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Welcome to the October 2019 Edition of the ISEC Newsletter

In This Issue:

President's Corner: Mega-Project Paradigm Shift by Pete Swan

Conference Paper - ISEC 2019: Space Elevator Baseline System Overview by Dennis Wright

ISEC Position Paper #2019-1: Today's Space Elevator (order the book!)

Call to action: Join ISEC in a year long study to address the Environmental Impact of a Space Elevator

Architecture Note #27: Space Elevator Architecture by Michael Fitzgerald

A Research Update by John Knapman

ISEC Intern Visits the World-class Centre of Excellence for Graphene by Adrian Nixon

Upcoming Space Elevator Related Events



Dear Fellow Space Elevator Enthusiasts,

Here are some newsworthy tidbits that weren’t included in any of the below articles but deserve mention:

The two materials that are making the most waves as potential candidates for tether material are single crystal graphene and carbon nanotubes. We expect these materials to be useful in many ways, not just as tether material and this article talks about how it can be useful in computers: Graphene nanoribbons lay the groundwork for ultrapowerful computers.


And not to be left behind, carbon nanotubes may merely need a little help from you! Would you like to contribute to the manufacturing process? Peter Renteln is a physicist and holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering. He gave a talk at our Space Elevator Conference called “A Scalable Carbon Nanotube Cable Strengthening Method” and is now asking for help in funding his research. He has started a kickstarter campaign to find backers for his project and this is your chance to fund the future!


If you can’t afford to send money, maybe you can contribute some time…read on for more information from our president, Pete Swan, about volunteering to help the Space Elevator effort by joining this year’s committee.

And, as usual, you can keep apace with us via our website, www.isec.org, or follow us on Twitter. Please like us on our Facebook page!

Sandee Schaeffer

Newsletter Editor




President's Corner

by Pete Swan


Mega-Project Paradigm Shift


Recently we were talking with an office in Washington DC and presenting the vision of ISEC which has developed from the simple concept—cheap access to space—to a strong statement about the future. We believe that the vision of space elevators for the future is that it will force a strong Paradigm Shift in how we think about going to space from:

  • Space Elevator to Galactic Harbour,
  • Wishing for a material for the tether to having one successfully tested,
  • An immature plan to a preliminarily positive assessment of each technology within each system segment, and,
  • Silent discussions in small groups to advocacy across the world.


The placement of Space Elevators inside the international and strategic mosaic of space will ensure the exploitation of this tremendous new space access will be leveraged. The strategic mosaic of space is taking form: It is composed of trade, enterprise, research, safe travel, and exploration. The ability of the Space Elevator to be its logistics giant will ensure that this movement off-planet will create an economic engine on (and near) Earth. However, when you take on mega-projects of this size, there is an intimidation factor. We, in the ISEC, recognize this and believe in the future and the fact that we have senior members on our board who must (and do):

  • Understand the state of the industry
  • Continually ask the "big" questions and agressively search for the answers
  • Believe in the "do-ability" of space elevators
  • Recognize National Needs within several countries
  • Recognize the importance of Understanding the Mission
  • Believe that SUCCESS is expected and achieveable


With these basic beliefs internally accepted, this space elevator mega-project seems like another rewarding endeavor. Indeed, we believe the space elevator should go forward aggressively and lead the tremendous transportation infrastructure Paradigm Shift on how to support space missions.



Conference Paper - ISEC 2019

by Dr. Dennis Wright


Space Elevator Baseline System Overview


The 2019 ISEC conference in August kicked off with a presentation entitled "Space Elevator Baseline System Overview."


A space elevator is part of the transportation infrastructure that will link the surface of the Earth to space. It will provide low-cost and reliable access to space by using Earth's rotational energy. The most basic design consists of a single tether anchored to Earth and held vertical over a point near the equator by a balance of centrifugal and gravitational forces. If properly designed, the space elevator is stable, that is, it will always return to vertical even if part of it is pulled to one side.


The baseline design is the assumed, initial configuration of the space elevator. It is used as a starting point to focus thought, design and calculations. It will evolve along with our understanding of the physics and technology required to build the space elevator.


