Campaign: The campaign is going amazing! We’ve got a ton of press, and more important, we’ve got YOU! There are now (almost) 2000 of YOU, and collectively YOU have committed over $60,000 to this project! This means so much to my team and I.
Camera: We got a small loan, so we can tackle some of the long-lead items quick. The first thing we did with the money you’ve entrusted to us, was to buy a really good camera. We want to chronicle our progress. As you can probably tell from the KC video, camera management, and post production is not a skill of mine…. But I’ll do my best. Maybe some of you would like to help with this?
News: O.k., so what’s new? Did you see that we were not only ON the list, but we were at the TOP of the list of Kickstarter campaigns that could destroy civilization? ;-) We’ve had more press than I ever imagined – our story has been translated into 7 languages! Here’s a sampling in case you want to catch up: Google Alerts
Education Kits: To be perfectly candid, our team (me especially) really thought that the three Education Kits were going to be ‘hot sellers’; that there would be a lot of people that wanted them. We (I) figured that this could be a great resource for students, and teachers – to teach important subjects in a way that was relevant to a real-world super-project… What could be cooler than that? Well, that hasn’t turned out to be correct.
BUT, my team and I still want to do them! We think they are important – not just to the project but to the people that will actually BUILD our beloved Elevators in space: the students these kits are aimed at. So we’ve looked at the success of the campaign, done our math, and decided that we are going to go ahead and eat some of the cost of developing these kits. We believe they are very important. So, to make this happen, we’ve cut the threshold from 15 down to 5 minimum orders. We really hope you guys take us up on this offer! Right now, the Lunar Kit has it’s threshold of 5 backers! So, even if you don’t actually want the Earth Elevator or the Tethered Tower kits – if you want to support this education, pick these two instead. We’ll get you whichever package you like when the dust settles.
They were set originally at 15 minimum backers before they were financially viable… But because our campaign has been so successful, we’ve decided that NO MATTER WHAT we are going to produce these! I’ve hired the woman that will produce these – and she’s already started! So even if you can’t afford to back this reward at the $300 level, you will still be able to purchase these kits for your local high school or Boys and Girls Club after the campaign concludes. You’ll be able to buy them without all the other goodies associated with the reward, and the price will be lower. I personally want these kits out into the world, so this is our commitment and gift to you folks!
Climbing Goals: Finally, we’ve made some decisions based on the (likely) goal of $100K. We now have a better handle on what this robot will be able to do, and what the experiment plan for the Tethered Towers looks like.
o 4 Meters – Double check rigging and inflation process. Ensure everyone knows their roles, operational code words, and who is supposed to be where, doing what, and that they timing of everything works. I expect this first session to be a chaotic nightmare. Remember, we are transferring knowledge (much of it has never been written down!) from the LiftPort 1.0 team, to the new, green, LiftPort 2.0 team. It’s gonna be a mess! ;-) At each level, we’ll test all components, telemetry, cameras and communications; and all aspects of the robotic “Lifter”.
o 70 Meters – Duration 2 hours – Pull on stuff and see if we can break it. Really. Find its tolerances. This is the max altitude we can hit before the FAA gets involved. Honestly, this will probably occur at my house. What we’ll do here is document the process of deployment and retraction. We’ll (re)create our safety and our process manuals. We’ll probably have to do this a couple times before we get it right.
o 350 Meters – No real science at this level, but it will get us practiced in deployment and retraction of the system. Believe it or not, pulling the system down is every bit as important and complicated as deployment. Again, we’ll add to our safety and process documents.
• 2 Kilometers
o All systems operational - This is where things get interesting! This is what we pledged to with the initial Kickstarter appeal. We consider this a minimum requirement. This is the only thing I’m committing to, right now. At this level, we will fulfill all the commitments we made in our campaign – altitude, cameras and “robots-eye-view” live-streaming. We’ll let you guys have the controls of the Pan-Zoom-Tilt cameras and broadcast our telemetry to the Internet. As we succeed with this level, we will increase altitude, duration and complexity.
o Jump! 1, 2, and 3 – So far no one has purchased our $10,000 reward to be the first to jump from the tallest (temporary) man-made structure in the world. But there are three crazy people that want to climb to the top and take a leap of faith. There’s been some questions about this – no, the robot is not strong enough to climb this Ribbon with a 250 lb person. So we will use the lift of the balloons to carry you to altitude – then it’s up to you to jump! We’ll do this 3 times – after all of the other requirements above are met. For each jump, we’ll have lights and streamers every 50 meters.
• 3 Kilometers
o All bets are off. We are in uncharted territory. At this point we’ll add weather monitor sensors and do research on a column of air. We think this is original work, and should provide very interesting data. Balloons could freeze, be then unable to expand, and burst. That could get entertaining… Robot motors could seize. We’re going to try to start this test at sea level, so that should reduce some of these problems, but that might not happen. So ya, all bets are off. But we’re aiming for this – and beyond!
• 5 Kilometers
o Quick test - If you thought I was concerned about 3km, I’m more so about 5km. This might take a couple attempts. I’m not sure where our budget will take us, but I’m pretty sure we can achieve this. Maybe the robot can’t make it, but the Tethered Tower technology should be alright. This quick test will be a ‘simple’ ‘up and down’ trip. We just want to get it to full altitude and do a systems check for integrity and telemetry. Once that’s complete, we push it to an endurance test of just a few hours, perhaps 3. We want to ‘cold-sink’ the system before we try to climb further. This may backfire. We are still thinking about this. We might switch places and do the cold-sink test at the next level.
• 6.2 Kilometers!
o Why this weird number? It’s 3.85 miles… any guesses? What if I give you a hint and say 20327 feet? This goal is completely arbitrary in terms of science. We will test our systems, and push the communications, telemetry and robotic functions to their limit. Why? Because we want to climb a mountain… figuratively. Mount McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America, and we want to build our Tethered Tower taller. Can we? We don’t know – it’s science! But we’re gonna try! Whatever happens its gonna be a heck of a show!
Michael J. Laine, President, LiftPort Group