Welcome to the July 2021 Edition of the ISEC Newsletter!
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Welcome to the

July 2021 Edition

of the ISEC Newsletter

In this Issue:

Editor’s Note

President’s Corner

Tether Materials

The Need for Space Elevators

History Corner

Upcoming Events

Contact Us/Support Us



Editor’s Note

Dear Fellow Space Elevator Enthusiast,

A special congratulations goes out to one of our former interns, Craig Orrock, who just been nominated for ‘Student of the Year’ by the ‘EqualEngineers’ group, see Engineering Student of the Year 2021 – Engineering Talent Awards for details. Way to go, Craig !

If you missed all of the ISDC Conference, there are many articles and links in this newsletter to help fill you in on what you missed! It seems that the Space Elevator idea is gaining traction with Space organizations around the world. Read on for further information...

Sandee Schaeffer

Newsletter Editor



President's Corner

by Pete Swan

Planning for Off-Planet

Last week the National Space Society (NSS) conducted a virtual International Space Development Conference entitled “Continuing the Journey.” The speakers focused on key areas of space development: space settlement, space policy, space solar power, the Moon, and international space programs. There was visible excitement about humanity moving off planet. The speakers varied from the Chief Scientist of NASA to leaders of the commercial space world and the NSS. The intriguing aspect was that everyone (well almost everyone) assumed we are going off-planet. The question was not where, but when. Artemis, Musk’s Mars Colony, L-5 Habitat were all discussed as if they were happening NOW (well, they are all starting at one level or another now – of course); and, the expectation is they will occur someplace near the proposed timelines. As an optimist, I agree that these programs will occur. Some titles of the talks were:

  • “Moon Base 2030 Step One: Mauna Loa”
  • “Deployable and Transformable Concepts for Lunar Habitations”
  • “Lunar Habitats: The Critical Challenges”
  • “The basics of Farming in Space”
  • “The Modern Day Space Elevator”

Yes, we had a 15 minute talk which had Dr. Eddy interviewing me on the topic of our current status and where we are going. The whole four-day conference will be available on NSS’s YouTube channel and other social media locations.

However, (of course there is always a however) there were NO discussions on “how much do our space products weigh?” In addition, there were no discussions on rockets polluting the atmosphere, that I heard. During my talk with Jerry, I did lay out the Space Elevator Vision:

“Earth Space Elevators Take massive freight to GEO and

beyond virtually pollution free on the Green Road to Space”


With our supporting messages:

  • We are ready to initiate a Space Elevator Developmental Program.
  • Our strategy is to propose a Dual Space Access Architecture.
  • Our visions match yours! We are building the Green Road to Space in response to your vision.
  • We escape the conundrum of allowing only 1% of mass to reach our destination.
  • The promise of Space Elevators is remarkable -- we cannot wait.


We had our voice heard, now we must follow-up and reach out to many to continue our push to start NOW. The NSS has announced next year’s ISDC, 2022 at the National Landing, VA (Near DC).



Tether Materials

by Adrian Nixon

Fracture Resistance in 2D materials

New knowledge is being created all the time in the fast-moving field of two dimensional (2D) materials. An international team led by Rice University in the USA has just published new work exploring how 2D materials fail through fracturing [1].

Learning how cracks propagate through tether materials is of real interest for us, so this work got my attention, I’ll summarise the academic paper for you…

The team used a combination of computer modelling and experimental observation to explore the nature of crack propagation. They focussed on monolayer single crystal hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) and single crystal monolayer graphene. If you are a regular reader of the ISEC newsletters, you will know these two substances are both prime tether material candidates.

The team were surprised to find that hBN had a much higher fracture resistance than graphene.



The reason for the higher fracture resistance is because hBN is made up of two atoms, Boron and Nitrogen whereas graphene is just one type of atom, carbon. When the tip of a crack propagates through hBN, it continually encounters a boron atom, then a nitrogen atom (or vice versa).

The crack deflection and branching occur repeatedly owing to asymmetric edge elastic properties at the crack tip and edge swapping during crack propagation. The effect of this is to branch and split the crack preventing it from propagating.

The team concluded that hBN has ten times the inherent fracture resistance than graphene. This has implications for using single crystal 2D materials in high mechanical strength applications such as space elevator tether.

Does this mean we should use hBN for the tether rather than graphene? Possibly, although we are exploring how we might modify the layered tether material by bonding layers together and making the structure resistant to cracks and layer slippage. This is easier to do in multi-layered sheet graphene than multi-layered hBN. So, the story still unfolds and we will bring you developments from the edge of material science in future newsletter entries!



