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

September 2021 Edition

of the ISEC Newsletter

In this Issue:

Editor’s Note

President’s Corner

Member’s Only Webinar Videos

New Study Announced

Space Elevator Ride at Disney World

History Corner

Research Committee

Tether Materials

Upcoming Events

Contact Us/Support Us



Editor’s Note

Dear Fellow Space Elevator Enthusiast,

Dr. Swan has been telling us, recently, about the need to know our potential customers (see the June Newsletter, President’s Corner “Know Our Customers”) and then expanded upon that concept in the July newsletter in two articles, one called “Space Solar Power Supports Need for Space Elevators” where he introduced the concept of “demand pull” and gave an example of a possible future customer in the Space Solar Power community. The other was the President’s Corner for that some month, “Planning for Off-Planet” where he tells us that the National Space Society has been working with the Space Solar Power community.

Those efforts have paid off in that the National Space Society now endorses the Beyond Earth Institute! See https://space.nss.org/nss-welcomes-beyond-earth-institutes-space-solar-power-initiative-for-a-cleaner-environment/. We welcome their efforts to provide cleaner energy sources and would love to offer a “Green Road to Space” to help them get there!

Sandee Schaeffer

Newsletter Editor



President's Corner

by Pete Swan

Outreach at the IAC


Last month I talked about our Vision, Strategy, and Approach for a Space Elevator development program. It is important that each of us inside ISEC understand where we are going and how to talk about it with others (friends, professional associates, potential investors, or just the curious). ISEC’s mission is building the body of knowledge and providing outreach opportunities. Well, one is coming up during the week of 25 October in Dubai at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). A small portion of ISEC and supporters will be there giving presentations and running sessions. We hope to have an impact. This year there will be 10-minute videos accompanying papers and power point presentations. The schedule for participation by ISEC activists is:




Once again, ISEC is leading the way in outreach to potential partners/investors in the development of a space elevator infrastructure, this time at the IAC – the global gathering of space professionals. And of course, Next Year in Paris!




Members Only Meeting Videos


Dennis Wright, Ph.D., the ISEC Vice-President, organized a members-only meeting that took place on August 14, 2021, as a gathering place to discuss current ISEC topics. Karyn Gleeson, an ISEC board member, produced the webinar and placed the videos on YouTube (as shown below). The mission of the meeting was to benefit our active members while maintaining social and professional contacts. Listeners’ responses were very positive and will lead to follow-on meetings. Our first choice has been our yearly conference; however, we have found that these members only gatherings have also been very fruitful. This newsletter will present the talks in monthly summaries. (see below for the first two of the summaries). Here are the links:

Status of ISEC by Pete Swan: https://youtu.be/v9CoBCQbaOU

Economic Impact Analysis of Space Elevators by Kevin Barry and Eduardo Pineda: https://youtu.be/TLVHSxjoqLw

Interplanetary Launches Using a Space Elevator by John Knapman: https://youtu.be/w0QlsGqQ9dM

Global Space Train by Paul Phister: https://youtu.be/4c_UqPihUyM

Update on the Tether-Climber Interface Study by Dennis Wright: https://youtu.be/cbm7guaySrk

Tether Stresses and the Atmosphere Problem by Peter Robinson: https://youtu.be/i8qVa-6FZ_M

Dual Space Architecture by Pete Swan: https://youtu.be/jdPqlzTKtN4

Or, see all seven presentations at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFKGJNTxJZ2JsAkUUIdMzDnlB7bYKTymE

Status of ISEC by Peter Swan – After laying out the organizational structure and showing the roles filled by our volunteers, Dr. Swan presented the successes for the year (Green Road to Space study completed and many other activities) while outlining exciting events. He then explained that the organization works because of volunteers and he thanked each for their contributions. He then spoke of the volunteer opportunities currently available – to include members of our study that is about to start: “Dual Space Access: An Evolutionary Step Towards Humankind’s Movement Off-Planet.” The team is looking for several more volunteers to delve into our future. In addition, if you are interested in website maintenance, we would love you to join our team and support our volunteer activities.


