The official newsletter of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC)


Our mission statement:

"...ISEC promotes the development, construction and operation of a space elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity..."

October 2013
In This Issue
The President's corner
The 2014 Space Elevator Conference
Space Elevator Tether Climber Workshop
New Power-Beaming record set
ISEC and NSS join hands...
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Dear Friend


ISEC is very pleased to announce the dates and venue for the upcoming 2014 ISEC Space Elevator Conference.  Details can be found later on in this eNewsletter.   


ISEC president Dr. Peter Swan discusses a new position within ISEC, a Historian.  Are you interested in helping to document the journey of the Space Elevator from its inception to its current status and the future?  If so, please read this issue's The President's corner to see how you can help. 


At the recent Space Elevator Conference, several workshops were held to more deeply explore certain aspects of Space Elevator development and operations.  This edition of the eNewsletter summarizes the results of the second of these Workshops "Space Elevator Tether Climbers". 


Also in this issue is an article on the recent record setting Power-beaming effort from the Kansas City Space Pirates.


And don't forget to LIKE US on Facebook, FOLLOW US on Twitter and enjoy the photos and videos that we've posted on Flickr and YouTube - all under our Social Identity of ISECdotORG.


Thank you! 



The President's corner

One of the realizations that surfaced at our yearly conference was the significant progressed that we have made since the beginning of ISEC.  However, I perceived that we were missing something that could become important in the years to come - a Historian.  The skill set for a Director of History is needed within ISEC to insure that we continue to grow and not skip  backwards.  In addition, over the last 53 years, the concept of space elevators has grown tremendously and is approaching feasibility.  This remarkable journey needs to be recorded and the achievements recognized.  We have started small, with a team of four.  However, I would like to challenge each of you to look around and see if someone has the two following criteria:  (1) a "bent" for history and (2) a desire to volunteer within the space elevator community.  We are looking for both a Director of History and new members for the team.

If you're interested, please email me at

"Keep Climbing my Friends!"  Pete Swan
Dates set for 2014 ISEC Space Elevator Conference

ISEC is very pleased to announce the dates and venue for the 2014 ISEC Space Elevator Conference.

The Conference will be held from Friday, August 22nd, 2014 through Sunday, August 24th.

The Venue will the same place we've had the conference the past two years, Seattle's Museum of Flight.  This has turned out to be a wonderful venue for the Conference and we are thrilled to be able to host the Conference here again.

Details will be announced in a future issue of this eNewsletter and will be available on the Space Elevator Conference website.

Mark you calendars now - be there or be square!
International Space Elevator Conference

(Note: During the recent 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, Space Elevator Tether Climber.)

Space Elevator Tether Climber

Champions: Pete Swan, Skip Penny

Initial Presentation: "ISEC Report Major Points" - Pete Swan

Goal: To stimulate thoughts and inputs from the conference attendees on tether climbers  -- involve the attendees...

Outputs: Draft ISEC Report to be available by 15 December - review upon request from attendee or interested party.

  1. 30 minute major talk on topic
  2. 5 minutes of discussion on handout sheet [stimulation of ideas and areas to discuss]
  3. 10 minutes of brainstorming on topics to discuss
  4. 45 minutes of brainstorming in small groups [breakups along the lines of the topics to be discussed]
  5. 20 minutes of discussions by small groups to large audience on results of brainstorming
  6. 10 minute summary
  7. Champion and helper will summarize the results and put on web
Issues: The design of tether climbers in the next twenty years will leverage the phenomenal growth in materials sciences to enable lighter/stronger structures, lighter/more capable batteries, lighter deployable solar arrays, and more energy efficient laser energy devices.  The question is what should the preliminary design look like?  The 2013 ISEC theme and study will be focusing on these topics and looks forward to the inputs at the conference.


Major Points: Eight different types of climbers described:
  1. Construction
  2. Atmospheric [up and down - dock on stratoballoons?]
  3. First 7,500 kms [high gravity]
  4. 7,500 to GEO [1 MW power standard]
  5. Beyond GEO
  6. Personnel Climbers
  7. Cargo Climbers
  8. Micro- to Macro small climbers using the tether [transparent to other climbers]
Also note:
  • No such thing as extra power
  • Anything brought up is valuable
  • Separation of 3 and 4 above is based upon power needed [from gravitational fall off], but should happen someplace between the major radiation belt altitudes.
  • Mate climbers to pass payload
Topic: Evolution of Climbers
Team: Michael Schaeffer, Sandee Schaerffer, Bryan Laubscher, Peter Stewart

Major Points:
  • Construction climber needs to build bigger tether capacity [20 MT to 40 to 60 etc]
  • Second tether prior to commercial operations
  • Repair climbers are important, from LEO to GEO for monitoring tether health, as well as monitoring debris fields.
  • Payload climbers should also be able to de-orbit
  • Astronaut driven climbers must be able to be rescued [detachable, re-enterable]
  • Low orbit options to include family trips and altitude freefall records
  • GEO tourist climbers will be much bigger, have plenty of food and be able to reenter
  • Logical answer would be GEO solar power to climbers
  • Climbers dedicated to launches to Mars and beyond, with Mars elevators + power projection to surface
  • Much future is Mag-Lev option with large Apex Anchor [asteroid]
  • Ring World is reasonable for GEO stations connected
  • Outer planet moon trips reasonable in the future
Topic: Getting On-Off the Tether
Team: Canaan Skye Martin, Bill Rossington, Intchested Amature, David Schilling, Jose Fuentes, Hal Rhodes, Michael Laine

