Rocket launches are very expensive and dangerous. But By the SpaceX resumable rockets, it reduces a huge amount of rocket launch cost. But it’s not enough. One concept that seems straight out of science fiction could solve these problems: a space elevator connecting Earth and space. And now Japanese engineers are about to start testing one.
Researchers of Shizuoka University, working with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will begin trials on a small scale, mx version of a first space elevator in the upcoming week.
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The test is very small and simple, the tiniest step towards an actual elevator to the stars. This space elevator will consist of a small box like 2.4 inches long, 1.18 inches wide, and 3 cm high. This box will move along a 10-meter cable suspended in orbit between two small CubeSats. This movement will be observed with cameras inside of the satellites.
“It’s going to be the world’s first experiment to test elevator movement in space,” a university spokesperson told the AFP news in an interview.
There are several kinds of technical reasons why space elevators have not been seriously attempted before. Almost 100 years ago space elevator was originally dreamed up by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895. Chief among them is that a cable capable moving from the surface of the planet through orbit all the way to a counterpoint in space would have to lighter and stronger than any known material due to the extreme stresses it would face.
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A Japanese construction company Obayashi, which is collaborating with Shizuoka University, has had the goal of building a space elevator by 2050 for years. The company announced its plan in 2014, it said that the “current technologies is not yet sufficient to full fill this project, but our plan is realistic.”
That plan involves building a 96,000-kilometer carbon nanotube cable, a 400-meter diameter ‘Earth Port’ here on the ground, and a 12,500-ton counter-weigh in space. Carbon nanotubes have more tensile strength than steel, which would not be up to such an intense task, though they haven’t been constructed or tested at such a mammoth scale.
While the difficulties of building such an elevator are astronomical, the potential for financial benefits is equally large. Preliminary studies based on hypotheticals have proposed that space elevators would bring the cost of moving cargo to space down to $100 per pound compared to current launch costs of $10,000-$40,000 per pound. Such a decrease would have the potential to radically lower the price of a space travel.
But first, before further development for this project obviously tests is needed
Why 96k kms? Geo Stationary orbit is only 36k kms. It would be useful to know how many cables will be used in parallel