Japan to test mini space elevator

• A Japanese team has developed a ‘space elevator’ and will conduct the first trial this month, blasting off a miniature version on satellites to test the technology.

• The test equipment, produced by researchers at Shizuoka University, will hitch a ride on an H-2B rocket being launched by Japan’s space agency from the southern island of Tenegashima next week.

• The test involves a miniature elevator stand-in – a box just 6 cm long, 3 cm wide, and 3 cm high.

• It all goes well, it will provide proof of concept by moving along a 10-metre cable suspended in space between two mini-satellites that will keep it taut.

• The mini-elevator will travel along the cable from a container in one of the satellites. Its going to be the world’s first experiment to test elevator movement in space.

• The movement of the motorized ‘elevator’ box will be monitored with cameras in the satellites.

• 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 idea was first proposed in 1895 by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky after he saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and was revisited nearly a century later in a novel by Arthur C. Clarke.

• But technical barriers have always kept plans stuck at the conceptual stage.

• Japanese construction firm Obayashi, which is collaborating with the Shizuoka university project, is also exploring other ways to build its own space elevator to put tourists in space in 2050.

• The company has said it could use carbon nanotube technology, which is more than 20 times stronger than steel, to build a lift shaft about 96,000 km above the earth.

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