The current transportation system baseline includes:


  1. two 100,000 km long tethers anchored to the Earth
  2. an Earth Port near the two tether termini which serves as an operations platform and cargo transfer point
  3. a Geosynchronous Node region encompassing both tethers from an altitude of perhaps 100 km below geosynchronous altitude to 100 km above it
  4. an Apex Anchor at the far end of each tether which serves as a counterweight, tether dynamics moderator, and vehicle release point
  5. Fourteen powered climbers, each massing 20 MT that ascend and descend the tether from Earth Port to the Apex Anchor and points in-between
  6. a headquarters and primary operations center to orchestrate all operations including the transportation supply chain


The tether will likely be constructed of either carbon nanotubes (CNT) or sheets of single-crystal graphene (SCG). Production of these materials has advanced in recent years, with both CNTs and SCGs reaching lengths of 50 cm in the laboratory. The specific strength (tensile strength divided by density) of either material is already sufficient for space elevator needs. Concepts are now being developed for mass production of both of these materials. The mass of the tether will vary depending on its taper (cross sectional area as a function of length), the tether material and construction. Current estimates are around 1000 MT for the tether and 400 MT for the Apex Anchor.


The GEO Node region will support a number of activities including initial tether deployment, loading and unloading of climbers, and control and monitoring of all vehicles and materials within or entering the region. It will support robust commercial enterprises such as GEO communications and space-based solar power.


An Apex Anchor region will encompass the two Apex Anchors. It will support interplanetary missions, tether reel-in/reel-out functions, research and manufacturing facilities, and serve as the ultimate Earth outpost.


Each of the climbers will carry a payload of 13 MT and be solar powered above an altitude of 40 km. Below 40 km there are several power options, including laser beaming and transmission through the tether of either electrical or acoustical power.


The above components are required for Initial Operating Capability (IOC) which describes what the very first space elevator will be able to do. Immediately after the first tether is built, construction of the second nearby tether will commence. By analogy, the first track of the transcontinental railroad was minimally functional and used mainly to build subsequent tracks.


The entire complex of tethers, climbers, Earth Port, GEO and Apex Anchor regions is termed the Galactic Harbor by analogy to an earthly harbor with piers at which ships dock and depart.


Due to its huge efficiency advantage over rockets, the space elevator will be essential for the deployment of any large space enterprise. The construction of a single, large space solar power station requires thousands of rocket launches. Using the space elevator would require a similar number of payloads but the cost would be greatly reduced, and the frequency of delivery would be greater. The space elevator will also revolutionize interplanetary travel. Instead of waiting for infrequent launch windows to Mars, for example, weekly scheduled departures will be possible from the Apex Anchor with 76-day trip times. Asteroid mining will be made much more affordable since the inner third of the belt is accessible from the space elevator.


The full presentation can be found at www.isec.org. Click on "Activities" then "The 2019 Space Elevator Conference" then scroll down to "What's New."




Today's Space Elevator


Get It Now! A study report explaining the Space Elevator Status as of Fall 2019 with a Bibliography (over 750 inputs), a Lexicon (global agreement of terms), and Explanation of Studies (2 IAA & 8 ISEC). Download it now from the www.isec.org, or buy it on www.lulu.com.


In the last year, the International Space Elevator Consortium assessed that the basic technological needs for the space elevator can be met with current capabilities: and, each segment of the Space Elevator Transportation System is ready for testing leading to engineering validation. Because of the availability of a new material as a potential Space Elevator tether, the community strongly believes that a Space Elevator will be initiated in the near term. Included in the book is a series of appendices that are tremendous references to the status of the space elevator today. Included are a lexicon of space elevator terms, over 750 references in the bibliography, short descriptions of eight ISEC year-long studies and two IAA 4-year studies on space elevators, as well as a summary of over 20 Architectural Notes covering the development of space elevator technologies.


This one document can bring the reader up to speed of the whole space elevator community across policy, technologies, developmental phases, management, and testing progress.




Protect Our Environment—Build Space Elevators


NEEDED: We need curious people -- students, retired, environmentalists, or just plain interested volunteers!


