Welcome to the April 2018 Edition of the ISEC Newsletter


Dear Fellow Space Elevator enthusiast,

In this edition, there is another Architecture Note about how we can move from a strategic approach to an actual plan, an announcement about our Summer Internship program, and a preview of our dual themes for the August Conference in Seattle.

Thank you for reading and lending your support in the development of Space Elevators!

As always, you will find notices of several open volunteer positions (a great way to help this project, even if you’re not a scientist or engineer) and a reminder that all ISEC reports, Yearly Reports, CLIMB Journals and the Via Ad Astra Magazine, are now available FOR FREE in electronic (pdf) format at ISEC.org. There is plenty of work to be done!

If you want to help us make a space elevator happen, JOIN ISEC and get involved! A space elevator would truly revolutionize life on earth and open up the solar system and beyond to all of us.

Please 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,

Mark Dodrill

ISEC Webmaster

Excitement in Los Angeles-26 May 2018

International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) Presents a Space Elevator Track at the NSS’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC)

ISEC has organized and will conduct a space elevator track, with multiple presentations, at the National Space Society’s yearly conference [May 24-27]. The fun and excitement at this conference reaches far beyond space elevators with its coverage of most activities focused upon movement of humanity off-planet. www.nss.org The four days cover most every topic of interest to include: asteroids, lunar settlements, low cost access to space, next generation space enthusiasts, many roads to space, space settlements, space solar power, Mars exploration and settlement, space law and space medicine. The Space Elevator track will be on Saturday as follows:  [any aspects of this preliminary layout could change]

There will be a booth in the exhibit hall and much activity all weekend. Please come and visit the NSS conference and join in the space elevator activities. We are looking for volunteers who would “staff” the booth during the busy hours. Just think, Los Angeles in late spring near the airport [LAX].

Pete Swan

Architecture Note #17

by Michael A. Fitzgerald

First, we had an idea; then we built the Roadmaps; and then we laid out the Strategic Approach.

Recently we assessed the technology readiness of the Transportation System.

Now we need Funding, so the Approach can become the Plan.

Personal Prolog

This is an Architecture Note.  It is the opinion of ISEC’s Chief Architect. It represents an effort to document ISEC’s ongoing science and engineering discussions, and 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.

The Galactic Harbour

Our Strategic Approach must become our Plan


As I mentioned last month, the theme for our 2018 Conference in Seattle will be something like... “The Space Elevator Transportation infrastructure is closer than you think”. The theme will also include a thorough discussion of the Multi-Stage Space Elevator (MSSE). We are preparing to present the topics in an antagonist versus protagonist format; seeking to get net judgements of each of the seven positions cited in ISEC’s preliminary Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) of the Space Elevator Transportation System; and the MSSE as well. The full discussion of the conference themes is discussed later in this Newsletter.

The “pro vs. con” positions will complete the initial substantiation of the preliminary TRA. Based on that stance, we believe that ISEC can legitimately approach funding sources to get the resources we need to transform our Strategic Approach into a development plan.

How to get there

First let’s review the preliminary TRA:

1. The Earth Port is buildable with today’s available technologies and engineering expertise.

2. The Headquarters / Primary Operations Center is buildable today.

3. The Tether Climber is similar to a today’s satellites, and ISEC sees no technology challenge to the construction of the Climber.

4. The GEO Node and Region technology needs are understood and ISEC assesses that the most of the GEO Node’s Transportation System components can be built now.

5. The Apex Anchor will be a challenge.  Its role is key to the building of the Space Elevator, but it is neither a technological nor engineering obstacle.  The Apex Anchor can support the Space Elevator Transportation System; and could be built in the near future.

6. The Tether material is the pacing item for the development of the Space Elevator.  Currently, there are at least three viable materials that could mature into the needed “strong enough and long enough” material for a Space Elevator Transportation Tether; 100,000 kms long and strong enough to support multiple Climbers.

