One Small Step for a Space Elevator

Space elevators belong to that class of technology that we all want to see become a reality within our lifetimes, but deep-down doubt we’ll ever get to witness firsthand. Like cold fusion, or faster than light travel, we understand the principles that should make these concepts possible, but they’re so far beyond our technical understanding that they might as well be fantasy.

Except, maybe not. When Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launches their seventh Kounotori H-II Transfer Vehicle towards the International Space Station, riding along with the experiments and supplies for the astronauts, will be a very special pair of CubeSats. They make up the world’s first practical test of space elevator technology, and with any luck, will be one of many small steps that precedes the giant leap which access to space at a fraction of the cost will be.

Of course, they won’t be testing a fully functional space elevator; even the most aggressive of timelines put us a few decades out from that. This will simply be a small scale test of some of the concepts that are central to building a space elevator, as we need to learn to crawl before we can walk. But even if we aren’t around to see the first practical space elevator make it to the top, at least we can say we were there on the ground floor.

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DIY Submersible Aims for Low Cost, Ease of Operation

If you’re like us, a body of water is a source of wonder and awe. The wonder comes from imagining what lies hidden below the surface, and the awe is from the fear of trying to find out and becoming one of those submerged objects on a permanent basis. So if you want to explore the depths in relative comfort and safety, a DIY remotely operated underwater vehicle might be the thing you need to build.

Most ROV builds these days seem to follow more or less similar designs, which is probably because they all share project goals similar to those of [dcolemans]: build something to take a look around under the water, make it easy to operate, and don’t spend a ton of money. To achieve that, he used 1/2″ PVC pipe and fittings to build the frame and painted it yellow for visibility. A dry tube for the electronics was fashioned from 4″ ABS pipe. The positive buoyancy provided by the dry tube is almost canceled out by the water flooding the frame through weep holes and the lead shot ballast stored in the landing skids. Propulsion is provided by bilge pump cartridges with 3D-printed ducted propellers. A nice touch is a separate topside control box with a screen for the ROV’s camera that talks to a regular RC controller, along with simplified controls and automatic station keeping. Check out the recent swimming pool test in the video below.

There’s a lot going on under the sea, and plenty of ways to explore it. You could deploy sensors shaped like clams, zap underwater lice with lasers, or even glide your way to a Hackaday Prize.

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Japanese ISS Supply Ship Dual-Purposed As Tether Experiment

When a rocket sends a capsule up with supplies for the International Space Station, they usually send a bunch of their trash back down with it, all of which burns up in the atmosphere on re-entry. But as long as you’ve got that (doomed) vehicle up there, you might as well do some science with it along the way. And that’s exactly what the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) is doing with their Kounotori 6 supply ship that just left the ISS on Friday.

The experiment is with an electromagnetic tether that can be used to either turn electrical energy into kinetic or vice-versa. When you string a long conducting wire outwards from earth, the two ends pass through the earth’s magnetic field at different altitudes and thus pass through magnetic fields with different strengths, and an electrical potential is generated. In the KITE experiment (translated), a resistive load and an electron emitter on the supply ship are designed to burn up this electrical energy, lowering the ship’s kinetic energy, and dropping its orbit down to earth.
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Can a Kickstarter project actually build a space elevator?

It’s the stuff that Science Fiction is made of: an elevator that climbs its way into space rather than needing a rocket to get there. Can it be done? No. But this Kickstarter project aims to fund research that will eventually make a space elevator possible. They’re already way over their goal, and plan to use the extra funds to extend the reach of the experiments.

A complete success would be a tether that reaches into space, held taught by a weight which is pulled away from earth by centrifugal force. That’s not really on the radar yet (last we heard humans weren’t capable of producing a substance strong enough to keep the tether from snapping). What is in the works is a weather balloon supporting a ribbon which a robot can climb. The team isn’t new to this, having built and tested several models at University and then in a start-up company that closed its doors a few years ago. Now they’re hoping to get a 3-5 kilometer ribbon in the air and to build a new robot to climb it.

For now we’ll have to be satisfied with the 1000 ft. climb video after the break. But we hope to see an Earth-Moon freight system like the one shown in the diagram above before the end of our lifetimes.

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High voltage ROV adventures

[Eirik] wrote in to share the build log for the third iteration of his underwater ROV. The first two project were completed and tested (you may remember reading about it back in January), but both had issues that caused general failure. Most notably, the introduction of water where he didn’t want it. But this time around he seems to have gotten everything right, successfully taking this little guy down to twenty meters without a leak.

One of the problems he had on version two was supplying electricity from the surface. He needs 12V at up to 10A, and had to use a tether made of 14 AWG to make it happen. That’s a lot of heavy wire to be hauling around and it made the ROV virtually unable to move itself. He wanted to go back to using Cat5e cable but it won’t handle that kind of current. He ended up using an inverter at the surface to up the voltage to 130V, and a switch mode supply on the ROV to get back to 12V. This caused noise on the data lines which he fixed by adding a full-wave rectifer to the inverter’s output.

The dive video after the break shows off the crystal-clear camera shots this thing can capture.

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Use Droid Bionic as a mobile hotspot without paying extra

Apparently Verizon customers are expected to pay for a second data plan if they want to be allowed to use a cellphone as a mobile hotspot. This means one data plan for the phone, and a second for the tethering. [DroidBionicRoot] thinks this is a little silly since there is already a data cap on the phone’s plan. But he’s found a way around it if you don’t mind rooting the phone to enable free tethering.

Not surprisingly it’s a very simple alteration. The phone is already capable of tethering, to enable the feature without Verizon’s permission just edit one database value. In the video after the break, [DroidBionicRoot] starts the process with a rooted Droid Bionic handset. He purchases an app for $2.99 which allows him to edit SQL databases on the handset. From there he navigates to the ‘Settings Storage’ database and changes the ‘entitlement_check’ key value to 0. Reboot the phone and tethering is now unlocked.

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Two generations of ocean-going ROV

[Eirik] wants to help inspire others to take on big projects to he sent in a link to his ROV project. He started it about one year ago and the image above shows the first generation. After the break you can see the video that the ROV captured during a couple of it’s initial voyages. They’re pretty clear and right off the bat you’ll see the little guy following a jellyfish. Like a lot of homebrew ROV’s [Eirik] is still searching for the right way to pass wires through the housing without leaks. He does okay so far, and has designed a nice cable spool for the topside tether, but some water does get in. He’s almost finished the second generation which re-designs the camera mount to aim downward so that what’s in frame is more interesting.

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