KC Space Pirates

In pursuit of NASA loot.

Success: 2013

We successfully beat the Laser Powered flight endurance record by double. Our flight time was 25 hours, 0 Minutes and 35 seconds. This was done at the VOX theater in Kansas City, Kansas. We used a highly modified AR-Drone Quadcopter. We did this with 500 watts of laser power and non-exotic photovoltaic cells. Our total systems hardware costs were less than $30,000. I estimate this is well less than 1/3 of the 2009 record. Much of the hardware would cost even less if purchased today. This shows the exponential increase in human technological abilities is alive and well and that commercial laser powered flight applications are only a few years away. We can look forward to flying cell towers, autonomous shark patrols and countless other applications that only become practical with beam powered flight. Read More…

2012: A New Mission

The Dawn of Laser Powered Flight

So after the games were over we were sitting here with all of this power beaming tech stuffed in my garage along with a network of friends, teammates and sponsors. It made sense to look to develop the near term applications for power beaming. So I am announcing a new direction for the KC Space Pirates. Laser Powered Flight. In order for wireless power beaming to develop to all its grand expectations it has to find and take the path with stepping stones from here to there.....

The KC Space Pirates will take the next step in the development of laser powered flight and in the art of wireless power beaming. We will attempt to keep a one pound robotic aircraft flying continuously  The power will be provided via laser beams. Future applications, will save money, fuel, provide human services, and safer ways to conduct research. Read More…

2011 Updates and a Recap

Space Elevator development continues as the support community matures. ISEC.org  is doing a great job in that. Carbon nanotubes are progressing slower than hoped for but power beaming has proven itself ready and able to power the space elevator when needed. In 2011 NASA dropped the Space Elevator Games. A balance could not be found between an exciting enough competition and a risk competitors (like us) would be willing to take. We successfully pushed the cutting edge out of our own reach. Read More…

2010 Results

There was supposed to be another round of the power beaming challenge in 2010. Basically a grudge match between the top 3 teams to push the max speed over 5 m/s and claim the remaining $1.1 million in prize money. However management at NASA took the opportunity of having a winner to reinterpret Congressís authorization for the Centennial challenges. The specific clause was that only US citizens were eligible for the prize. Although USST, The Canadian team, had a US citizen as the administrative captain, the team was clearly Canadian and the money would have went to Canada. This led to a big delay while options were explored to avoid disqualifying the team that had placed first every year of the competition except the last. Read More…


Well I am o! to Photonics West. This is the trade show where just about all of my sponsors have a presence. I have been invited to do a poster presentation on Tuesday evening. It should be a good opportunity to talk with other people in the profession.

Kind of interesting how this all went from “game” and “hobby” to “profession”.
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2009 Results

Although it is all old news by now, Lasermotive won the 2 Meters per second prize of $900,000. This leaves the $1.1 Million prize for 5 m/s unclaimed.

USST did not climb any significant distance because their tracking system could not get and keep a GPS signal. I have speculated that this was due to static charges built up on the helicopter discharging repeatedly down the cable. I don't have any concrete evidence of this and any tests of this theory are expensive and unlikely to occur. I hate to see a competitor taken out by factors beyond their control. Almost as much as I hate to be taken out by factors that are within my control.

We finished second and out of the money. Although we had numerous problems that we were able to deal with effectively through our preparations and problem solving abilities.
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The Conan Show was a big hit. I managed not to choke and remained rather articulate through the 5 min interview. We did not however get to cover the competition, the team or the sponsors. They were on the list but I had no idea how fast time would fly. I felt that I was on for only 30 seconds. We clearly managed to inform thousands of viewers about the space elevator and raise awareness. I saw a big jump in web site visitors but only received 1 small donation. The show will be re-run at least once so even more may come of it. I will keep you posted. You can go watch the video on the NBC site if you missed it. We mechanically steered an beam! It was just a laser pointer and only in 1 dimension. Still it is a small but significant step in our mission. We are planning to go to the ISDC (International Space Development Conference) in Washington DC at the end of this month. I plan on meeting with potential supporters there and hopefully securing the funds needed for the rest of this year.


Big news. We have landed National Instruments as a sponsor. For those of you who don’t know them, they make the coolest automation software out there (LabVIEW) and all the hardware to go with it. Having high quality software and hardware will make this task far easier than it would have been otherwise and National Instruments is second to none.

Drum roll please ....

I am going to be interviewed about the Space Elevator on NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Date: Friday, May 2nd

Time: Very late. After the Tonight Show - Around 11:30pm in Kansas City

I have read reports estimating 2 million viewers. Needless to say I am excited and nervous. I am not sure how much the space elevator has been discussed on national network TV but this is clearly a big opportunity. Hope I don’t blow it.

Brian Turner
Captain, KC Space Pirates


Well our trip to San Jose was a success. After meeting with two laser companies we are happy to announce that we have an agreement to use the TRUMPF Trudisk 8002 industrial laser. This laser is the pinnacle of Industrial laser power and performance. It has an output of 8 kilowatts. We are very excited to have access to this laser.

The drawback is that the color of this laser is not well matched with the best solar cells. Our research has led us to believe we have a solution to this issue. We are going on an expedition to Detroit next week to test the underlying tech.
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The sails are up and the trade winds are a blowin'!

We have done some testing with low power lasers horizontally at 1km. We have lined up two di!erent Solar cell providers depending on what laser we end up using. We have one or two answers for every technical challenge we have anticipated. We have a few parts for the '08 climber in house that are awaiting testing along with some sketches of where to put them. Our focus has been in making sure we have a viable plan, but the fund raising environment seems warmer than last year.

We have recruited some more expertise this year to make sure we have all the skills needed. Read More…

2007 Competition Wrap-Up

Again we performed exceptionally well and nobody won. Click read more below for the whole story.
The good news is that we finished 2nd the bad news is that we did not finish fast enough to win the money. Our best time was 1:15. The first place team managed :54 seconds. They pulled this off in the last minutes of the last hour of the last day.

22 teams entered
8 teams showed
4 teams qualified
2 teams made credible runs for the money

We qualified on the very first hour of the very first day with a climb that was a factor of 5 stronger than the next nearest competitor. The other three qualifiers squeaked in with weather adjusted climbs in the closing hours of Thursday. Our qualifying climb had a top speed of 3.47 Meters per second (7.75MPH) Things went down hill from there. The weather got bad and kept us from having any good climbs to find the problems that would eventually make the difference between $0 and $500,000. Read More…

It's a Great Day to Be a Space Pirate

Well, I have 2 weeks worth of testing results to share. Week 1 had lots of broken cells, trouble with test equipment sub standard results, and poor weather. It's not like I am sure we will win every morning that I wake up. And last week was really rough on that point.

Today all of that changed. I called in the team and shared all of my uncertainties and pessimism with them. They pointed out a couple of things. Loosing was not an option, and if proper test data is what we need then let's buckle down and get that data. We spent the day testing in gorgeous sun and 99+ degree weather. We determined that the mirrors will deliver the goods all the way to the top. Read More…