Press Release

NASA Extends Prize Funding for Space Elevator Challenges to 5 Years

By SpaceRef Editor
October 3, 2006
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NASA Extends Prize Funding for Space Elevator Challenges to 5 Years

Purses Furnished by NASA Centennial Challenges Totals $4 Million

Mountain View, CA – The Spaceward Foundation in collaboration with NASA today announced a significant expansion of the Power Beaming and Tether Challenges. These two events are collectively known as the Space Elevator Games as they focus on the two key technologies needed to build the Space Elevator.

The new agreement expands the time-frame of both the Beam Power and the Tether Challenges from one year to five years through the year 2010, and provides incrementally larger total purses for years two through five above the $200K purse in year one for each contest. For the second through the fifth years, the total prize purses to be offered for each competition each year are$300K, $400K, $500K, and $600K, respectively.

  • Who: The Spaceward Foundation, who is about to run the 2006 Space Elevator games.
  • What: Announcing ten-fold increase in NASA-provided prize purse, to $4,000,000 over the next 5 years.
  • When: The competition is annual through 2010.
  • Where: Mountain View, CA
  • Why: This lays the foundation to a solid 5-year plan that will foster the development of core Space Elevator technologies.

“This is a substantial commitment to our program” said Ben Shelef, Founder of the Spaceward Foundation. “The expanded prize purse and the 5 year commitment will attract serious attention to the research and development effort needed to build the Space Elevator.”

The event is to be held annually in conjunction with the X-PRIZE Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico in October.

The Tether Challenge centers on the creation of a material that combines light weight and incredible strength. Under this challenge, teams will develop high strength materials, such as carbon nanotube-based fabrics that will be stretched in a head-to-head competition to see which tether is strongest.

The Beam Power Challenge focuses on the development of wireless power transmission technologies for a wide range of exploration purposes, such as human lunar exploration and long-duration Mars reconnaissance. In this challenge, teams will develop wireless high-power transmission systems, including beam transmitters and receivers, to power robotic climbers and payloads to the top of a multi-story cable. Racing against the clock, the climber who carries the largest payload to the top in the shortest period of time wins the competition.

“Technology developments from these competitions have the potential to directly impact the Vision for Space Exploration,” said Ken Davidian of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program. “NASA is already benefiting a great deal from the amount of high-quality energy and innovation poured into all the Centennial Challenges competitions, and that’s before any team has even won a prize! The amazing part is that it’s all coming from a wide variety and large number of individuals and groups that NASA doesn’t normally reach,” he said.

“We are thrilled with our partnership with NASA and we’re excited to take the Tether and Beam Power challenges to the next level,” said Meekk Shelef, president of the Spaceward Foundation. ‘Building on our success of the 2005 competitions, we expect to continue to expand the scope of the event. This new commitment will allow us to increase our public outreach for these vital emerging space technologies. Most importantly, we must reach the next generation of budding engineers who will be the ones that actually build a space elevator!’

The space elevator concept was first introduced in the 1960s and has only recently garnered serious attention due to advances in materials and power transfer technologies. If built, a Space Elevator would provide a safe, low cost, way to launch payloads such as satellites into orbit.

The Spaceward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to furthering the cause of emerging space technologies and space access in educational curriculums and the public.

NASA’s Centennial Challenges promotes technical innovation through a novel program of prize competitions. It is designed to tap the nation’s ingenuity to make revolutionary advances to support the Vision for Space Exploration and NASA goals. The Centennial Challenges program is managed by NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program Office.

For more information on the Spaceward Foundation, visit:

For more information on the competitions, visit:

For more information about the Centennial Challenges on the Internet, visit:

About Spaceward:

The Spaceward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to furthering the cause of space access in educational curriculums and the public. For more information on the

Spaceward Foundation, visit Resources:

2005 Event Pictures:

NASA Centennial Challenges program: Space Elevator Information:

Media contact:

Marc Schwager
Spaceward Foundation, Mountain View, Calif.
Phone: 650/969-2010

SpaceRef staff editor.