Ideas and EngineeringMIT

DeltaX competes at the NASA Centennial Challenges Strong Tether Challenge

Stephen and Me

Stephen Steiner and Daniel Pressl in front of a space elevator model.


„When nano becomes macro!“, Daniel Pressl holding a tether of 2 meters length, made purely out of carbon nanotubes! The commercial price of this tether is $50.000.

Tensile Machine

Dr. Bradley Edwards and Lauren DeFlores measuring up the tensile testing machine for the competition.


1. 2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 57)

Touching the future.

That’s what I was able to do tonight, actually touch the future. Even though the tether brought by MIT’s Delta-X team was not the winner in tonight’s Tether competition, it represents, IMHO, the future. We get excited when reading articles about how carbon nanotubes are now “1 cm long” or “2 cm long”, etc., but Delta-X brought a tether, made purely out of carbon nanotubes, that was 2 METERS long. Stephen Steiner, head of the Delta-X team gave it to me to study and to handle.

I had a feeling of awe while doing so, truly I did. This is the future. Yes, carbon nanotubes are not yet equal to other technology. And yes, it will take some time. And yes, it represents the future.

I’ll post some good close-up shots of the Delta-X carbon nanotube tether tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what they bring next year.

2. Space Elevator Games – (Entry 56)

Well that was anticlimactic…

Astroaraneae and Delta-X both mounted their tethers on the machine (this was after the judges determined that both tethers met the weight and length requirement). Pressure was applied and almost immediately the Delta-X tether parted – the knot slipped.

Delta X had a second tether they mounted, but this was just for show. It only weighed 1.3 grams (as opposed to the Astroaraneae tether of 2 grams) and all were sure it would not stand a chance. Pressure was applied and the Delta-X tether parted almost immediately.

Then Ken Davidian, the NASA rep for the Centennial Challenges, announced that the Astroaraneae tether would now be competing against the house tether for the Prize money ($500K). However, at that point, Michael Remington, team leader of Astroaraneae, took the microphone and announced they would NOT be competing against the house tether – they forfeited their chance to win the prize. They said their goal in coming here to was to prove they still had the strongest tether in the world (but not 50% stronger than a COTS tether – the house tether) and that they were “still champions” of all the teams. Obviously they felt like they had no chance to win, but it was a major disappointment to me (and I’m sure other) to not be able to see how far the state of the art has advanced.

So, no winner in the Tether challenge this year and I think I can speak for everyone in the audience in saying that the out come was very disappointing, both in what it was and in the way it happened.

The $500K prize money rolls over to next year – next year’s Tether Challenge purse will now be $900K (the $200K rolling over from 2006 plus the $300K rolling over from this year and the $400K allocated to $2008). Let’s hope for a better competition and better results next year…


One on one

Only two teams are aiming this year for the tether competition, the winner of which needs to be at least 50% better than last year’s best effort.

The entrants have to produce a loop of material at least 2 metres in circumference and weighing less than 2 grams. This is then stretched to breaking point, and has to outlast a standard tether made from state-of-the-art material (and not subject to the competition size and weight restrictions).

Stephen Steiner, who leads one of the entries, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he is taking an academic attitude to the games. The MIT tether is the first ever entry to be made entirely of carbon nanotubes — touted as the most promising material to make a rope strong and light enough to reach space. “We know that our materials cannot win this year,” he says, but predicts that by 2010 carbon nanotube fibres will be up to the job.

The games are set to conclude on Sunday, although bad weather may push this to Monday. Semon is confident that one of the teams will walk away much better off than when they arrived: “I think we’re actually going to award some prize money this year,” he says.

Read about the games as they happen over the weekend on their blog.

As of Sunday night, the Space Elevator Games had yet to produce a winner. There’s still one more day of competition for the climber test, so there may yet be a winner for that. But no one will take home a tether prize: MIT’s carbon nanotube tether snapped almost immediately, and the only other contender withdrew at the last minute.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Kommentar verfassen

Diese Website verwendet Akismet, um Spam zu reduzieren. Erfahre mehr darüber, wie deine Kommentardaten verarbeitet werden.