Japanese firm Obayashi will build a space elevator in 2025

Japanese firm Obayashi will build a space elevator in 2025

/ 08:20 AM June 07, 2024

Imagine if you had a space elevator, letting you shoot up to the stars without riding a rocket. It may seem like a silly idea, but a Japanese company wants to make it happen.

Obayashi Corporation, the same group behind the Tokyo Skytree, plans to build one in 2025. As mentioned, it aims to make space travel more affordable for everyone with this invention. 

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Many experts agree that building such a colossal device is possible. Once it overcomes a few challenges, the stars could be a button away for humanity.

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How would a space elevator work?

The space elevator functions surprisingly similar to a regular one. It consists of tethers, a platform, a ballast, and a counterweight. 

This article will briefly explain how a conventional elevator works to properly illustrate the interstellar project. 

Educational website Explain That Stuff says an elevator works by letting a counterweight pull up a platform as it falls. 

Then, a motor adjusts the force applied to the counterweight so that the platform descends gently. The motor and counterweight also apply brakes in emergencies.

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The Obayashi Corp website says the space elevator journey starts at an Earth Port 10 km from another Earth Port at the shore. 

The Earth Port at sea has a ballast that will anchor the lift’s cable to the planet and adjust its tension. Moreover, it will transport people and cargo for the Geostationary Orbit Station construction. 

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The Port will let everyone ascend to space and return to Earth once it is complete. The Geostationary Orbit Station will be 36,000 km above the planet.

It will have a solar power system that will send energy to the Earth. More importantly, it will host visitors and allow them to enjoy space in zero gravity.

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The space elevator also has a counterweight that will be 96,000 km away from the planet. The Obayashi illustration says it will reach Jupiter and nearby asteroids.

The counterweight will also send spacecraft to extract resources from planets and the other parts of the solar system.

What are the benefits and challenges of a space elevator?

This represents space.
Free stock photo from Pexels

ScienceAlert shared more details about the Japanese space elevator. The website explains that the biggest problem with conventional space travel is the rocket equation.

Spaceships require massive amounts of fuel to reach the stars. However, fuel is heavy, meaning you need more fuel for a successful launch.

Conversely, a space elevator shuttles people and cargo with electromagnetic vehicles called climbers. They may run on solar power or microwaves, removing the need for on-board fuel.

ScienceAlert says SpaceX’s Falcon 9 transports cargo at around $1,227 per pound. On the other hand, Obayashi Corporation Business Development Manager Yoji Ishikawa estimates the space elevator could drop that cost to $57.

Christian Johnson, who published a report on space elevators in the peer-reviewed Journal of Science Policy & Governance noted flaws with the project. 

“If you try to build it out of steel, you would need more steel than exists on Earth,” he said. Ishikawa suggested the Japanese firm might use carbon nanotubes.

They are lighter and tougher than steel, but the longest one ever made was only two feet long. Hence, Ishikawa said researchers might need to develop a new material.

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Johnson also noted that thunderstorms and other extreme weather conditions may damage the facility. Moreover, the space elevator will need multiple trips to have a significant return on investment. 

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Ishikawa says the company aims to have the space elevator operational by 2050. “It’s not our goal or promise,” he said, but Obayashi Corporation is still aiming for that date.

TOPICS: technology
TAGS: technology

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