Major Points:
  • Circular orbits will probably need extra thrust once released
  • Ellipitical orbits will be from almost any height
  • One question is how much does the motion of the tether effect the release velocity [vector, direction and magnitude]
  • Figure out how to coordinate up/down climbers on same tether
  • On a single strand, to go around another tether, someone must disconnect/re-connect
  • Below GEO, Stop, then disconnect, then thrusters to enable mission orbit
  • Most situations are very dynamic, release of climber affects mass on tether
  • Chaos in launch from dynamics of tether?  Could be perturbations due to debris avoidance, releasing and attaching cargo, varying climber speeds and any unpredictable movements.  
Topic: Climbers Specialized for Different Altitudes
Team: Ben Sibelman, Max Braun, Dennis Wright, Jun Kikuchi, Peter Robinson

Major Points:
  • There are strong reasons for varying designs of Climbers
  • Low level climber will probably be driven by laser
  • Higher speed will come from solar at higher altitudes
  • Four separate and distinct phases with handoffs between climbers
  • Each climber goes up, hands off payload, goes back to lower range, picks up next payload
  • About half the payload throughput of original design
  • Only four climbers required on tether at any one time... payloads are passed along
  • To repair of changeout climbers, three high ones come down to lower climber which then loads them as payload and decends to surface.
  • After proof test of concept, larger advanced climbers can replace original concept and could go from LEO to GEO.  
Workshop discussion concluded that four separate optimized Climber designs would be required, but this must be confirmed by a more detailed design and operational study.  Provisionally :
  1. Climber 1 for days 1 & 2 would be slow for operation in the high low-altitude gravity field : low speed, high power, laser powered.
  2. Climber 2 for days 3 & 4 would use large solar arrays, with shielding as required for transit through the upper Van Allen belts : medium speed and power.
  3. Climber 3 for days 5 & 6 would use smaller solar arrays : higher speed, lower power.
  4. Climber 4 for days 7 & 8 would be used to finish journey to GEO and beyond : optimized for high speed operation, with lowest-power motors and smallest solar arrays.  ( Transit times may mean a 5th Climber would be needed  beyond GEO, but this could be identical to the 4th Climber.)
Topic: Alternate Climbing Approach
Team: Dalong An [Samuel], Peter Glaskowsky, David Horn, Paul Wieland

Major Points:
  • New motive approach
  • Similar to rock climbers in grip
  • Approaches the tether with gripping motion vs. wheel interactions
  • Easier to grasp vs. pull oneself up by wheels
  • Inspired by watching monkeys climb
  • Hybrid loop
  • Less damage to the tether from gripping [brake mechanism] vs. friction from moving wheels.
Idea: A vertical tether is approached from the side by a long loop of strong material.
  • The goal Sam proposed was to find a way around the need for a wide, thin ribbon tether.
  • That requirement follows from the usual assumption that the climber must use multiple drive wheels with a high normal force against a wide tether to overcome the disadvantages of a small contact patch and a low coefficient of friction.
  • Sam had the idea of using some kind of hand-over-hand motion to climb the tether the way a monkey would, by gripping the tether with some kind of clamp and pulling the climber up to the clamp.
  • We didn't like the idea of reciprocating grippers repetitively passing each other on the tether for the obvious reasons. It seemed to me that we could get similar results without one "hand" passing the other by using a method like mountain climbers use to ascend a rope, with prussik knots (or mechanical equivalents such as the Petzl Ascension) that don't bypass each other.
  • My suggested solution is to have two "shuttles" above the climber.
  • A rope (or multiple ropes for redundancy and balance) is looped through all three units, each of which has a tether clamp and a rope clamp.
  • Each shuttle has a small electric motor and a drive system that can pull it up the tether, carrying only the load of its own weight plus the weight of the rope.
  • The climber has a motor-driven capstan that can pull the rope, but it doesn't necessarily need any way to pull on the tether.
  • The rope can potentially be a COTS product; a 2" Dyneema rope is rated at 155 metric tons and weighs less than one pound per foot.
The climbing process works this way:
  • To start, imagine the Climber is on the ground and the two Shuttles are immediately above it. At this point, there will be considerable slack in the rope.
  • Shuttle 1 (on top) engages its drive motor and begins pulling itself up the tether at speed 2V (where V is the target speed of the Climber) until the loop of rope is nearly tight.
  • Shuttle 1 clamps the tether and the rope.
  • Shuttle 2 unclamps the tether and the rope.
  • Shuttle 2 begins pulling itself up the tether at speed 2V.
  • The Climber engages its drive motor to pull itself up the rope at speed V, which cause it to ascend the tether but without applying any force directly to the tether. (That force is carried from the rope to the tether through a Shuttle.) As the Climber comes closer to Shuttle 1, it generates slack in the rope, which hangs below the climber.
  • Shuttle 2 stops just short of Shuttle 1.
  • Shuttle 2 clamps the tether and the rope.
  • Shuttle 1 unclamps the tether and the rope.
  • Shuttle 1 begins pulling itself up the tether again at speed 2V and stops when the rope is nearly tight.
  • We repeat steps 3 to 9 to the top of the rope.
  • Note that the Climber is constantly pulling itself up the rope, stops ascending the tether. Meanwhile, the two Shuttles alternate in pulling themselves up the tether, which is why they have to average twice the speed of the Climber while they're moving. (For practical reasons they will need to travel at somewhat more than twice the speed.)
  • The side of the rope loop nearest the tether (the "tight" side) remains stationary relative to the tether because at least one Shuttle is always clamped to both the tether and the rope.
  • The other side of the rope loop (the "loose" side) moves intermittently upward. When moving (when Shuttle 1 is climbing) it moves upward at four times the speed of the Climber, and so will probably need to be managed carefully to keep it from whipping around. When Shuttle 1 is clamped and Shuttle 2 is moving, the loose rope just hangs in place.
  • So there are some obvious challenges in this system, but perhaps it's still a better solution than trying to drive the Climber directly against the tether. Or perhaps it's only a better solution at lower altitudes where the direct friction drive solution is most difficult to implement.
Another look:
  • First, the upper gripper ascends the ribbon with almost no mass and feeds the loop rope[pulls the upper portion of the loop with it] with it as it moves up.  
  • Second, it grasps the tether at a much higher location than the last grasp [length of loop] and holds on
  • Third, the climber pulls itself up on the rope loop without touching the tether until it approaches the upper grasping mechanism.
  • Fourth, the lower grasping mechanism moves up with the climber and grasps the tether below the climber to hold it stationary at that point.
  • Then repeat.


