Japan Postpones The Launch Of Its Mini Space Elevator Due To Typhoon Forecast

Alexandra Lozovschi

The world's first space elevator was scheduled to hitch a ride to the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow afternoon.

Designed by Shizuoka University in Japan, this small piece of equipment is part of a CubeSat experiment and was supposed to launch into space on September 10, atop an H-IIB rocket, the Inquisitr recently reported.

According to Space, the 186-foot-tall (56.6-meter) rocket — known as H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 7, or H-IIB F7 — was slated to lift off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan's Kagoshima prefecture at 6:32 p.m. EDT (22:32 GMT, 7.32 a.m. on September 11 local time).

But Japan's plans to send the experiment to the space station on Monday have been thwarted by a typhoon forecast, reports Spaceflight Now.

Currently raging over the Pacific Ocean, Typhoon Mangkhut is threatening to hit Guam, where the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has a ground-based tracking station needed to receive data from the H-IIB rocket during launch.

Because of the danger posed by Typhoon Mangkhut, which seems to be headed toward Guam and its neighboring islands, JAXA has decided to postpone tomorrow's rocket launch.

"In Guam, where there is one of JAXA's tracking stations, adverse weather including strong winds caused by a typhoon is predicted for the day before and launch day," space agency officials announced today in a news release.

While JAXA hasn't specified how long this delay is going to be, the space agency did mention that the new launch date will be made public "when determined."

The cargo ship, whose name means "White Stork" in Japanese, is packed with 13,000 pounds of supplies and experiments, including a replacement set of batteries for the ISS and Japan's space elevator.

The experiment is essentially a miniature container, measuring only six centimeters in length and three centimeters in both height and width, built to slide along a 33-foot-long (10 meters) steel cable that connects two four-inch CubeSats.

The container is designed to act like an elevator car and move along the cable between the two satellites, which are equipped with video cameras to track and record its progress.

Once Kounotori7 makes it to the ISS to deliver its cargo, the twin CubeSats will be deployed into space and the experiment can finally begin.

According to Space, the Japanese mini space elevator is the first experiment of its kind. Until now, no one has attempted to test if car-like containers can move in outer space along a cable.

"In theory, a space elevator is highly plausible," experiment leader Yoji Ishikawa said in a statement.

As the Inquisitr reported, the success of the mini space elevator could pave the way for future experiments with bigger containers and might open up a new avenue for space travel.

Tokyo-based Obayashi Corp., which partnered with Shizuoka University for the space elevator project, estimates that a fully functioning, first-generation space elevator would cost about $90 billion to build and launch into orbit.