Category Archives: The High Frontier

SSI Supermodels (part 2): Make your own SSI Mass Driver

[looking for part 1 – the O’Neill Cylinder Model?  click here!]

In the early 1980s, Dr. Richard Woodbridge III, a Princeton graduate and retired Vice-President of the New York Life Insurance Company was SSI’s Executive Vice President. The SSI Conference Proceedings and SSI Update Newsletter Archives document much of Dr. Woodbridge’s excellent volunteer work for the Institute, but one little thing he did seems to have stuck in the minds of many long-time SSI Associates: The 3 page paper “How To Make A Model Mass Driver.”

Mass Driver Model page 1
Mass Driver Model project page 1

 

This short document gave everyone with a little extra weekend time the hands-on experience and personal pride of building a conceptual model of one of the most important engineering aspects of The High Frontier Concept.

The SSI Mass Driver is *THE* mechanism to cost effectively launch the raw materials that make those huge SSI Space Manufacturing Facilities, Island Colonies and civilization-changing Solar Power Satellites.

The biggest restriction to such HUGE engineering projects is the cost of lifting the dumb mass of their infrastructures – not the high tech parts, those add up to only a small percentage of the total weight and established rocket technologies can handle that – it’s the dumb support structures that can not be lifted economically from the surface of the Earth. But lifting the raw mass from the surface of the Moon or from Asteroids is a totally different cost structure… when you add the simplicity of the Mass Driver technology.

This small model is a very low powered concept project. It dosn’t have any photoelectric beam detection to automatically turn on the switch as the driver is coming near – a series of these and timing to alternate the currents to provide pull and push forces at the proper moments is how you get the huge speeds in short runs. And this model running at your house doesn’t have the vacuum or the low temperatures that make the Mag-Lev guide system of a real Mass Driver as amazingly efficient. But it IS a working model of the coil pull part of the equation.

It’s a thought starter, great for anyone who has been looking for a jump start warm up project to get the wheels turning on Space Manufacturing and it’s excellent for kids in grades 5-12 looking for a unique Science Fair presentation. Plus, as I found when making mine for the video, it’s just plain fun.

You can just watch the video on the SSI YouTube Channel but to get the full picture you should take the few minutes to read the text of the original paper below; It adds extra enhancements that can make your model a bit more exciting than the one I made for demonstration.

By the way, after seeing that pre-wound spools of 18-20 gauge wire weren’t being wound as accurately as companies had done in the past, I got actual original Radio Shack wire spools on Amazon for just a few bucks, and Home Depot sold me the doorbell button for a penny. In all, the cost was about ten dollars and I did the whole thing in about ten minutes (including the time spent swearing about burning the insulation near the solder point – D’OH!)

***

HOW TO MAKE A MODEL MASS DRIVER
BY RICHARD G. WOODBRIDGE III

HOW A MASS DRIVER WORKS

A mass driver has four parts:

1. The MASS that shoots out into space.
2. The DRIVER that pushes the mass out and then stays behind to be used again.
3. The ENERGIZING COILS that make the driver move, and
4. The ELECTRICITY, in our model from a battery, which moves through the energizing coils turning them into a magnet which draws the driver into the inside of the coils, pushing the mass, then stopping the driver. The mass shoots out into space.

Space Studies Institute Make It Yourself Mass Driver image 1

Space Studies Institute make it yourself Mass Driver image 2

HERE ARE THE PARTS YOU CAN USE:

The MASS. Use a small piece of wood from a wooden match, or toothpick, or twig. Or a small brass screws. That is – something that is not iron or magnetic.

The DRIVER. This must be of iron like a piece iron rod and it must be thin enough to fit inside the plastice drinking straw. A Number 6 or Number 8 Finishing nail works well. A Finishing Nail is a nail with hardly any head.

The ENERGIZING COILS. You can get from a store that sells electronic parts HOOK-UP WIRE that is wound on a hollow plastic core. Get from Radio Shack a spool of No. 18 gauge hook-up wire, 55 feet, stranded. One end of the coil is free on the outside. The other end of the coil sticks out into the inside of the spool. So, you have an energizing coil right there. Scrape the insulation off each wire about a half an inch. This may be tricky for the end that sticks out into the hollow core is short.

The ELECTRICITY. Use a 6 volt lantern battery.

The PLASTIC DRINKING STRAW. You can get from your grocery store (and many other stores). Whatever you get needs to be about 1/4 an inch in diameter and smooth inside.

The SWITCH. At your hardware store get a doorbell button.

DIRECTIONS:

Connect the wires as shown. Put the drinking straw through the spool of wire as near the center as you can. you can pack tissue or modeling putty around the straw to hold it in place. Put in the piece of match stick (which is the MASS), and then put in the nail behind it just so the head end slightly enters the coils.

Press the switch and hold it down a second. The DRIVER will be drawn into the coil. The MASS will fly out the other end. The DRIVER will stay behind.

You have made a mass driver! Not very spectacular, but is is a mass driver.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

To make the mass driver more powerful add another 6 volt battery, that is, in series, the plus of one battery to the minus of the other.