Call to action: ISEC will start a year long study to address the recently embraced concept that the space elevator helps make the Earth Greener. ISEC needs to document the impact of such an achievement and provide evidence that reduction of rocket launches can be achieved by replacing these launches with liftoffs from space elevators. ISEC is looking for volunteers who will embrace this challenge and provide their inputs and writing talents over the next 12 months. If you are interested, please contact Pete.swan@isec.org with your information.


Purpose: This study would develop the characterization of the Greening effects derived by choosing space elevators vs. rockets. It will help define the remarkable strengths of space elevators when put within the environmental community.


Plan: The plan is to conduct research across the strengths of space elevators and the weaknesses of rockets with respect to the Earth's environment. This short summary should intrigue readers and, hopefully, encourage volunteers to support the year long study (mostly conducted from your home or office with periodic skype or telephone calls). The following two segments of discussion will help initiate this study.


Major benefits of Space Elevators for delivery of payloads to Space.

• Provide routine, daily and inexpensive access to space - a delivery alternative

• Massive movement of payloads due to its approach as a permanent infrastructure powered by electricity. The significance of this strength is delivery to GEO and beyond of missions such as space based solar power designed to replace coal burning plants. Other missions could off-load hazardous manufacturing from the surface of the Earth.

• Reduce rocket exhaust burning throughout the launch profile.

• Provides a location to sequester carbon (1540 metric tons per tether)

• Limits growth of space debris

• Permanent infrastructure provides efficiencies in operations, eliminates waste, and will enable new industries in-orbit.

• Additional thoughts of how to make the Earth greener with space elevators are: sunshade delivery, debris removal without rocket fuel, planetary defense stationed at Apex Anchor, repair or recycle old satellites (especially at GEO), and enabling heavy equipment to be lifted routinely and delivered to the Moon and Mars.


The study approach would include the following activities: (need researchers)

  1. Research number of rocket launches per year per location
  2. Relate the above numbers to tonnage (account for empty spaces at launch)
  3. Investigate the rocket launch impact upon the environment - approach is to review environmental impact statements from launch companies (SpaceX in Brownsville and Cape Canaveral, Blue Origin at the Cape, SLS at the Cape)
  4. Research the effects of burning rocket fuel at sea level, and along its burn profile
  5. Discuss the benefits of space based solar power vs. coal burning plants
  6. Research size/mass/complexity of space based solar power to discuss the number of liftoffs on space elevators vs. launches by rockets to GEO
  7. research effects on the Earth's environment in the production of rocket fuel
  8. Compare the benefits of a permanent infrastructure vs. individual rocket launches
  9. Discuss the value of moving hazardous manufacturing off planet
  10. Discuss movement off planet by rocket vs. space elevator as logistics support


The schedule for this study is very flexible; however, each ISEC study has completed its report within 18 months. It is key that we have several volunteers to research each topic. Please show your interest and pick a few topics so that you may lead/participate the discussions. Much of this information is out there on the web, we must just find, correlate, and evaluate its applicability and viability. (identifying sources is important). It would be appropriate to have the meat of the discussions identified and developed prior to the 2020 International Space Development Conference—one year after the challenge was accepted to bring this topic to the fore.


This call to action is to bring volunteers forward within the next 21 days. If you have any questions, just email me and we can start the discussion, pete.swan@isec.org.




Architecture Note #27

by Michael A. Fitzgerald

Senior Exec VP and Co-Founder

Galactic Harbour Associates, Inc

Space Elevator Transportation & Enterprise Systems


Space Elevator Architecture

Delivery of mission support logistics

-Essential for success-


Personal Prolog

This is an Architecture Note. It is the opinion of the Chief Architect. It represents an effort to document ongoing science and engineering discussions. It is one of many to be published over time. Most importantly, it is a sincere effort to be the diary, or the chronicle, of the multitude of our technical considerations as we progress; along the pathway developing the Space Elevator.


Space Elevator Mission Support Equals Mission Success

The magnitude and scope of the Space Elevator Architecture demands that it be understood and supported by many. The envisioned Missions to Mars and the Moon are of incredible size and scope as well. There is a lingering taint to some discussions that these two behemoth efforts can only exist in sequence; first one. then the others.

