Origami airplane launched from space

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Japanese scientists and origami masters propose to launch a flotilla of paper planes from space. The launch is tentatively slated for 2009[1] from the International Space Station.[2] Around 30 planes[2] will make the descent, each gliding downward over what is expected to be the course of several months. If one of the planes survives to Earth, it will have made the longest flight ever by a paper plane, traversing some 400 km.[citation needed] In a test in Japan in February 2008, a prototype about 2.8 inches long and 2 inches wide survived Mach 7 speeds and temperatures reported to be 200°C in a hypersonic wind tunnel for 10 seconds. Materials designed for use in conventional reentry vehicles, including ceramic composites, withstand temperatures on the order of 2200°C.[3]

Scientists have no way to track the airplanes or to predict where they might land; and as 70% of the Earth's surface is covered in water, the craft can anticipate a wet reunion with the planet. Each plane, however, will bear a request in several languages asking its finder to contact the Japanese team. Should one of the airplanes thus make its way home, its journey will have helped to demonstrate the feasibility of slow-speed, low-friction atmospheric reentry. Critics have suggested that even a successful demonstration will lack probative impact beyond the realm of diminutive sheets of folded paper, that they can only fall.[4] Supporters counter that the broadening of knowledge is justification enough.


  1. ^ Per contact with JAXA Public Relations Office- Email (22 July 2009): proffice@jaxa.jp; Mission date still undetermined as of the end of STS-127.
  2. ^ a b Dan Barry. "The Ultimate Paper Airplane | Space Exploration | Air & Space Magazine". Airspacemag.com. http://www.airspacemag.com/space-exploration/The_Ultimate_Paper_Airplane.html. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  3. ^ "Lightweight Ultrahigh Temperature CMC-Encased C/C Structure for Reentry and Hypersonic Applications, Phase II". Sbir.gsfc.nasa.gov. http://sbir.gsfc.nasa.gov/SBIR/abstracts/04/sbir/phase2/SBIR-04-2-X2.06-7753.html. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  4. ^ Yamaguchi, Mari (2008-03-27). "Can an origami shuttle fly from space to Earth?". Usatoday.com. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2008-03-27-origami-space-shuttle_N.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 

External links