A word about what is happening. Do you remember where it is said to hold the switch down for a second? Well, if you let the switch up too soon the coil cannot stop the DRIVER and the DRIVER will shoot out. That is because thie coil does not have the time to draw the DRIVER back before the electricity is turned off.

Also, if you happen to lift the switch, that is stop the electricity just as the DRIVER is being drawn back, the DRIVER may shoot out the back of the tube. So, WARNING, do not get in front of the mass driver. Do not get in back of the mass driver. And do not let anyone else!

A WORD ABOUT COILS

If you cannot for some reason get a hold of the inside end of the coil there are two choices, unwind the coil, get the other end, and rewind it on the same spool, or better yet, though it is fairly hard to do, wind you own coil. If you do wind you own coil then you can have a much more powerful mass driver!

A MORE POWERFUL MASS DRIVER:

The idea is simple, make the wire of the coils much closer to the drinking straw. You could wind the wire right on the drinking straw, but that is very hard to do because the drinking straw is not very strong.

It is best to wind the wire on a piece of a wooden dowel, 1/4 inch in diameter. This wil give you a coil with a center hole (after pulling the dowel out) into which you can slide on the drinking straw. Make the new coil about two inches long and wind all 55 feet on it. The sounds easy, but it is not. It is best to think of rolling the wire on the dowel by turning the dowel and unrolling the wire from the spool.

As you wind, try to keep each winding touching the one before it. You will find that the windings tend to separate one from another and fall apart, stick them together using pieces of tape sticky pieces you can cut off the ends of plastic Band-Aids. you can also use a piece of this sticky tape to fix the wire on the dowel when you start winding. Finish by coating several times with clear nail polish.

ALTERNATIVES

WIRE: Can use Bell Wire (from your hardware store) or 20 gauge hook-up wire.
WINDING: Can wind coil on a wooden pencil. A No. 2 of No.3.
BATTERY: Can use a 10 volt lantern battery.
IDEAS: Make scenery for the mass driver, like on the surface of the Moon or Mars or put out in space with the stars. You can set things up so that a little light flashes on when the switch is turned on, Use your imagination.

IMPORTANT PARTS AND COSTS

Battery – 6 volt lantern battery. Hardware store. $8.40
Wire – Spool of Hook-Up Wire, 18 gauge, stranded, 55 feet. From Radio Shack $2.19
Switch – Doorbell button. Hardware store. $2.40

Copyright 1986 by Richard G. Woodbridge III

***

fyi: we have recently found a trove of photographs of the making of the original SSI and SSI/MIT Mass Drivers. We’ll be releasing those in a special way soon. Also, there are a LOT of MD related items in the SSI Newsletter Archives including one issue from Summer 1980 where Gerry dedicates a whole article to details that will make perfect sense to anyone  who has made their own simple working model.

High Frontier giveaway results are in

This note comes a little late as I was in DC the past few days for SSI (more on that to come soon).

We want all SSI Associates to know that we’ve added up the worldwide free units from our Apollo 11 Anniversary week High Frontier Kindle edition giveaway and over 1700 (1742 to be exact) new Kindle copies are now in the hands of readers.

Added to the copies from the first giveaway, back when SSI had just released the Kindle Edition, that makes around 6500 in total that we have given away for free.  And remember, because Kindle lets a person only claim one copy per account for all time instead of allowing any “loading up” of extra copies that can take away from the reality of the numbers – these 6500 represent actual individual readers (on top of the thousands who buy The High Frontier Kindle Edition at the regular low price).

Many thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about the giveaway, and now that the book is in your Kindle libraries, don’t just let it sit there, take the next step:  READ the High Frontier.

We look forward to hearing your opinions and reviews and – we truly mean this – seeing what tangible things you are inspired to work on and share with fellow SSI Associates that will prove that The High Frontier is more than just a good book.  Let us all see where it takes you and how you are an active and real part of The Human Breakout Into Space.

Get The High Frontier right now for FREE!

Pass this information to everyone on your friend list!

On July 20th, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made Human History by being the first to walk on another world. The landing on the Moon was a dream born in our pre-history that came true by hard work, perseverance and by the firm belief that Human Beings are not meant to be limited.

The Moon landing proved that with dedication we can take what may seem to be out of reach into our very own hands.

The Space Studies Institute commemorates this monumental achievement by expressing sincere thanks to the many, many people who worked to make the Apollo program and the precursor Gemini and Mercury phases a reality.

It is our hope that the big dream continues and that the Human Breakout into Space will move ahead with a strong new generation of hard working and dedicated Engineers. And to that end SSI is proud to announce that right now we are giving away ‘the book that launched a thousand space careers’, Gerard K. O’Neill’s “The High Frontier – Human Colonies in Space” for free on all Kindle apps and devices.

