Japan will test a miniature space elevator in near-earth orbit

Obayashi Company

Japanese scientists will carry out tests of the miniature “progenitor” of the space elevator this month – a nanosatellite will be launched into space, which will be divided into two halves, connected by a metal 10-meter cable, News Corp Australia Network reports with reference to the  newspaper “Minity” . The experiment will allow to check whether the project is being implemented and what difficulties the scientists will face.

In 2014, the Japanese corporation Obayashi said that it will build by 2050 a space elevator that can lift cargo to the altitude of the geostationary orbit – 36 thousand kilometers. Robotic “cabs” with the help of magnetic linear engines will reach the space platform at this altitude in seven days. At the same time, the new technology will make it possible to significantly reduce the cost of transporting the payload to orbit: as previously reported, the cost of delivery will be only $ 200. The total height of the system will be 96 thousand kilometers, since for stability it needs a counterweight.

On September 10, the Japanese cargo ship HTV-7 will start operating on the ISS, it will have two 10-centimeter STARS-Me CubeSat satellites developed by scientists from Shizuoka University together with Obayashi. The satellites will be sent to space from the ISS on September 11 as a single whole, and then both halves will have to separate, gradually unwinding the 10-meter metal cable. If the operation is successful, a miniature elevator or “motorized container” will move along it, as scientists call it. The cameras installed on the satellites will follow.Researchers will record any unforeseen fluctuations or deviations from the original orientation as the weight of the container changes. If successful, this could be the first step to proving the possibility of creating a cargo space elevator. “Theoretically, the idea of ​​building a space elevator looks quite convincing. Space travel can become something popular in the future “, – commented the head of the research group Yohji Ishikawa (Yoji Ishikawa).

This is not the first experiment of Japanese scientists with cable systems in space. Such cable systems are interesting not only as a prototype of the space elevator, but also as one of the ways to combat space debris. The cable released in space plays the role of a brake that can de- space debrisfrom orbit .

In particular, in 2009 and 2014, they were already sending space microsatellites of the STARS series that were supposed to release the Kevlar cable after launching into orbit and split into two halves, but both experiments were only partly successful, in one case telemetry was not received, in the other did not unroll the cable.

In 2016, the next unit of the series – STARS-C  – was delivered to the ISS by the cargo ship HTV-6. It was no longer a microsatellite, but an apparatus of the CubeSat standard, consisting of two independent “cubes”, which were to separate and remain connected with a cable. The device was sent into space from the Japanese module “Kibo”, but in this case, no data were received that the cable was deployed. With the same truck HTV-6, another cable experiment KITE was conducted , but in this case, success was not achieved .

Back to top button