Sunday, September 23, 2018

Japan Launches Mini-Space Elevator Experiment to International Space Station

                                             Diagram of a space elevator.  At the bottom of the tall diagram is the Earth as viewed from high above the North Pole. About six earth-radii above the Earth an arc is drawn with the same center as the Earth.  The arc  depicts the level of geosynchronous orbit.  About twice as high as the arc and directly above the Earth's center, a counterweight is depicted by a small square.  A line depicting the space elevator's cable connects the counterweight to the equator directly below it.  The system's center of mass is described as above the level of geosynchronous orbit.  The center of mass is shown roughly to be about a quarter of the way up from the geosynchronous arc to the counterweight.  The bottom of the cable is indicated to be anchored at the equator.  A climber is depicted by a small rounded square.  The climber is shown climbing the cable about one third of the way from the ground to the arc. Another note indicates that the cable rotates along with the Earth's daily rotation, and remains vertical.
This graphic shows the concept of an Earth to Earth-orbit Space Elevator. Japan has launched an experiment, to be managed by astronauts on the International Space Station, of a very small version of such a Space Elevator. (Image Source:

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

After a launch delay of nearly 2 weeks, due to a Pacific Ocean typhoon and some unspecified technical problems, Japan has now [on September 22 at 1:52 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 17:52 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) / Sept. 23, 2:52 a.m. Japan Standard Time] launched a mini-Space Elevator experiment to the International Space Station (ISS). Well known to fans of science-fiction, a true, operable Space Elevator, between the Earth and Earth-orbit, could potentially reduce the cost of moving payloads to Earth orbit by a significant amount.

The launch, originally scheduled the evening of September 10 (the morning of September 11, Japanese time), was delayed by Typhoon Mangkhut which had threatened the U.S. territory of Guam. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) uses a NASA ground-based satellite tracking station on Guam, which is needed to receive data during the launch of JAXA's H-IIB rocket.

Once deployed in Outer Space from the ISS, this mini-experiment of the Space Elevator concept will consist of 2 ultra-small cubic satellites, known as “cube-sats,” connected by a steel cable. A small container, something like a mini-trolley-car or mini-elevator-car, will then travel between the 2 cube-sats using its own motor. Cameras attached to each cube-sat will record the movement of the small container.

Each cube-sat is about 4 inches / 10 centimeters on each side. The steel cable, along which the elevator-car will move, measures about 33 feet / 10 meters long.

This mini-Space Elevator experiment is a project of Japan's Shizuoka University Faculty of Engineering. It was launched on a Kounotori ('White Stork') Cargo Ship to the ISS, from the Tanegashima Space Center in the Japanese Prefecture of Kagoshima (a prefecture is similar to a U.S. state).

The Japanese cargo ship also has 5 tons of supplies for the ISS, which includes water, food, fuel, spare parts, other science experiments, and 6 new lithium-ion batteries for the International Space Station. The cargo ship will take 3 to 5 days reach the space station.

Although cables have been extended in Outer Space in the past, the Japanese Space Elevator experiment will be the first time an elevator-car-like container will travel along such a cable. If successful, this experiment could boost interest in such a transportation system.

Both scientists and science-fiction writers have long dreamed of a Space Elevator. Although some people doubt such a transportation system is plausible, there is an International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) which held their 2018 Space Elevator Conference in Seattle last month.

Corporations in both Japan and China have expressed the interest in building a true Earth to Earth-orbit Space Elevator by mid-century. Google X, the Google think-tank for big ideas, has also expressed interest in the concept.

One of the major problems with space travel is the huge cost of transporting people and cargo into Earth orbit. Currently, we need expensive rockets to counter Earth's gravity to place payloads in Earth orbit.

A true Space Elevator, between Earth and Earth-orbit, could greatly reduce the cost of transporting both human and cargo payloads into Earth orbit. This would make it much easier and inexpensive to build space stations in orbit of Earth and the Moon, as well as eventually traveling to Mars, the Asteroid Belt, and beyond.

The Japanese firm, Obayashi Corp., estimates the total cost for constructing a fully functional Space Elevator at 10 trillion Yen / US $90 billion. The Obayashi Corp. compares this cost to a very similar cost of another transportation system being considered: a passenger, magnetic-levitation train project between Tokyo and Osaka.

Internet Link to Additional Information ---

Space Elevator: Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              Sunday, 2018 September 23.

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Glenn A. Walsh --- < >
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Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < >
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Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
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* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
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* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
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