Countless attempts have been made to perfect the world's first working "space elevator" - a concept that has emerged since the dawn of the Space Age.
In theory, a functional space elevator would work like this: passengers travel in a vehicle that is tethered to a cable. The cable is attached to a counterweight located in a zero-gravity environment.
Because the technology is rocket-less, passengers would not have to think about the huge amount of combustible fuel that typically propels vehicles into space. The ideal vehicle will ascend or descend as needed with the help of the cable.
So far, no one has successfully tested a fully functional elevator on outer space yet. But that doesn't mean the idea will be laid to rest and forgotten.
In fact, a group of Japanese scientists from Shizuoka University have designed their own space elevator technology known as Space Tethered Autonomous Robotic Satellite-Cube or STAR-C.
Japan's Space Elevator Technology
STAR-C is constructed as a micro-satellite that provides a cable connecting our planet to a space station in orbit, high above the atmosphere.
The prototype for STAR-C, which was unveiled in Japan on June 8, contains an orbiter that weighs 2.66 kilograms (5.86 pounds).
The orbiter is made of two 10-centimeter (3.9-inch) cubes that are linked to a 100-meter-long (328-foot-long) tether, which is made out of Kevlar, a tough and durable material.
Initial Testing In Space
STAR-C will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) and then released from Kibo, a module owned by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Once in space, STAR-C's two cubic components will split from each other in order to test the Kevlar tether as they move apart.
The results of this experiment are expected to provide information that will be useful in the improvement of the space elevator concept, as well as insight on what kind of considerations would have to be made if one were to develop and design a full-scale version of the technology.
Furthermore, the experiment might also contribute data for the development of technology that could remove and eliminate space debris that is orbiting Earth. The technology produced would possibly include electrodynamic tethers.
STAR-C will be manipulated and will have its data sent to Earth using ham radio frequencies. The team will take the aid of amateur radio operators to collect the information.
The History Of STAR-C
In 2014, project developers and university professors Masahiro Nomi and Yoshiki Yamagiwa sent their proposal to JAXA. During that time, the space agency was looking for satellites to be launched from the Kibo module in the ISS.
Kagawa University, another institution in Japan, has conducted two experiments in space using two models that were the predecessors of STAR-C, but the experiments failed to gather a sufficient amount of information.
Additionally, a Japanese construction company called Obayashi had promised to build a space elevator by the middle of the 21st century.