7. The other voiced challenge to the Space Elevator Transportation System faces is collision avoidance. ISEC, and others, have studied the issue, and collisions are much less likely than most think. Even so, the Space Elevator Transportation System will be advised of approaching debris even smaller than a pebble – in sufficient time to avoid it.  Further, the Space Elevator Transportation System will work with the FAA’s Space Traffic Management program ensuring that the Tether operates only within uniquely assigned space locations. This traffic management approach will keep other operating space systems safely separated from the Elevator.

The Strategic Approach

Our strategy is to link the Space Elevator Transportation System to the Space Elevator Enterprise; within a Unifying Vision known as the Galactic Harbour

The Strategic Approach is ISEC’s guiding theme for the technical development of a Space Elevator. The Space Elevator Transportation System will be the core, priority construction activity; and, its success will be the foundation of the Space Elevator Enterprise System. They will be built in a manner separate from each other but not in isolation. This “separate but not segregated” paradigm establishes both the prioritization and collaboration between and within our near parallel development efforts.

Moving from an approach to a plan

First, let us recall our definition of IOC for the Space Elevator Transportation System; our first destination at the end of development:

The Space Elevator Transportation System is comprised of one Earth Port with two tether termini, multiple Apex Anchors each supporting 100,000 km Tethers, 14 Tether Climbers, and a single Headquarters and Primary Operations Center. The GEO Node supports the Space Elevator Transportation System with a range of “overhead’ functions; e. g. test, safety, and support.

The Architecture Engineering sequence for developing a Strategic Plan for the Space Elevator Transportation System:

1.  Present substantiation (at the 2018 SEATTLE conference) of the seven elements the prelim TRA statements.

2.  Evaluate the for and against aspects of all seven preliminary TRA statements.

3.  Formally publish the preliminary Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) in the proceedings of the Conference.

4.  Build roadmaps of Verification and Validation tests, experiments, and demonstrations as evidence that the engineering development of the Space Elevator is ready to proceed. Much of that roadmap set will be the various verification and validation tests and demonstrations discussed in the ISEC position paper #2014-1; Space Elevator Architecture and Roadmaps.

5.  It is expected that the culminating V & V efforts will:

a.  Correlate to the segment structure of the Space Elevator Transportation System,

b.  Correlate to the seven cited items in the preliminary TRA, and

c.  Match the technology & engineering maturation index of the “Sequences”

6.  Seek funding to execute the roadmaps.

Subsequent to the 2018 Conference

The Conference theme does NOT say the Space Elevator Enterprise System is closer. ISEC needs to construct a similar transformation and roadmap process for the Enterprise System. That scheme needs to be looked at closely, and must include the eventual customers, clients and partners of the Enterprise. It also must include the various industry members who will construct our Galactic Harbour; the Transportation System and the Enterprise System.

The “separate but not segregated” paradigm of our Strategic Approach cites the need for collaboration between our near parallel development efforts. In order to initiate that collaboration, targeted outreach efforts must begin by early 2019. The Space Elevator Transportation System will be the core, priority construction activity; and, its success will be the foundation of the Space Elevator Enterprise. They must be built in a manner separate from each other but not in isolation.

A quick look at “Outreach topics”

1. Begin a Technology Readiness Assessment for those technology and engineering activities within the Enterprise System.

2. Contact DARPA regarding their declaration that technology development is needed for on orbit servicing.

3. Contact the FAA regarding their role in Space Traffic Management and acknowledgement of a Space Elevator as part of that traffic management.

4. Contact industry (where the technology REALLY resides) to openly discuss the Space Elevator topic. We need to:

a. Get closer with key industry players; especially those whose future business activities are GEO Centric.

b. Get those industry players to send their proprietary Requests for Information to us.

c. Get these same industry players to accept us as business partners … in the future.

In closing

We have a lot of work to do, but the goal of a functional space elevator is closer than ever!


International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) Announces a Summer Internship Program

Deadline-15 May 2018

ISEC will have an internship program this summer to stimulate research inside the space community with the purpose of improving the Body of Knowledge on space elevators. The expectation is that the intern would work from home, putting in approximately 10 hours a week researching various components of the space elevator while working with an ISEC mentor. The selection will be competitive with the top four gaining internships. The details are as follows:

•  Process: Apply, be connected with the appropriate ISEC mentor, select topic of interest, conduct individual research, confer with mentor every two weeks, summarize research, present to mentor/and-or at the ISEC Conference.

