Future Tech

Japan To Conduct The First Test of Elevator To Space

Space: The Final Elevator Frontier

For over 100 years, scientists have been masterminding plans to build an elevator that would span from the Earth’s surface all the way up into space. While this may sound like a concept ripped directly from your favorite SYFY channel show, researchers from Japan’s Shizuoka University have actually developed a design that involves a vehicle traveling along a cable that’s capable of reaching outer space. Not only are they determined to make the concept a reality, but they’re also ready to conduct the first test of elevator movement in space.

How a space elevator might look (Shutterstock)

Honey, I Shrunk the Elevator

Using a miniature model of the actual “space elevator,” the Japanese team plans to test a box only 2.4 inches long and 1.1 inches high and wide. The theory is that at full scale, the box will be large enough to transport actual supplies to space.

On September 11th, Japan’s space agency will launch an H-2B rocket carrying two mini-satellites, one of which will contain the miniaturized elevator stunt double. Once out of the Earth’s atmosphere, motors will power the mini elevator like a celestial tightrope walker along a cable strung between the two mini-satellites positioned 10.9 yards apart from one another. Cameras on the satellites will monitor the motorized motion of the box.

The experiment is much simpler to do in space than it will be between Earth and space because as of right now, we don’t have a material strong enough to handle the forces involved. If the team from Shizuoka University can successfully create a space elevator, we could theoretically have a low-cost way to deliver supplies and people to space — some experts predict the devices could cut the cost of transporting goods from $22,000 per kilogram ($10,000 per pound) to just $220 per kilogram ($100 per pound). That’s a lot of space-time savings.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Reusable rockets have already made space transportation much cheaper, so by the time space elevator technology is completed, it might be redundant, but the test in itself is pretty awe-inspiring. Well, unless you stop and think about how many instances of social awkwardness could potentially occur during your average elevator ride to space.


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