[1] Yang, Y., Song, Z., Lu, G. et al. Intrinsic toughening and stable crack propagation in hexagonal boron nitride. Nature 594, 57–61 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03488-1


Space Solar Power Supports Need for Space Elevators

by Pete Swan


As I mentioned in the last newsletter, we need to understand and contact our potential customers. The term “Anchor Client” has surfaced when dealing with large investors into this development. As such, I have initiated closer relationships with the Space Solar Power community. The bottom line is, there is motion in the Space Solar Power arena to aggressively contribute to the Carbon Net Zero commitments around the globe. The Space Elevator community needs recognition that lifting those types of masses to GEO is impractical, if not impossible, by rockets. 3,500,000 tonnes to GEO is the minimum delivery for SPS constellation by 2060 to come close to matching the needs, much more in the long term...(see chapter 3 in our Green Road to Space report).

One example of this is Arthur Woods’ presentation at the Space Renaissance Conference in Switzerland. He shared with me the video he prepared for the conference. His basic answer is Space Solar Power is required for Switzerland to meet its 2050 commitment from the Paris Accords. In addition, he specifically states that the development team should work with the Space Elevator community (he then showed our Green Road study and our website). Here is the connection where he says that Space Elevators are a “game changer!”


My talk from the conference is entitled “Dual Space Access: Minimizing the Rocket Equation Limitations for Space Solar Power.” The emphasis is across the main thrusts for Modern Day Space Elevators:

  1. Space Elevators are the Green Road to Space
  2. Permanent Infrastructure will provide daily, safe, inexpensive delivery
  3. Deliver massive cargo to GEO and Beyond (170,000 tonnes per year)
  4. Delivery statistics are expected to be 70% (of lift-off mass) to destination with the other 30% (tether climber) reused, versus 2% by rockets to GEO


Two further points are explained during the talk:

  1. Space Elevators are a simple, elegant solution to the Rocket Equation – they avoid it
  2. The strategy is to have a cooperative/compatible relationship with advanced rockets, called “Dual Space Access Architecture,” leveraging the strengths of both


Here is the youtube connection to my talk: https://youtu.be/UEN7AmD24_o


History Corner

by David Raitt, PhD, ISEC Chief Historian

Space Elevator Fun and Games: Part 2, Europe

The United States was not the only country where space elevator challenges and games were taking place. There were also already overlapping events in Europe and Japan as entities there commenced organizing similar space elevator challenges and competitions. There was also a single event in Israel which is mentioned in this part.

Taking its cue from The Spaceward Foundation in America, the European Spaceward Association (known more simply as EuroSpaceward) was established in 2007 and one of its aims was to encourage participants in tether climber competitions held in conjunction with its annual conferences from 2007-2010. EuroSpaceward held two climber competitions in Luxembourg in 2007 and 2008 and there was talk of organizing a third in 2009. However, with the demise of EuroSpaceward, the organization of the European Space Elevator Challenge (EuSPEC) was taken up by WARR e.V., the Scientific Workgroup for Rocketry and Spaceflight at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany. (https://warr.de/projects/space-elevator/.) The European Space Elevator Challenge is the first and only student competition in Europe focusing on space elevator technology. The challenge aimed to establish a climber structure in compliance with predetermined requirements, bearing in mind the idea of a real space elevator. The focus was to be on the efficiency of the climber, the technical implementation of the climber (especially the payload system), and aspects which directly impacted the development of a real space elevator.

To date there have been four such EuSPEC challenges. In 2011, EuSPEC featured a climber competition for a height of 25m held at TU Munich, Germany with six entries from Germany, Japan (one of which was a joint Japan/USA team) - teams from England and Macedonia had to cancel and the team from Iran was unable to obtain visas. The winner of both Level 1 and Level 2 was Earth Track Controllers (a joint USA/Japan entry). The Technology Award went to the Japanese team Aoki Bravo B and the Innovation Award went to Egami Lab, another Japanese team. In 2012, the EuSPEC climber competition was set at a height of 50m and held at TU Munich Germany, again with six entries from Germany and Japan (including a joint Japan/USA team). The winner of Level 2 was Japan’s Aoki Lab. B team. The same team also took the Technology Award; while Japan’s Irie Lab took the Innovation Award. The third European Space Elevator Challenge - open to student teams worldwide - was not held until September 2016 and took place at the Garching Campus of TU Munich. The drive height was doubled to 100m and there was a new category of 50m for high school teams and beginners. Teams had to build a climber that reached the top of a 100m rope, suspended from a gas balloon, while being as energy efficient and carrying as much payload as possible. The Advanced level competitors included only three teams - two from Japan, and one from Germany. Several other teams from Germany, Japan and India all cancelled. At the Beginners level were two teams - both from Germany, with two German and one Estonian team cancelling. It is interesting to note that during the farewell barbecue, the movie Payload - short Australian film about scavengers set in a space elevator town appropriately named Clarke’s Town - was screened for participants.