Dual Space Access Architecture – This 15-minute discussion focused upon the concept that if we combine the strengths of advanced rockets and space elevators, new and innovative missions can be accomplished. Rockets’ strengths are 1) they are here now, 2) they move quickly through the radiation belts, and 3) they can easily reach LEO and MEO.

Space Elevators have remarkable strengths to leap into this new century of massive liftoff demands by 1) moving heavy mass to GEO and beyond (170,000 tonnes per year), 2) lifting payloads to orbit in a green manner, 3) rapid transition from the Apex Anchor to Mars in as little as 61 days while being able to release towards Mars daily (no 26 month wait for launch window), and 4) enabling so many dreams and visions that are currently limited by mass to orbit delivery statistics. Musk, Bezos, O’Neill, Glaser and NASA need us to move massive cargoes to difficult locations safely and environmentally friendly – they just don’t know it yet. The last message in this talk was that the development of Space Elevators has started. We have a material that is long enough and strong enough.



New Study Announced

Dual Space Access:

An Evolutionary Step Towards Humankind’s Movement Off-Planet

A new eighteen-month study has been approved by the ISEC board of directors.

The purpose of the study is to examine in depth, how rockets and the Space Elevator can work together to make the most of our future in space. We will examine the strengths of each and see how working together they can full fill various desired missions. A series of case studies will be performed such as the establishment of colonies on Mars and the Moon and the elements of our previous study “The Green Road to space”, particularly “Space Based Solar Power” and “Permanent Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste”. Using the Space Elevators ability of providing much shorter transit times to other planetary bodies will also be examined.

If you are interested in being part of this study, contact the director of the study, Jerry Eddy, at jerry.eddy@isec.org.  



Lunch at 220 miles up supported by space elevators!

A Disney World Immersive Experience


Can you imagine a restaurant at 220 miles up with views of the planet? Well, Disney World has such a restaurant opening in September entitled Space 220. And of course, you rise to that altitude on a space elevator with views going from the surface to the restaurant. The Imagineer, Zack Riddley, stated “This immersive experience brings you to the Centauri Space Station, where you can take a virtual look at the planet from above while you dine.”


You can see the sneak peek video at: https://www.space.com/disney-space-220-restaurant-epcot-sneak-peek (article by Robert Pearlman – Space.com contributor, 15 Aug 2021)



History Corner

David Raitt, PhD

ISEC Chief Historian


Michael Laine: Space Elevator Pioneer


In 2002, the first space elevator conference took place in Seattle. It was sponsored by HighLift Systems, a company co-founded in Seattle by Michael Laine, who became its president and who ran the business side of things, and Brad Edwards of Eureka Scientific which had received funding from NIAC to research building an elevator to space. HighLift Systems was formed in an effort to raise further funds to develop and build an operational space elevator, but the two co-founders parted company a short time later partly because of various disagreements (financial as well as how to move forward), and partly due to lack of funding and follow-on support from NASA. HighLift Systems, the first space elevator company, closed in 2003, but Laine went on to found another company, LiftPort, that same year with the intention of building and commercializing a space elevator.


The focus of LiftPort in the early days was upon a space elevator using new materials, specifically carbon nanotubes. The company concentrated on learning how to build robotics, large tethers, and carbon nanotubes that could be used to construct a space elevator. In 2006, LiftPort launched a proprietary observation and communication platform on a 1,600m long tethered balloon while robotic climbers moved up and down the tether multiple times. Also in 2006, Laine was involved in putting together and editing a book entitled LiftPort: Opening Space to Everyone, published by Meisha Merlin Publishing, Inc. The book was a mixture of technical material relating to all the aspects of a space elevator and its elements - power, safety, business, politics, legalities, finance, etc., and science fiction excerpts featuring space elevators from well-known and not so well-known authors.


