Science

Going up! Japan to test mini ‘space elevator’

Going up! Japan to test mini ‘space elevator’”

A Japanese team will be testing the world's first miniature space elevator that will be carried on an H-2B rocket and launched from the island of Tanegashima next week with equipment supplied by Shizuoka University.

It will travel along a 10-meter (32.8-foot) cable suspended in space between two small satellites released from the International Space Station, according to the Mainichi.

The Japanese are preparing to test a prototype space Elevator. "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. And if the experiment works, it could be a step in the right direction toward realizing the dream of traveling to space by elevators instead of the traditional rocket. The cable will be stretched between two small satellites, both of which are equipped with cameras to monitor the movements of the elevator.

The idea was first proposed in 1895 by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky after he saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and was revisited almost a century later in a novel by Arthur C. Clarke.

Once the small satellites reach the ISS, they will be deployed in space, again, with a small, motorized elevator vehicle that will travel along the cable that connects the sats.

Of course the ultimate goal is to create an elevator that brings one from Earth all the way up into space.

The experiment is supported by Obayashi, a corporation that ever since 2014 announced it plans to have a space elevator up and running by the middle of the century.

Artist Pat Rawling's concept of a space elevator viewed from the geostationary transfer station looking down along the length of the elevator toward Earth. If successful, early tests of the project could see the first movement of a container to space via cable. Such cable must have a good protection against high-energy cosmic rays.

It is expected that the elevators will travel at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour, that is, from Earth to the ISS they will take about 8 days. Currently, no material has proven strong enough to survive the stresses placed on the elevator cable by the tug of gravity and wind in the upper atmosphere.



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