Andy Petro of NASA's Centennial Challenges program congratulates Tom Nugent and Jordan Kare of the LaserMotive team that won the Space Elevator Power-Beaming Challenge Games at NASA Dryden Nov. 6, as Ben Shelef of the sponsoring Spaceward Foundation looks on. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida) The Seattle-based LaserMotive team was declared the winner of the Space Elevator Power-Beaming Challenge Games Nov. 6 after the final day of competition at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.
LaserMotive won $900,000 from NASA's Centennial Challenges program for meeting the Level 1 standard of having their laser-powered robot climb a 900-meter-long cable suspended from a hovering helicopter in less than 7.5 minutes. The team accomplished that goal four times in the first two days of competition, the quickest being in 3 minutes and 48 seconds.
Noting that the Space Elevator Games had "been a very successful competition," NASA's Centennial Challenges director Andy Petro told those attending an awards presentation at NASA Dryden late Friday afternoon that "Power beaming is truly a 21st century technology."
Had LaserMotive's climber been able to climb the entire length of the cable in three minutes or less at a speed of at least five meters per second, the team could have claimed the entire prize of $2 million. As it stands, the remaining $1.1 million Level 2 prize is still available, and Ben Shelef of the sponsoring Spaceward Foundation said another Power-Beaming Challenge will be held in the future in hopes that one of competing teams might be able to claim that prize by meeting the five-meters-per-second standard.
Neither of the other two teams participating in the three-day competition at NASA Dryden was able to propel their climbers up the full length of the ¼-inch steel cable that dangled from the helicopter. All three teams attempted multiple ascents during the third and final round of competition on Friday, but none were successful in reaching the top.
Nick Burrows of the winning LaserMotive team explains details of his team's robotic climber to NASA Dryden center director Dave McBride as NASA Centennial Challenge program director Andy Petro looks on. (NASA photo / Tom Tschida) The Kansas City Space Pirates, the last team to compete on Friday, were able to power their climber up an estimated 500 to 600 meters during one of their attempts before technical problems caused their climber to become stuck on the cable. The University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team (USST) experienced technical problems with their climber all three days of the games, and were unable to make successful climbs.
The Kansas City and USST teams used a high-power 8 kw laser system provided by Trumpf Corp. to power their climbers, while LaserMotive used a 4 kw laser system and related optics that it developed in-house. All three teams employed highly accurate tracking systems to keep the laser beam on the climbers as they ascended, as well as efficient and lightweight power conversion systems on the climbers, providing a unique and unprecedented technology demonstration.
The Space Elevator Games are sponsored by NASA's Centennial Challenges technology development program, which provided the prize purse for the event.
For more, see www.spaceelevatorgames.org.