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Space & Astronomy

Japan set to test miniature space elevator

September 6, 2018 | Comment icon 18 comments



Is it possible to build an elevator in to space ? Image Credit: NASA
Scientists in Japan are aiming to one day build an elevator that can carry people and cargo in to orbit.
The idea of building a space elevator to bypass the need for expensive rocket launches is something that has been mulled over by scientists and engineers for years.

While the idea itself certainly has merit, finding a material capable of sustaining such an enormous structure has long proven to be a problem - as has developing a way to construct something that would ultimately need to be tens of thousands of miles high.

Now in a renewed bid to turn this idea into reality, scientists at Japan's Shizuoka University have been working with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to launch a trial mission that will see a miniature payload being transported between two cubesats.
This small-scale demonstration of a space elevator concept, which will go ahead next week, will involve a cable only ten meters long and an 'elevator' a mere 6 centimeters long.

If the test works however it will show that the idea of a space elevator really does have potential.

"It's going to be the world's first experiment to test elevator movement in space," said a spokesman.

Source: Popular Mechanics | Comments (18)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by L.A.T.1961 4 years ago
  It could be built in a stable geological area of the globe but Japan does have big transport systems that have to be earthquake proof. Super conducting magnets/coils could be used for propulsion.   What is needed is something like this, but pointed up    
Comment icon #10 Posted by keithisco 4 years ago
I think it was Arthur C Clark that wrote Fountains of Paradise...what a great book that is! Now, as then, we simply do not have a material with sufficient tensile strength to support its own weight up to a likely La Grange Point and this japanese experiment will not provide "Proof of Concept" as stated because it is nowhere near representative of conditions that a Space Elevator would need be built in.  Source: New Scientist
Comment icon #11 Posted by danydandan 4 years ago
It would need to be build upon thin and wispy spindles.
Comment icon #12 Posted by XenoFish 4 years ago
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10180-huge-launch-ring-to-fling-satellites-into-orbit/amp/
Comment icon #13 Posted by Calibeliever 4 years ago
Doh! Of course it was... whadisay?  *sigh* Senior moment  
Comment icon #14 Posted by keithisco 4 years ago
Dont beat yourself up...I was just having one of my lucid moments - at my age they become less frequent 
Comment icon #15 Posted by Bunzilla 4 years ago
My thoughts exactly. We all know that the idea could work in theory, but finding a material with a high enough tensile strength and the logistics of actually constructing the thing, none of that will be addressed with this test. I've always loved the idea, but a ten meter long test model won't do much. Wouldn't a computer model give more accurate results? You could plug in all the data about changing gravity and atmosphere, material strength, wind sheer, ground instability, etc. Though I just thought of another problem. I believe part of the concept of space elevators was that one end would be... [More]
Comment icon #16 Posted by L.A.T.1961 4 years ago
I would think a computer model would be just as informative as this particular experiment. A stable orbit for a space elevator is not necessarily required, if the terminus moved around it need not stop the system from working as long as it was within limits. From what I have seen discussed in the past points along the elevator would have control thrusters and these would keep the whole thing aligned. Thrusters would also allow some controlled snaking to avoid space debris or even satellites if required.   
Comment icon #17 Posted by Bunzilla 4 years ago
But wouldn't having thrusters on such a large structure negate the positive aspects of a space elevator? I'm talking about having the end most likely come crashing back down to earth since that's what most manmade structures in orbit seem to do. Though I suppose thrusters at that end to keep it in place might indeed work. But we're still dealing with fuel consumption in that case. How often does the ISS have to use its thrusters to keep in orbit, and how much fuel does it use? It may still outweigh the negatives.
Comment icon #18 Posted by L.A.T.1961 4 years ago
The general idea is that the forces involved due to gravity and Earth's spin on the lift cancel out, so there is no thrust required to keep the structure upright. There would be tidal gravitational effects caused by the moon but it would not create enough movement to cause a collapse. Thrusters would be fitted at intervals along the lift's length and should only need to provide low thrust, mainly for station keeping.    


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