When the economy crashed in 2007 LiftPort collapsed with it, only to bounce back again in 2011 when the company announced it was going to concentrate on developing a lunar elevator. The reasoning for this change of direction was that a lunar elevator could be built now, with current technology, would be a pre-cursor to an Earth space elevator and would transform our interaction with the Moon, Mars and the rest of space.


To get the ball rolling again Laine set up a Kickstarter project in 2012 to raise funds for LiftPort’s Earth space elevator, tethered tower and lunar space elevator infrastructure. The modest goal was $8000, but over $110,000 was pledged from nearly 3,500 backers. In 2013 in response to the National Research Council’s Study on the Benefits, Challenges and Ramifications of America’s Human Spaceflight Program. LiftPort presented a cost-effective approach to human spaceflight within a 15-year constrained NASA budget. The title of LiftPort’s submission was Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure and its conclusions were that NASA should leverage the commercial resources of the Moon to bootstrap and subsidize the human spaceflight program. Installing LiftPort’s low-cost Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure would greatly reduce the expense of lunar surface operations and bring human spaceflight within the NASA budget. The Lunar Elevator would permit affordable access to the abundant wealth of lunar resources. Furthermore, creating public-private partnerships to develop the newly accessible commercial resources of the Moon would enable a sustainable expansion of human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit and throughout the solar system.


In 2017, Laine officially re-started LiftPort Inc as LiftPort Group

(https://www.liftport.com), based in Tacoma, Washington, with efforts focused exclusively on the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure. The company is currently researching the material required for the ribbon and the robotic technology required for the lifters. The goal is to build an elevator on the Moon in order to improve life here on Earth.


Over the years, Laine has kept his space elevator dreams alive not only in the day-to-day research and activities of his company, but also by keeping himself in the space-elevator’s public eye by writing books, making presentations, giving interviews and the like. Space Elevators: A History (https://www.isec.org/s/SpaceElevatorsHistory2017.pdf) gives links to some of the older news items about Michael Laine and LiftPort as well as interviews with him. However, LiftPort Group has launched a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/liftport) and Laine and his staff make regular contributions to a blog on the LiftPort Group’s website.


Michael Laine’s most recent interview was in May 2021 as Space Business Podcast, no. 32, sponsored by NanoAvionics and produced in partnership with the International Space University. Interviewed by Raphael Roettgen, Laine discusses his background (education and career), how he came to meet and work with Brad Edwards, what a space elevator is, its history, its location in space, energy sources, dangers and hazards, other kinds of space elevators, the technology required to make a lunar elevator, what does NASA think about the idea, etc. Listen to the interview here:


Or here:



After some twenty years of being involved with space elevators and especially with a lunar space elevator, Michael Laine is clearly determined to see his dreams come true!



Research committee

by John Knapman


The research committee is looking at methods of testing materials, particularly graphene, and identifying contacts and sources of expertise.

The producers so far are General Graphene, Groltex ($95 for a well presented 3”x3” sheet) and, we hope soon, Nixene. At present, only polycrystalline graphene is available. We want to move towards single crystal graphene.

We would like to initiate a competition for very strong, light materials along the lines of an X-Prize. NASA ran such a competition some years ago, but there is reason to think that another prize could be successful, given the recent progress in 2D materials. This proposal may help to promote Nixene and other manufacturers, although Adrian Nixon tells us that ISEC is already a help for potential manufacturers when seeking investment.

Another very important activity is molecular modelling to try to understand the forces acting between layers of graphene. David Dotson is carrying this out.

Dennis Wright continues to make progress on the work to produce a tool that simulates the dynamics of the tether. Mathematically speaking, he is using a fourth-order Runge-Kutta method.



Tether Materials

by Adrian Nixon


Graphene manufacturing and costs trends


Elon Musk famously stated that “And pls don't ask me about space elevators until someone at least builds a carbon nanotube structure longer than a footbridge” [1]


Elon is still right, no one has been able to make carbon nanotubes longer than a few centimetres. His challenge still stands, the footbridge is still waiting to be made. If we asked him for a view on graphene, he might say something like graphene is too new and expensive.


