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Japan To Test Mini ‘Cosmic Elevator’ In World First

A Japanese team of researchers at Shizuoka University will experiment this month in low-Earth orbit to eventually develop a “cosmic elevator” connecting Earth and the space station by cable.

The International Space Station (ISS) will launch two miniature satellites later this month, tied together by a 10-meter long steel cable, as it is the first step towards what could eventually become a large space elevator in the decades to come.

According to a report in Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun news service, two ultra-small cubic satellites, which were developed by Shizuoka University Faculty of Engineering, will be released from the ISS after September 11, joined together via a 10-meter-long steel cable.

Once released from the ISS, the satellites will deploy the cable and a motorized container simulating an elevator car. A series of tests will be conducted with the container moving up and down on the wire, as sensors on the satellites will record the movements of the object in a weightlessness environment.

Mainichi Shimbun notes that an experiment to extend a cable in space has been carried out before, the upcoming test will be the first to move a container on a wire in low-Earth orbit. If all goes well, it will provide proof of concept, as it will serve as a step forward toward realizing cosmic elevators.

“In theory, a space elevator is highly plausible. Space travel may become something popular in the future,” said Yoji Ishikawa, 63, who leads the research team.

Major contractor Obayashi Corp., which is participating in the experiment as a technical adviser, is examining a space elevator of its own. The company has conceptualized a space elevator pod — each measuring 18 meters long and 7.2 meters in diameter will have a load capacity of roughly 30 people. The Earth-based platform would be set up at sea and connect with a space station some 36,000 kilometers in altitude will be used to move the elevator up and down using an electric motor pulley.

Should a space elevator be realized, the Obayahi elevator system could be built by the year 2050 and have an estimated cost of roughly $9 billion.

So far, Obayashi’s technology is many decades away as the material for special cable is still in the development phase. In 2015, Elon Musk tweets that space elevators cannot exist until carbon nanotube or graphene structures are built longer than a footbridge…

Professor Yoshio Aoki of Nihon University College of Science and Technology, who supervises Obayashi Corp.’s space elevator project, said, “It is essential for industries, educational institutions and the government to join hands together for technological development.”

We are sure the Bank of Japan would be a prime candidate to fund space elevators…