In February of 2012, the Japanese construction company Obayashi announced plans to build a space elevator by the year 2050 (I had previously blogged about this announcement here, here and here). Recently however, there have been a flurry of stories about the Obayashi project and several readers pinged me about them, wondering “what’s new”.
As it turns out, nothing is new. The story that started the press avalanche was this one, released on September 22nd by ABC-Australia North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney. All of the other Obayashi-Space Elevator stories we’ve seen recently were spin-offs, pick-ups from this one. I contacted Mr. Carney and asked him what prompted him to write the story; was there anything new to report? He replied:
There was no specific development about the Obayashi space elevator project that prompted the story that was first made known in 2012. I ran the story because the ABC has never reported on it and simply because it [is] an amazing story that I assumed an audience would appreciate. In fact the story has been the third most popular story over the entire network in last month. Pretty amazing so looking at doing a follow up.
So, that’s the scoop, no “new news”. It’s still very encouraging of course, if this is a real project and not a publicity stunt. It’s all going to come down to the materials – if the Japanese engineers (or anybody) can solve this problem, then it all becomes possible…
Incidentally, the Obayashi plan is one of the architectures being compared and contrasted in the current ISEC study, “Architectures and Roadmaps“. It is being primarily coordinated by Michael “Fitzer” Fitzgerald. At the recent Space Elevator Conference, Fitzer gave a presentation as to the status of the study and held a mini-workshop where conference participants could look at, critique and offer suggestions to the report as it stood at that time. I believe the goal is to get this report published sometime early next year. This report will be added to several others produced by ISEC and will be available in both printed and electronic format. (Click on the picture thumbnail of Fitzer giving his presentation to the 2014 ISEC Space Elevator Conference to view a larger version)