Japan is taking us one step closer to a space elevator.
Elon Musk may not believe in space elevators yet, but Japan is taking a step forward to realise the dream of travelling to space by elevators instead of the traditional rocket.
A team of researchers from Japan's Shizuoka University and other institutions will conduct the first test in space this month as part of a project to build a space elevator, Japan's The Mainichi reported last week. The space elevator essentially ferries people and cargo shipments in an elevator car travelling on a cable connecting Earth to a space station.
This test is the first exploring the movement of a container on a cable in space. Two ultra-small cubic satellites measuring 10 centimeters on each side connected by a steel cable about 10 metres long will be carried from Kagoshima's Tanegashima Space Center to the International Space Station on Sept. 11.
From there, the connected satellites will be launched and a motorised container acting as an elevator car will travel along the cable and have its journey recorded via a camera attached to the satellites.
The project's technical advisor, Japan's construction giant Obayashi Corporation, is also working on a similar project, though it previously said it expects to deliver a space elevator by 2050.
(Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 04 2018, @05:48PM (1 child)
Quite. But a rocket doesn't *really* care much unless your payload is pushing it's operational limits. Even the equator is moving at only 460m/s, while at 40*latitude it's moving at 356m/s. Meanwhile LEO speed is over 7,000m/s - a 100m/s boost is handy, but it's still just a difference of 1.4%. Saves some fuel, but fuel is the cheapest part of a typical launch, and it's a rare payload that pushes the limits of its launch vehicle.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04 2018, @08:10PM
"it's a rare payload that pushes the limits of its launch vehicle."
Building such a thing will require many flights with many international payloads. The infrastructure costs alone are enormous, and uneccessarily redundant. There really needs to be a space port in a free trade zone, with a WTO/UN sanctioned policy that it may be used for non-military flights, by any country. There are only a few places in the world that have natural economic advantages for this sort of thing. If any of them built such an FTZ, they could probably bring millions of dollars in trade to their shores. Because even if, we are just talking a 1% payload availability increase, that still represents millions if not billions of dollars over the lifecycle of something like the ISS, space elevator or skyhook.