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article imageJapan to conduct test of 'space elevator' project this month

By Karen Graham     Sep 4, 2018 in Science
A team made up of researchers at Shizuoka University and other institutions are set to conduct an experiment in September for a project to develop a "space elevator" connecting Earth and a space station by cable.
Japan's The Mainichi reported last week the experiment will be the first of its kind ever to be conducted in space. 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 test, to be conducted in space, is the first to explore the movement of a container on a cable in space. Two microsatellites, developed by Shizuoka University Faculty of Engineering, will be used. Each ultra-small satellite measures 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) on each side;
A 10 meter (32.8 feet) long steel cable will connect the two microsatellites. The test equipment will hitch a ride on an H-2B rocket being launched by Japan's space agency from the southern island of Tanegashima on September 11, headed to the International Space Station (ISS).
A Canadian company Thoth Technology  Inc. gets a patent for a 12-mile-high tower into space.
A Canadian company Thoth Technology, Inc. gets a patent for a 12-mile-high tower into space.
Thoth Technologies Inc.
Astronauts aboard the ISS will release the satellites from the ISS - along with a container acting like an elevator car that will be moved on a cable connecting the satellites using a motor. Cameras attached to the satellites will record the movement of the "elevator" as it moves between the two satellites.
Japan's construction giant Obayashi Corporation has been acting as a technical advisor in the project. It just so happens the company has been working on a similar project and said in 2014 they would be launching a space elevator in 2050.
According to the company, the space elevator would be constructed using carbon nanotube technology. At 200 kilometers per hour, the design's 30-passenger climber would be able to reach the GEO level after a 7.5-day trip. At the time, most people said the announcement was made largely to provide publicity for the opening of one of the company's other projects in Tokyo.
Space elevator dreams are real
A space elevator is still a far cry from the ultimate beam-me-up goals of the project, which builds on a long history of "space elevator" dreams. The concept first came to light in 1895 when Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Artist Pat Rawling s concept of a space elevator viewed from the geostationary transfer station look...
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. (September 7, 2000).
He considered a similar tower that reached all the way into space and was built from the ground up to the altitude of 35,786 kilometers (22,236 miles), the height of geostationary orbit. Tsiolkovsky's conceptual tower was a compression structure, while modern concepts call for a tensile structure or "tether."
Before anyone totally dismisses the idea of a space elevator from Earth to a stationary space station thousands of miles above the planet, bear in mind there have always been technical barriers that have kept the dream in the conceptual stage. One thing holding back the dream is the development of a very high-strength cable that also needs to be very lightweight. And such a cable must be resistant to high-energy cosmic rays.
And not to play the devil's advocate, but there is also the risk of some satellite in orbit hitting the space elevator on its trip up or down the cable. Some pessimists might say we already have enough stuff flying around the planet, as it is, so we will just have to wait and see what happens with this unique project.
More about Japan, Technology, Space Elevator, microsatellites, transportation system
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