Dear Reader, as you have been following these newsletter entries, we know things that Mr Musk does not. The two-dimensional material, graphene, is now the leading candidate for the material to make the tether. Monolayer graphene is routinely made by the chemical vapour deposition (CVD) process.


You will recall:


  • Graphene is strong enough and light enough to make the tether
  • One atom thin graphene can be made by continuous industrial processes
  • Graphene can already be made at speeds of 2m per minute
  • And graphene can be made in lengths of up to 1 kilometre


So, should someone knock on Elon’s door?


The current state of the industry for making graphene still needs some development. 


  • Graphene needs to be made as a single crystal

o       Current manufacturing methods make graphene as a polycrystalline material; this means the material contains defects that reduce its strength

  • Graphene also needs to be made as a freestanding material

o       The current state of the art makes polycrystalline graphene on a metal or plastic support


In addition to being made super-fast and super-high quality, graphene also needs to be made cheaply because a space elevator tether needs vast quantities of graphene.


So, how much does it cost to make graphene? It is now possible to answer this question as manufacturers have disclosed some of the numbers involved.


The first reports of graphene manufacturing costs emerged in 2010. The early CVD methods could make graphene in very small areas at very high cost that equated to $10 million per square metre [3]. Figure 1 shows the manufacturing costs trend. The costs started to decline as the batch manufacturing process was better understood. Then in 2020, manufacturers started to disclose their roll-to-roll processes for the continuous manufacturing of graphene at scale and speed. In 2021 a graphene manufacturing company published their manufacturing costs and we now know that monolayer graphene can be manufactured for just $7.57 per square metre [4].




Figure 1. Logarithmic plot of current and future graphene manufacturing costs


Figure 1 also shows the future path for the existing graphene manufacturing technology. Our analysis of the raw material inputs places a lower limit on the cost of $4.54 per square metre.


CVD graphene is now an industrial material and no longer expensive for many applications.


Thinking from the perspective of the space elevator however forces us to consider material in vast quantities. Consider the tether. This needs to be 100,000 kilometres long and made of at least 12,000 layers of graphene.


Thinking from the space elevator application backwards gives us a different perspective on the manufacturing costs. Graphene will need to be made much cheaper, no more than one cent per square metre ($0.01 per m2) [2].


The existing graphene manufacturing processes have made impressive progress. However, a step change in technology is required to drive down the costs and scale up the production of high-quality large-scale sheet graphene. We are aware of at least one team working on this very problem.


Returning to Elon Musk, he was absolutely correct in his assessment of carbon nanotube technology. However, his team may not be aware of the astonishing pace of development in graphene manufacturing technology. A footbridge-length of single-crystal graphene is still some way off but by the time someone presents him with this material others will have capitalised on the technology and might just have started a new industrial revolution.




[1] Musk, E. (2015) [Twitter] 26 January. Available at: <https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/559557786514632704?lang=en> [Accessed 25 August 2021]


[2] Nixon, A. and Swan, P., 2021. ISEC Newsletter Archive. [online] ISEC.org. Available at: <https://isec.app.neoncrm.com/np/clients/isec/viewOnlineEmail.jsp?emailId=430784fa4cb17313d31d969a651e9c804m718812430&> [Accessed 25 August 2021].


[3] Spasenovic, M., 2021. The Price of Graphene. [online] Graphenea.com. Available at: <https://www.graphenea.com/pages/graphene-price#.YSVV_y1Q3R1> [Accessed 24 August 2021].


[4] Nixon, A., 2021. R2R manufacturing costs per square m of graphene. Nixene Journal, 5(8), p.35.




Upcoming Events


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


Space Elevator Conference

Sponsored by the International Space Elevator Consortium

Topics: Tether/Climber interface & Environmental Benefits of Space Elevators

Coming in Spring of 2022

Location: TBD


73rd International Astronautical Congress

Sponsored by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF)


Sunday, September 18th through Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

Paris, France



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