•  Who: This program is open to all undergraduate students. The program is best suited to Freshman and Sophomores working in a scientific or engineering field, however students from all areas of study are encouraged to apply as ISEC works on all aspects of the Space Elevator challenge from technical engineering problems to questions of Space law and economics. We will be accepting up to 4 interns for Summer 2018.

•  Where: the intern will conduct Research remotely with meetings by Skype or equivalent. The intern’s final meeting will either be over Skype or at the ISEC Conference.

•  What: Interns will be researching or assisting with ongoing research of one area of Space Elevator development. Areas of research include Space Elevator History, Materials Applications for Space Elevator tethers, Earth Port infrastructure, and more. Interns will report progress regularly to their mentor and produce a summary of their research, as per agreement between intern and mentor. They will present this research in person or through a video.

•  Benefit: In addition to the unique opportunity to work with leading Space Elevator researchers each intern will be awarded a $500 grant, an ISEC certificate of completion, and a letter of recommendation.

•  Key Dates:

◦  Application due: April 15th.

◦  Internship period: June 15th-August 15th.

◦  ISEC Conference: August 25th.

To Apply:

Please submit your application and any questions to inbox@isec.org by May 15, 2018.

Your application should include your name, school, year, major [and interests], and a short summary of your interest in ISEC and why you would like to have a career in the space arena (no more than 200 words).


Riding the Multi-Stage Space Elevator

by John Knapman

First you need to get to Kiribati in the central Pacific Ocean, probably via Hawaii. As you approach, you will see a cluster of tubes rising from the terminus platform. The platform is floating and is stabilized in the same way as an oil exploration platform. When preparations are complete, you will board a tube climber and enter the capsule inside it. This capsule will be your accommodation for a week as you travel to an altitude of 22,000 miles.

The tube climber will draw power from the tubes as it ascends through the atmosphere to the edge of space, a journey of about an hour. As you climb higher, the sky will darken and more and more stars will become visible. However, your weight will not reduce noticeably, since you are not in orbit. The ride will be as gentle as riding an elevator in a tall building.

The edge of space, known as the Kármán line, is 60 miles up. There you will arrive at the first stage, where automatic equipment will transfer you inside your capsule from the tube climber to a waiting tether climber. You will see the tether rising into the distance above you. You can just make out the streams of small objects called bolts, which are rising above you in parallel lines. Because they are so fast and there are gaps between them, you will see them as a transparent blur. Normally, there is no-one here, but you may just see an engineer doing some routine checks and maintenance.

Your solar-powered tether climber will commence its ascent at dawn to make the most of the sunlight. The acceleration is very gentle, taking four minutes to reach its speed of 48 mph. As it climbs, it gets further away from Earth, the gravity becomes less, and it loses weight. Therefore, it can climb faster, reaching 72 mph at a height of 1000 miles by the end of the day. The next day, its speed gradually increases to 123 mph as it climbs to just over 3000 miles. The blur of the streams of bolts is still visible about half a mile away on each side of the climber.

At about 9 am on the third day, we reach the second stage, 3750 miles above Earth, where we slow down and stop for a couple of minutes. You can see the streams of bolts reaching the semi-circular shape known as the ambit. They hold the second stage up; it turns them around and sends them back down. In turn, the ambit holds up the equipment at the second stage, and it supports the tether. The tether just below the second stage is thicker than it is above, although you may not be able to see the difference. There is a mechanism on the second stage to transfer the climber from the lower part of the tether to the upper part.