In September 2018, the European Space Elevator Challenge again took place at TU Munich with the high school teams showing some great drives at the 20m crane, while at the 100m balloon track, the university teams struggled, but kept on working to improve their climbers. The major winners of the 2018 competition were: at the Advanced level Aoki Lab (Japan) in 1st place - the team also took the Safety Award, Innovation Award, and Construction Quality Award; and at the Beginner’s level 1st place went to SGH-Space Team, 2nd place to Meier’s Eleven, and 3rd place to The Space Kangaroo.

The European Space Elevator Challenge 2020 was announced for September in Munich. However, for obvious reasons the event had to be cancelled.


The year 2019 saw the introduction of the Bavarian Space Elevator Challenge (BASPEC) aimed at high school students. It was hoped that such students would be enthusiastic about the idea of the space elevator and be encouraged to exchange experiences with other teams. The goals of BASPEC were to promote problem-solving thinking, convey the importance of interdisciplinary thinking, and allow the students to gain practical experience and new knowledge. The organizers of BASPEC are a team from Schiller-Gymnasium Hof, Hof, Germany which had twice taken part in the European Space Elevator Challenge (EUSPEC) in Munich and which wanted to make the many positive experiences they were able to gain there possible for other teams in their region. In the first competition in 2019, some half-a-dozen teams had to get a climber to ascend 20m.

The organizers are planning a second BASPEC competition for 8 October 2021, again under stringent rules, and with the focus on the efficiency of the robot climber and an innovative and functional design. A maximum of 100 participants is set for the competition and the team size can vary between two and ten people - though the recommended team size is five people. Teams must have registered by 31 April 2021 and provided a rough concept with information on the material and weight used by 15 June. A video of the working robot will need to be submitted by 31 August. Submission of a picture of a poster depicting the team and its space elevator must be done by 1 October. (http://baspec.schillergym.de).


Although not in Europe (though it is always an entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest!), it should be mentioned that Israel also introduced a one-off space elevator competition as part of a broader annual technology competition. On 18 June 2014, a space elevator competition was scheduled at Technion, Tel Aviv, Israel for the latest of the annual Technobrain Competitions, held at Technion, which has the aim of driving engineering students towards academic goals, through a design, build, test and race process. The challenge for the teams in this twelfth Technobrain competition was to build a device capable of climbing at least an 80 degree angle to the ground, to a height of 25 meters, and then slide down from this height while lifting a space elevator carrying practical cargo from the other side of the crane-held pulley. The idea being to signify the location of the Space Station, while the mission course emulated the movement of the space elevator. Yuri Artsutanov was invited to be one of the judges and one of the three father and son teams won the prize.


ISDC Modern-Day Space Elevator

Interview of Dr. Pete Swan by Jerry Eddy


International Space Development Conference (NSS) 24 June 2021


Jerry Eddy and I had fun presenting the status of the Modern Day Space Elevator in our portion of the virtual conference. We approached the 15 minutes of fame with an interview approach – Jerry interviewing me. It went very well and we addressed many issues. We presented the basics:


  • Space Elevators will fulfill the dreams of so many! We will support movement off planet with a second road to space – indeed, a green road to space.
  • The promises of Space Elevators are so revolutionary that they must be pursued (such as massive cargo - 160,000 tonnes per year to GEO and beyond).
  • We have started the developmental phase of space elevators – we finally have material that is long enough and strong enough coming out of the laboratory.
  • Space Elevators are no less than essential for the future of mankind!


We believe both advanced rockets and space elevators are needed to fulfill the dreams of so many to become a multi-planet species - indeed, A Dual Space Access Strategy


Larry Bartosek also spoke as a NSS Ambassador, with full support of space elevators. The youtube and times are:




4:30:08  Larry Bartozek “Kids and Science/NSS Ambassador”

4:32:40  Jerry Eddy & Pete Swan “Space Elevators”



Upcoming Events



ISEC Webinar

Dual Space Access Architecture--Rockets and Space Elevators

Sponsored by the International Space Elevator Consortium

Presented by Dr. Pete Swan


Saturday, July 24th (originally July 17th)


Members Only Webinar

Sponsored by the International Space Elevator Consortium

Topic: TBD

Presented by Dr. Dennis Wright


Saturday, August 14th


72nd International Astronautical Congress

Sponsored by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF)


Monday, October 25th through Friday, October 29th, 2021

Dubai World Trade Center

Dubai, UAE



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