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Home > Video > Video Display > Laser-powered robot climbs cable in space science competition
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Laser-powered robot climbs cable in space science competition

(5 Nov 2009) SHOTLIST
1. Wide of (triangular) LaserMotive space elevator “robot”
2. Close of elevator
3. Wide of elevator on test cable in air
4. Elevator descending as person comes out to meet it
5. Tilt down of elevator being weighed
6. Wide of team LaserMotive, Wednesday’s winners
7. Mid of team UPSOUND (English) “Relief! Thank goodness.”
8. Wide of Kansas City Space Pirates team in mobile lab
9. Various of Space Pirates space elevator “robot” on test cable in air
10. Close of elevator after climb
11. Close of circuit board on elevator test vehicle
12. SOUNDBITE (English) Frank Smith, Kansas City Space Pirates:
“This is the way to do it because it will take… you can get to geosynchronous orbit for the same amount of energy as flying to Australia.”
13. Helicopter holding test cable (approximately 3500 feet)++MUTE++
14. LaserMotive elevator reaching target, descending ++MUTE++
15. Various of laser power module for LaserMotive elevator
16. SOUNDBITE (English) Andrew Williams, University of Saskatchewan space team:
“Once we have got the technology for the lasers, and once we have pushed the technology for tracking and material science, the sky’s the limit. Literally.”
17. Crew preparing to catch descending elevator
18. SOUNDBITE (English)  Jordin Kare, Laser Motive:
“Anybody who needs power in one place and can’t run wires to it. We’d be able to deliver power to it.”
20. Tilt down elevator descending ++MUTE++
21. Wide of LaserMotive trailer
A robot powered by a ground-based laser beam climbed a long cable dangling from a helicopter on Wednesday (November 4, 2009) to qualify for prize money in a two (m) million US dollar competition to test the potential reality of the science fiction concept of space elevators.
The highly technical contest brought teams from Missouri, Alaska and Seattle to Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert, most familiar to the public as a space shuttle landing site.
The contest requires their machines to climb 2,953 feet (nearly one kilometre) up a cable slung beneath a helicopter hovering nearly a mile high.
LaserMotive’s vehicle zipped up to the top in just over four minutes and immediately repeated the feat, qualifying for at least a 900-thousand US dollar second-place prize.
The device, a square of photo voltaic panels about 2 feet by 2 feet (0.6 meters by 0.6 meters) and topped by a motor structure and thin triangle frame, had failed to respond to the laser three times before it was lowered, inspected and then hoisted back up by the helicopter for the successful tries.
LaserMotive’s two principals, Jordin Kare and Thomas Nugent, said they were relieved after two years of work.
They said their real goal is to develop a business based on the idea of beaming power, not the futuristic idea of accessing space via an elevator climbing a cable.
The contest demonstrates that beaming power works, Nugent said.
“Anybody who needs power in one place and can’t run wires to it, we’d be able to deliver power,” Kare said.
Earlier out on the lakebed, team member Nick Burrows had pointed out how it grips the cable with modified skateboard wheels and the laser is aimed with an X Box game controller.
It had never climbed higher than 80 feet (24 metres) previously, he said.
The day’s competition began late after hours of testing the cable system, refuelling the helicopter and waits for specific time windows in which the lasers can be fired without harming satellites passing overhead.
The Kansas City Space Pirates went first with a machine that initially balked but eventually began climbing.
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