By this time, you are much lighter. Your weight is just over a quarter of what it was on Earth. The same applies to the climber. As a result, it accelerates to its speed of 175 mph and continues to accelerate gently to its maximum speed of 187.5 mph. The climber continues at this speed, with stops due to darkness depending on the season. On the seventh day, it reaches the GEO node at 22,000 miles. Here, you and the climber are weightless. The GEO node is undergoing extensive construction work to turn it into a small city where people can live and work. It is a gateway to the solar system and, ultimately, the galaxy and beyond. You can still see the tether continuing further away from Earth. Earth itself is by now a ball looking much more distant, although it is still the largest object in the sky by far. It no longer seems to be down; in microgravity, ‘up’ and ‘down’ have little meaning.

2018 Space Elevator Conference

by Michael Fitzgerald

The 2018 Space Elevator Conference

“The Space Elevator Transportation System is closer than you think”

A dual-themed conference featuring the technical description of the Multi-Stage Space Elevator and the preliminary Technology Readiness Assessment of the Space Elevator Transportation System.

My Insight

This is an Architecture Note.  It is the opinion of ISEC’s Chief Architect.

I envision the Architect’s preliminary Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) to be the basis for one part of the Conference. The other part will be discussions on John Knapman’s Multi-Stage Space Elevator. The two positions would be presented in tandem. Each presentation is followed by a short workshop period in which short presentations are prepared by conference attendees. The workshop groups are small and members can migrate from table to table to instigate feedback. The feedback presentations must express either protagonist or antagonist views on the topics. Presenters can deliver BOTH a pro and a CON brief. I see a conference of heavy, valued participation on each topic; with participation-in the form of handwritten charts amidst Knapman’s and Fitzgerald’s formal charts.

Brian L. has suggested we hold a non-binding assessment (pass-fail) votes somewhere during the conference; even twice. Vote at the beginning of the conference and then again at the end; to see if positions were changed.

Somehow, I would like to pre-schedule a couple short briefing from others on these two topics; sort of pre-determined Red Teams!!

In closing

I’d bet even money that, by instigating feedback, we will get some great commentary. I also bet that the feedback will help us delineate Transportation from Enterprise; and IOC (Initial Operational Capability) from FOC (Full Operational Capability.)


President’s Corner

Grit -- Persistence -- Patience

I was reminded of those three words recently when I was dealing with another start-up project. Working in the “unknown --unknown” arena where great projects start, with so little solid definition available, is one of the pleasures of being a creative engineer/scientist/program manager/financier/investor or passionate participant. My definition of “unknown -- unknown” is the arena where there are so many parts of a mega project that are not only unknown [like:  I do not know how to do that], but not foreseen in any sense [like: holy cow where did that issue come from?]. We are in that arena of not only not knowing some aspects of space elevators, but also being sure what issues will surface to puzzle us. The good news is that is the way creative engineering progresses towards project completion. It is a real phenomenon that challenges the best and brightest each time they step forward into the unknown and propose innovative approaches to global needs.

Well, the space elevator is right there on the edge of being initiated. Now the tough period starts-how do we develop within the unknown arena with minimum funding and sparse support? The answer is similar to the last ten years of creating and maintaining ISEC-Grit, Persistence, and Patience. Yes, each of us needs:

· Grit:  Google Dictionary defines grit as--“courage and resolve; strength of character.” I like to think of it as the ability to take the punches, determine the best way to re-enter the discussion and win with resolve.

· Persistence:  Google Dictionary defines persistence as--“firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” I like to think of it as the person with the long horizon and the ability to plan across years and decades.

· Patience:  Google Dictionary defines patience as--“the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” I like to think of it as the ability to wait out the opposition and silently plan for the breakthrough that you are certain is coming.

The space elevator team needs each of these characteristics as well as the belief that we will get there in the near to mid future.  I am really hoping for some near-term funding that will initiate research and stimulate some verification and validation testing at the segment level. We have come a long way from briefing charts to a point where our Chief Architect is laying out plans that can be implemented to initiate development.

Keep Climbing my Friends

Pete Swan

Upcoming Space Elevator Related Events:


National Space Society

International Space Development Conference

Los Angeles, CA, USA May 24-27 2018

Space Elevator Track

Web Site for more information: http://isdc.nss.org/2018/

International Space Elevator Consortium

Space Elevator Conference 2018

Seattle Museum of Flight

August 2018


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