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Technology

Shizuoka University's space elevator test concept gets go-ahead

HAMAMATSU, Japan -- Shizuoka University's idea has been selected by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for a project aimed at releasing an artificial satellite from the International Space Station, all with the aim of testing space elevator technologies.

     A team led by Yoshiki Yamagiwa, a professor at the university's graduate school of engineering, proposed using for the experiment two, 10cm cube-shaped satellites tied with a synthetic fiber.

     The proposal calls for sending the satellites together to the ISS and then separating them by up to 100 meters in orbit. They will be powered by electricity supplied through the fiber tether.

     The experiment is part of a grander vision for creating a space elevator that could directly transport objects into orbit from the ground without the need for a launch vehicle. The major technological hurdle for now is the fiber string. A similar experiment has been conducted several times in Japan, but success has been scant. 

     This is the first time for the engineering school to tackle this problem, and it hopes to garner support from local companies. "We want to make use of civilian equipment in the satellite body, communications and electric control devices so we can keep costs under several million yen," Yamagiwa said, meaning costs would be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

     The project is scheduled to take get underway in fiscal 2016.

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