Published: Thu, September 06, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Which floor? Japan to test mini ‘space elevator’

Which floor? Japan to test mini ‘space elevator’

While the concept is great, the actual building of one could be close to impossible to achieve, but a group of Japanese physicists from the Shizuoka University are planning to build one and by this month end, even conduct a few tests in space. Two microsatellites, developed by Shizuoka University Faculty of Engineering, will be used. Two ultra-small cubic satellites measuring 10 centimeters on each side connected by a steel cable about 10 metres long will be carried from Kagoshima's Tanegashima Space Center to the International Space Station on September 11.

A university spokesman told AFP on Tuesday "It's going to be the world's first experiment to test elevator movement in space, '". "In Japan, the space elevator is practically a part of the national psyche due in part to a deep expertise by Japanese researchers in the fields of robotics and carbon nanotube technology, starting with the 1991 discovery of carbon nanotubes by Japanese researcher Sumio Iijima", as Michelle Z. Donahue explained for Smithsonian.com in 2016.

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In 2014, Obayashi Corporation, a construction firm collaborating on the project, announced its capacity to build a $9-billion commercial space elevator by 2050. Rocket H-IIB, which will launch from Tanegashima island, has put into orbit two small satellites, between which is spanned by a rope of length 10 metres.

If everything works as planned, though, space elevators could be the key to easy access to space-the cost of transporting material into space could drop from $22,000 per kilogram to just a fraction of that, removing one of the biggest barriers (cost) from space travel. Its journey will be recorded via cameras that are installed on the satellites. The concept first came to light in 1895 when Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The cable itself would need to be tethered to a stationary mass beyond geostationary orbit that would keep it taut.

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Scientists will test how they behave on-orbit satellites, which are connected by a special cable. Such cable must have a good protection against high-energy cosmic rays.

The company has plans to build six elevators, each measuring 18m in length by 7.2m in diameter, which could hold 30 people each and travel at 200km an hour.

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"Right now we can't make the cable long enough".

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