However, what if it were found that one needed the other? Specifically, what if interplanetary missions were not possible without an operating Space Elevator? Or—what if the scope and complexity of Interplanetary Missions made the currently envisioned Space Elevator inadequate in some way? There are probably a dozen variations to those questions; and the author’s position is that those variations should be documented in a thorough way and (subsequently) investigated; starting now

The first step is to begin a collaborative documentation & definition process by a small group from NSS, ISEC, NASA, NASM and others. It is expected that the group would build the “dozen variations’ alluded to in the previous paragraph. The team would then document appropriate study objectives, information standards, Interplanetary Mission requirements, Space Elevator capabilities, and other factors that are germane. This step would be called— “Study Documentation and Definition”.

Focused and collaborative efforts

The second step structures the study approach and the premises of the collaborative investigation studies. The primary premise is that interplanetary missions will be fully and completely supported by a Space Elevator Transportation System; almost concurrently.

Revealing my favorite mission approach —> a mission sequence of first, a pathfinding surveillance, discovery, and first landing effort at the destination (Moon or Mars—whichever). That effort is then rapidly—almost concurrently—reinforced by the logistics needed to sustain and grow that outpost.

This supportive, bootstrapped, almost concurrent mission effort has a permanent, place in our history; the World War II invasion of fortress Europe onto the beaches at Normandy. A little-known fact is that the entire follow up operation relied upon a secret and bold logistics strategy that had never been done before: building and shipping two entire seaports (“Mulberry Harbours”) across the English Channel. This bold approach was an essential element of the brazen Allied invasion plan. In retrospect, it made the Normandy invasion point obvious. These Mulberry Harbours allowed the Allies to ship massive quantities of men, materials, and supplies; supporting the relentless pressure on the retreating enemy.

Above, the term “almost concurrently” is used to signal quick follow-up. At Normandy, the first portions of the Mulberry Harbour were set in place within 72 hours of the initial assault; at two beaches. One Mulberry Harbour was complete and operating by June11; and the other by June 15.

In the first 6 months of their existence, the Normandy Beach Mulberry Harbours did their job, facilitating the transport of over 2.0 Million soldiers, 500,000 vehicles, and 3 Million tons of supplies. The logistic effort serviced the advancement of Allied forces into Germany and set the stage for victory and peace in Europe.



Focused and collaborative efforts plus history

We must apply this element of history to our efforts. A similar “almost concurrent” standard should be mandated for envisioned interplanetary missions. I predict a Moon Mulberry Galactic Harbour (i.e. including its own Space Elevator) will be built and be receiving sustainment materials; supporting the outpost that will re-established on our return trip to the Moon. The Mars Mulberry Galactic Harbour will follow quickly.

It will take one kind of effort to get mankind to the destinations (planet, moon, or asteroids) and another kind of effort to sustain and grow those outposts. A sequence of efforts is called for and consideration ought to be to sequence the pathfinding to the right destination first, then support it; “almost concurrently”. That accomplished, a second destination will be identified, agreed to, and enabled by the Space Elevator Transportation System.

In this collaboration, it is important that the Space Elevator be seen as a TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM! This effort is about the Space Elevator Transportation System as the affordable and dependable access to space. We must keep our vision in mind. After we get the transportation system; businesses on orbit will flourish. The collaboration efforts proffered here are important, yet any number of follow-on efforts are needed. Let’s Start Collaborating Now.


In Closing

The Mulberry Harbours were a magnificent development; birthed from a collaborative effort led by United Kingdom maritime engineers. The parallel here is just too powerful to ignore. ISEC must reach out; seeking to coordinate and reach agreements with a variety of players. We should be humbled and grateful by the efforts that saved the world then; and repeat all of that with a collaborative sinew stronger than the Elevator’s tether.


Just Saying…




Research Update

by John Knapman

The Multi-stage Space Elevator is alive and kicking. The ISEC report describes the project in quite a lot of detail; see https://isec.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/MSSE_LULUA.pdf and Figure 1. The main idea is to build a space elevator using today’s materials or weaker materials than previously thought necessary.


A paper at the upcoming International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C., highlights the latest work on testing prototypes in the vacuum chamber (Figure 2).


