Space

Japanese company plans to have space elevator "up" and running by 2050

Japanese company plans to have...
A NASA artist's rendition of a space elevator (Image: NASA)
A NASA artist's rendition of a space elevator (Image: NASA)
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Model of a nanotube (Image: Wikipedia / Arnero)
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Model of a nanotube (Image: Wikipedia / Arnero)
A NASA artist's rendition of a space elevator (Image: NASA)
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A NASA artist's rendition of a space elevator (Image: NASA)
Obayashi Corp.'s space elevator concept (Image: Daily Yomiuri)
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Obayashi Corp.'s space elevator concept (Image: Daily Yomiuri)
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A Japanese company is looking to take elevators to new heights. The Daily Yomiuri reports that Tokyo-based construction company Obayashi Corp. hopes to have a space elevator operational by 2050, carrying passengers and cargo in a vehicle that travels along a ribbon made of carbon nanotubes extending a quarter of the way to the moon.

A counterweight at the end of the 96,000 kilometer (59,652 mile) cable would anchor the entire assembly, which is connected to a station on the ground. Passengers would travel from the surface of the Earth to a terminal station housing a research center and residential facilities located about 36,000 kilometers (22,369 miles) up the ribbon in a car traveling at 200 km/h (124 mph). At that speed the journey is anticipated to take about a week.

Solar panels at the same elevation as the terminal station would provide its electricity and also send power back to the surface.

Obayashi Corp.'s space elevator concept (Image: Daily Yomiuri)
Obayashi Corp.'s space elevator concept (Image: Daily Yomiuri)

The concept of elevators reaching into space has been around since 1895 when Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was inspired by the newly built Eiffel Tower to first conceive of the idea of a free-standing tower reaching into geostationary orbit from the Earth's surface. The idea has since become a staple of science fiction, but in recent years conferences have been held on the topic and NASA has also been actively involved in efforts to make them a reality.

But finding a material light enough and strong enough to create such a long cable has been a significant obstacle. Obayashi and others believe carbon nanotubes can get the job done, making them the key to the ambitious project.

Obayashi is not yet saying how much they estimate the project will cost, but when it's up and running, it hopes to transport 30 passengers at a time along the space cable, perhaps using magnetic linear motors. The company also hasn't revealed a location for the space elevator, but as it relies on centrifugal forces to keep the ribbon taut, the base station needs to be located along - or at least close to - the equator.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

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51 comments
Mark Mitchell
Well heck now all they need is four or five trillion dollars to make it happen. No problemo.
Jim Parker
Props for trying, but I\'m going to bet they won\'t have the project even begun by 2050. It\'s a bet, not a guarantee. Prove me wrong, all you scientists and engineers. Impress me!
Michael Gene
Only Government projects cost that much, private concerns don\'t need to reward their political allies with huge slush funds hidden in so called \"high priority\" but never read 10,000 page legislation.
Von Meerman
Next step: Chaining the moon!
Carlos Grados
This will work only after all terrorism is abandoned- it seems like too tempting a target otherwise.
Stephen Colbourne
Build a rotovator instead. This is a rotating cable in LEO that will be much cheaper to build and quicker.
Tw Tan
A lot of detail not include in article above. What I know more is the so call elevator has lifting speed about 200km/hr, mean about it takes 180hour non stop or 7.5day to reach terminal station. Carrying passenger will demand accommodation, food and living stuff. Thus the space elevator will not fit the name! The is other source describe this facilities is build to store (use nuclear fuel). It this the true and it the passenger is robot, than all doubt clear!
Ahura
So. unbreakable 96000km carbon cable, with counterweight. Diameter of Earth is just under 25000km. Lose counterweight somehow. Now we have an unbreakable cable wrapping itself around our home roughly 3 3/4 times. Hmmmm. Well it\'ll solve the middle east problem I guess. Moving to a temperate zone in 2049.
Alex Griffiths
Recommended reading - The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke.
MarkmBha
I agree with C. Grados. Terrorism will be just one of many items to overcome. I don\'t think it will ever be built.