Tuhoku University, in partnership with Yoshida-Danbar Labs, has ventured into the private space industry with a new startup.
Elevation Space, as it is called, is intended to encourage new development projects in what society calls the post-SIS era.
Tuhoku University Small Large Plan
The International Space Station (ISS) is currently the world’s largest expression of international cooperation in the development of space. But more importantly, it has also been the unique center for many of the latest important scientific discoveries and technological developments related to humans in space.
Elevation space aims to build on these achievements by creating a similar, albeit much smaller, platform for various procedures in space. According to the official mission profile, its main task will be the launch and deployment of ELS-R satellites.
They are described as small space platforms that can be used to carry out all kinds of experiments and production processes in orbit.
For example, a small protein crystallization device could be installed on a satellite to create the ideal microgravity environment for such a production function.
Moreover, the ELS-R units are designed to be fully recoverable, so that the processed material can be systematically recovered from the satellites.
To make this possible, it has a completely independent recovery system, similar to the way SpaceX recovers its payload fairings with small vehicles. But instead of sending a small capsule to Earth, the basic schematics and explanations suggest that the entire satellite would re-enter the planet.
This raises doubts about the reusability of the ELS-R, which should not be the case because the materials are much more sensitive. At the very least, the first few iterations will likely only serve as an initial sample to take a closer look at the performance of each device.
Experiments on the ISS to ISS
Much of Cosmos Elevation’s marketing campaign is aimed directly at the ISS. This is because the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is one of the core members of the ISS development team.
In particular, Tuhoku University has been one of JAXA’s most important departments during many of its scientific missions. With guaranteed support for the aging space station expiring in 2024, the contingency plan was to build an entirely new platform to continue the work already begun on the ISS.
The Yoshida Danbar Laboratory is closely associated with Tuhoku University and has designed and built an impressive portfolio of more than a dozen operational satellites. It is hoped that this preliminary result will be useful for the later development and implementation of small ELS-R satellites.
Frequency is a key
Another important aspect of the ELS-R that has received a lot of publicity is the intended launch frequency. Today, space launches take place much more regularly, thanks to private organizations like SpaceX and Rocket Lab, or even government organizations like ISRO. In Japan, on the other hand, government-funded scientific space projects are not yet so regular. The use of the ELS-R platform should significantly increase the frequency of local launches.
First, the cost. The small scale of operations allows Elevation Space to work with a much smaller budget than JAXA normally provides. Next time. In particular, the time required to carry out security checks. Since the experiments are unmanned, no human safety assessment procedures are required. This significantly reduces the time between design and commissioning.
In total, Elevation Space expects one ELS-R launch per month to be possible. This is consistent with the frequency of launches by other private space companies, although there is always a week or two between launches. By comparison : SpaceX currently launches its Falcon rockets every 14 to 16 days, while ISRO launches just over once a month.
In the wider world of private spaceflight
As mentioned earlier, most of the experiments that will be conducted on the ELS-R platforms will be largely similar to those currently conducted on the ISS. In addition to scientific applications, the ELS-R can also be used as a miniature production facility and even act as an entertainment-oriented telecommunications server.
The specific use cases fall into these broad categories:
- Protein crystallization
- Biological tests
- Room instrumentation/testing instruments
- Semiconductor manufacturing
- Production of special alloys
- General scientific education
This may already be evident from the ELS-R profile, but it is important to note that Elevation Space is not a startup. Unlike, say, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), which could handle both the design and launch of the satellites, a separate company would provide the hardware that would be used to launch the units.
However, Elevation Space still holds a fairly unique position in the industry. First, most satellite companies specialize in imaging or telecommunications technology. If the size of the satellites is described as small (as is the case for other communication satellite companies), it is certainly not cubic. As such, it is also unlikely to be competitive in the space industry at the nanoscale.
If we assume that the extended support for the ISS expires in 2024, this means that Elevation Space could be the first private organization to offer (more or less) the same opportunities for scientific experimentation as the long-established station in space.
By the way, 2024 is the year SpaceX will make the first manned flight to Mars (by spacecraft). In the same year, NASA hopes to return to the moon with Artemis. If we see all of this come to fruition in the next year or two, the ultimate realization of the Cosmos of Exaltation could change even more dramatically.
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