We are using high-temperature superconductors (HTS) cooled by liquid nitrogen, as they provide stable magnetic levitation, eliminating the need for some of the electronic controls. Work continues on developing and improving the components.




International Space Elevator Consortium Intern Visits

the World-class Centre of Excellence for Graphene

by Adrian Nixon

In 2010 two scientists at the University of Manchester, UK won the Nobel prize for discovering and isolating a new material called graphene [1]. Graphene is a new form of carbon 200 times stronger than steel yet flexible and transparent. It is the world’s best conductor of heat and electricity. It has the highest melting point of any known material and is non-toxic [2]. This led to the discovery of a whole new class of materials called 2 dimensional (2D) materials.


The National Graphene Institute (NGI) and Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC; pronounced like ‘geek’) are new multi-million-dollar world class facilities based in Manchester, UK. Both are part of the ecosystem of academics and industrial companies centred around the Nobel Prize winning scientist who isolated graphene.



The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) (Image copyright free by Adrian Nixon)


Sophia Lee-Roberts has been working on an internship with Our President, Dr Pete Swan at the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) and gave an excellent presentation at the conference in Seattle this year. Her presentation neatly summarised that graphene is strong enough and light enough to make the space elevator tether [3]. She also correctly identified that it will be some time before graphene can be made in the lengths and quality required for a tether, but the goal is clear and graphene is a credible candidate material.


One of the rather well-informed delegates at the conference was Jodee Rich. Jodee and Pete know Rob and I work at the GEIC and suggested that Sophia join us when Jodee visited Manchester this month.


L-R: Jodee Rich, Adrian Nixon, Sophia Lee-Roberts and Rob Whieldon at the GEIC (Image copyright free by Adrian Nixon)


We are all in favour of encouraging women and younger people in science, so it was a pleasure to meet Sophia. We all met at the GEIC and gave them both the full tour of the facility. They saw the composites lab where graphene powders are mixed with various polymers to create injection moulding feedstock and filament for 3D printers. They also saw the instrument room containing millions of dollars of the latest high technology equipment. The GEIC also contains pilot plant for making membranes and even batteries and supercapacitors.


Sophia said

“I had an incredible day at the GEIC today, being taken around the centre and learning more about the applications of graphene. Did you know that a 0.02% addition of graphene to concrete increases its strength by over 25%? I’m especially excited about the potential of Nixene and can’t wait to see how it can be applied to industry. It was also so fantastic to meet Adrian Nixon, Rob Whieldon and Jodee Rich—thank you for such a great day!”


It was a delight to meet Sophia and a reassuring reminder that the following generations are smart and personable people.



Adrian Nixon is a Board member of ISEC




  1. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2010. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB (2019) [online] Available at: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/2010/summary/ [Accessed 8 September 2019]
  2. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Scientific background on the Nobel Prize in Physics 2010. Available at: https://www.nobelprize.org/uploads/2018/06/advanced-physicsprize2010.pdf [Accessed 8 September 2019]
  3. Graphene and Space Elevators: An interview with Adrian Nixon, (2018) National Graphene Association. https://www.nationalgrapheneassociation.com/news/graphene-and-space-elevators-interview-with-adrian-nixon/ [Accessed 8 September 2019]




Upcoming Space Elevator Related Events


2019 International Astronautical Congress (IAC)

21-25 October 2019

Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Washington D. C., USA


The international space elevator community, lead by ISEC, have continued their push to (since IAF 2004) have a space elevator technical session as the location changed around the world. This year's activity is Tuesday afternoon with 17 papers covering all aspects of space elevators. The technical program will be available soon on their website, https://www.iac2019.org/. In addition, there will be energy around the presentation of the International Academy of Astronautics Study Report entitled "Road to the Space Elevator Era." This book will be distributed and "presented" to the space community at the IAC-2019. The four-year effort included many authors who are ISEC members.


The British Interplanetary Society’s 17th Reinventing Space Conference

12-14 November 2019

International Convention Centre (ICC)

2 Lanyon Place

Belfast, BT1 3WH


Our own Peter Robinson will be speaking 13 November on the History, Status, and the Future of Space Elevators.





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