstration that can meet specific criteria. A space elevator of the sort discussed in yesterday’s entry would send 20-ton elevator cars with about 900 cubic meters of space up a tether at 200 kilometers per hour, a cheap and safe way to reach geostationary orbit. The Spaceward Foundation intends to promote and test the technologies using a balloon-suspended tether several miles high.

The Foundation also offers a quick Space Elevator Primer with salient facts and comments about the concept, among them this thought on government inertia:

There is no doubt that the promise of the Space Elevator is mind boggling. And here lies the problem – it requires a paradigm shift. 100 years ago, people thought dirigibles were the only way to fly, and heavier-than-air flying machines were an odd-ball idea. Today, there is an almost unbreakable concept that you go to space with rockets, and there is a huge industry built around this concept. That’s a lot of inertia to overcome, and it requires both technical research and public pressure. We’re here to get the word out, to have as many people hooked on the Space Elevator concept as we can.

The Foundation’s time frame for a space elevator seems exaggerated, suggesting that fundamental problems will all be resolved by 2010, with an elevator in place by 2020. But the concept is worth pushing even if a resolution takes additional decades. The first Elevator:2010 competition will be held at the end of September in Mountain View, CA, with entries in climber technology and tether strength. Competitions thereafter are intended to be annual.