The All Time Classic: Gerard K. O'Neill's The High Frontier
The All Time Classic: Gerard K. O’Neill’s The High Frontier

The High Frontier is the landmark book that asks (and answers) the question that has been sitting like an elephant in the room since that “One Small Step” left its mark in the unchanging lunar dust:

“Is a planetary surface – ANY planetary surface – really the best place for an expanding technological civilization?”

 

 

The Apollo 11 Anniversary is said to make “Space” formost in people’s minds every year, but is it really “Space” that popular culture is speaking of in the ongoing arguments over a “Return to the Moon” versus a “Mission to Mars”? Space is Space, it’s the place where size is not limited by gravity wells or rocket fairings, the place where energy is not limited by atmospheres or dwindling ancient reserves and where room to grow is not limited by someone else’s right to their own desired elbow room.

Space is the place where there are no limits at all and where benefits to ALL of Humanity – everywhere – are free for the using with no harm to anyone.

Sound far fetched? Sound Utopian and unachievable? Until a person reads The High Frontier for themselves, they should be careful about jumping to any conclusions.

Right now – but only for a limited time – you can put the SSI Kindle Edition of The High Frontier in your Kindle library forever for free.

The SSI Kindle edition includes all of Professor O’Neill’s 1988 updated text, the wonderful preface by Kathy Sullivan (Veteran Shuttle Astronaut, the first American woman to walk in Space, current Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), plus this edition features the Pat Rawlings cover art and all of the original interior illustrations by Donald Davis.

All you need is your Amazon account and a Kindle app (free for Windows, OSX, iOS and Android) or a dedicated Kindle device such as any Kindle eInk reader or Kindle Fire tablet. Sign into your Amazon account and go to The High Frontier SSI Kindle Edition web page by clicking this link. Verify the price of $0.00 in the upper right corner of the page and click the Buy Now button (note that our free offer is not the Kindle Unlimited option).

thf_amafreeb

Then just start your Kindle device or app and sync your library to see The High Frontier in your cloud list. Download and start reading.

With Kindle whispersync you can read a bit on your phone while in the line at the grocery store, then pick up where you left off on your tablet while relaxing at home and continue from there on your work computer during lunch break. Kindle makes reading seemless across devices and right now SSI makes it free.

If you’ve never read The High Frontier for yourself you are in for a life changing experience – it is not what you may have been lead to believe. If you haven’t re-read The High Frontier in a while there is a very good chance that some of the details may surprise you all over again.

Gerard K. O’Neill’s The High Frontier is a true classic in Space and Engineering circles and yet it is also 100% readable and understandable by everyone. O’Neill, a world renowned nuclear physicist who was driven by Engineering details, had the gift to make big – VERY big – things make absolute sense. And it is now our gift to you.

Celebrate the anniversary of The One Small Step and The One Giant Leap by looking beyond “Missions” to a life worth living for everyone in Space. The High Frontier is amazingly practical, it’s do-able with technology we’ve had for decades… and it’s free for you right now. To get your own copy, just click this link.

This free offer is for a limited time only, a free Amazon.com account and official Kindle app or device is required and Amazon may place certain restrictions on international ordering.  Get the Kindle app for PC or Mac here, or download the app for Android or iOS from their respective App Stores. This promotion will end on Saturday July 23rd, the exact end time is determined by Amazon systems and servers and is not under SSI’s control so we urge you to take advantage of this promotion as soon as possible.

During this promotion no proceeds from claimed copies will benefit the work of The Space Studies Institute so if you enjoy The High Frontier book we ask you to join SSI as an Associate and personally pledge to support the ongoing work that can make The High Frontier a reality in your lifetime.

99 Percent Invisible Radio/Podcast on Gerard K. O’Neill

99 Percent Invisible, the very popular podcast production company, has just released a wonderful audio episode about Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill titled “Home On LaGrange.”

Producer Katie Mingle spoke with SSI co-founder Tasha O’Neill, SSI’s second president Dr. Freeman Dyson and “The Visioneers” author Patrick McCray, assembled a wide collection of audio pieces from the history of The High Frontier concept and blended together a story that flows smoothly, touching both the technical and personal aspects of what NewSpace Industry insiders call “The Vision.”

The first link below will take you to that episode’s page where a bit of text and many classic Don Davis and Rick Guidice images are presented.  Along with viewing that page, please make sure that you click the link to play the audio episode.   It is very nicely done.

We know that many SSI Associates and Alumni come from Engineering backgrounds but remember the target audience of this piece is folks who may be just dipping their toes into the limitless potential of The High Frontier.  That is to be encouraged.  Listen to the audio and, if you are so inclined, leave a comment on the episode page pointing to the good that you hear.  Producers and writers should be thanked for their efforts and encouraged by the experts in their audiences.  As software people say “there’s always V2… but only if V1 gets some positive response.”

This is a very nice piece.

direct to the episode page: http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/home-on-lagrange/

If your device has difficulty playing the audio from that page, try the iTunes download (the episode is on this list as “217 Home on LaGrange”) https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/99-invisible/id394775318?mt=2

And you can get the audio via soundcloud also, using this link: https://soundcloud.com/roman-mars/217-home-on-lagrange