Going up! Japan to test mini 'space elevator'

Going up! Japan to test mini 'space elevator'

Going up! Japan to test mini 'space elevator'

If it goes as expected and scientists believe the model can be replicated on a much larger scale, it could be the first part of an ambitious project that will see an elevator go from Earth to space.

The test involves a miniature elevator stand-in - a box just six centimetres (2.4 inches) long, three centimetres wide, and three centimetres high. Now, as Agence France-Presse reports, researchers at Japan's Shizuoka University will test elevator motion in space next week in a first-of-its-kind experiment in hopes of advancing the concept.

Once the satellites have been released from the ISS, a small motorised container will travel between the ends. 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).

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The space elevator concept was first proposed in 1895 by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who envisaged a cable reaching into space from the earth's equator.

Two tiny satellites will soon travel to the global space station.

In 2012, the Obayashi Corporation said it was setting up plans to make space elevators a reality, and to send the first tourists, by 2050.

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It 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 most hard part of the project will most likely be the cable, which is projected to be 96,000 kilometers (roughly 60,000 miles) long and built from carbon nanotubes, which, despite being incredibly strong, are also extremely fragile: if one carbon atom is out of place, it can cause the entire structure to rapidly "unweave" itself, causing a catastrophic failure. 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.

If Japan (or anyone) can successfully create a space elevator, we could have a low-priced way to deliver supplies and people to space - some experts predict the devices could cut the cost of transporting goods from $22,000 per kilogram ($10,000 per pound) to just $220 per kilogram ($100 per pound).

Some of the obstacles facing the out-of-this-world journey include a possible collision with space debris and meteorites, the transmission of electricity from Earth to space, and the development of special cables that are resistant to cosmic rays.

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