Japan is Going to Test the World’s First ‘Space Elevator’

A team of Japanese researchers working on a “space elevator” will run its first trial through a miniature version next week.

The test equipment will piggyback on an H-2B rocket from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launching from the island of Tanegashima.

Researchers at Shizuoka University developed the miniature elevator, which comes in the form of a box measuring 2.4 inches long, three centimeters wide and three centimeters high.

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.

A space elevator concept. Image via imgur

The test will be filmed by cameras attached to the satellites.

“It’s going to be the world’s first experiment to test elevator movement in space,” a spokesperson told AFP.

A space elevator concept. Image via NASA

The idea of space elevators was first proposed by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895.

The ultimate goal is to connect Earth and a space station through cables, which would allow access for cargo shipments and space tourism.

Image via Obayashi Corporation

In 2014, Obayashi Corporation, a construction firm collaborating on the project, announced its capacity to build a $9-billion commercial space elevator by 2050.

The structure — composed of a 96,000-kilometer (59,650-mile) carbon nanotube cable, a 400-meter (1,312-foot) diameter floating Earth Port and a 12,500-ton (11.3 million-kilogram) counterbalance — will have the capacity to carry 100-ton (90,700-kilogram) climbers.

Image via Obayashi Corporation

Obayashi believes that the elevator will be ready in 2050 provided that carbon nanotubes become scalable by 2030.

“The tensile strength is almost a hundred times stronger than steel cable so it’s possible,” research and development manager Yoji Ishikawa told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“Right now we can’t make the cable long enough. We can only make 3-centimetre-long nanotubes but we need much more… we think by 2030 we’ll be able to do it.”

Carbon nanotubes “spun” to form a yarn. Image via Wikimedia Commons / CSIRO (CC BY 3.0)

Japan, however, is not alone in its goal of building space elevators. The International Space Elevator Consortium — which held a three-day conference last month — is coordinating efforts to achieve a collective feat.

Featured Image via Obayashi Corporation

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