A final report from this Workshop will be published in the near future on the ISEC website

New Power-beaming record set

Recently, the Kansas City Space Pirates, a team with a long history in the Space Elevator Games, set a new record for continuous flight powered solely by a Laser.  The previous record of 12 hours and 27 minutes, held by Space Elevator Games winner Lasermotive, was more than doubled, to 25 hours.

If you were following ISEC on either Twitter or Facebook, you received frequent updates on the record run, including its triumphant conclusion.

You can read more details about this on the Kansas City Space Pirates website or also on the Space Elevator Blog.
ISEC and NSS join hands...

The National Space Society and the International Space Elevator Consortium signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 15 August 2013.  This understanding between these 501(c)(3) organizations illustrates the strength of ideas and committed volunteers.  Recently the NSS released a "Milestones to Space Settlement," or a roadmap to the future.  The presented vision is:

The National Space Society ("NSS") is a nonprofit educational organization whose Vision is: "People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity."

This Vision embraces both space as a future second home for humanity and the resources of space (such as the Sun's energy for space-based solar power, extra-terrestrial minerals for raw materials, and low-gravity for manufacturing) being used for the benefit of all of us on the Earth. These two elements of the Vision are intertwined: development of space products and services for the people of Earth will both require human presence in space and will enable and motivate expansion of our species away from the home planet.

The partnership of two visionary organizations should strengthen each other's activities.  As the ISEC has a similar mission, the two organizations should have many common projects and ideas.  

"... ISEC promotes the development, construction and operation of a space elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity ..."

Due to their shared interest, as shown by their mission statements and vision, the two organizations, working together, should be able to contribute even more to the widespread economic development of space and the betterment of mankind.
What is ISEC?

ISEC LogoThe International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is the result of a coming-together of many leading figures and organizations who have worked long and hard over many years to promote the concept of a Space Elevator.  With organizational members in the United States, Europe and Japan and individual members from around the world, ISEC's goal is nothing less than to get a Space Elevator built.

Our Mission Statement says it all:

"ISEC promotes the development, construction and operation of a space elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity"

Each year we adopt a theme which we use to focus our activities for that year.  For 2010-2011, our theme was Space Debris Mitigation - Space Elevator Survivability.  For 2011-2012 our theme was Research and thought targeted towards the goal of a 30 MYuri tether.  For 2012-2013, our theme was Operating and Maintaining a Space Elevator.  And for 2013-2014, our theme is Architecture & Roadmaps.

If you agree that building a Space Elevator should be a priority for all of us and you want to help make this happen, please Join Us !  Benefits include eNewsletters (such as this one), the ISEC Journal CLIMB and other items listed on our Join page.

Come and join us and help make the future happen!

The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is a registered 501c3 charitable organization (EIN 80-0302896)
Visit ISEC on the Web
Visit our website at  There you can join learn more about what is happening in the Space Elevator community and what is being done to advance the concept of a Space Elevator.  Please consider joining ISEC - we foster research and sponsor Space Elevator-related causes, but to do so takes money.  Your contributions are crucial to our success.  Thank you!

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