November 4, 2009

Launching The Space Elevator Race

NASA's Centennial Challenges program and the Spaceward Foundation kicked off the Space Elevator Games in the Mojave Desert on Wednesday.

Teams of engineers have their eye on the $2 million prize to be awarded to the first group to climb just over half a mile of a cable suspended from a helicopter near NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards.

Three teams have qualified for this year's event, which will take place on Wednesday and Thursday.

Event sponsors hope to see a team successfully send a vehicle up the suspended cable at an average speed of 16.4 feet per second.

The contest is based on the hope that space travel could one day be possible through the use of cables suspended from a space unit in geosynchronous orbit.

The power supply for the climbers remains on the ground, which offers a challenge to team members to create a source of wireless power.

In previous competitions, teams have used solar power or spotlights, but each of this year's teams will be using lasers.

"Practical systems employing power beaming would have a wide range of applications from lunar rovers and space propulsion systems to airships above the Earth," NASA said on its Web site. "Another future application of power beaming would be the space elevator concept and many of the competitors are advocates for this technology."

In previous Power Beaming Challenges in 2005, 2006 and 2007, no team has been awarded the grand prize.


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