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Origami Plane to Fly From the Int. Space Station

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the spitwads-are-next dept.

Space 217

SK writes "The University of Tokyo and the Japan folded paper (origami) plane society hopes to fly a paper airplane from the International Space Station to Earth. The plane will be 30-40cm long and weigh about 30 grams. A University of Tokyo research group has successfully designed a special paper plane model that was able to withstand a Mach 7 high velocity stream for 10 seconds. The experimental plane was about one-fifth the size and withstood temperatures as high as 300C without burning up." Unfortunately for most of us reading this, the original source is all in japanese.

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Hey guys! (5, Funny)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126776)

"Check out what I made!"
"Ha, that's sweet! You know what we should do with it?"
*Airlock Sounds*

Re:Hey guys! (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127162)

That's so funny! I thought the same thing.

Question. And here I run the gamut of looking really dumb, but with a thing so light, will it get warm enough to actually burn up?

I am not at all read up in the re-entry-into-the-atmosphere field, so hence the question...

Re:Hey guys! (0, Redundant)

torqer (538711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128214)

You're running the colors of looking really dumb? ...

And I guess if you knew the answer to your own question you would be all 'red' up?

WTF (0)

EZReady (677430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126790)

Lemme be the first to say...WTF

Too Much Time?? (1)

WaHooCrazy7 (1220464) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126852)

Am i the only one who thinks these people got too much time on their hands and some cash to burn? I dont know about you but i can think of much better ways to spend money. Some things people do just amaze me and make me ask why?

Re:Too Much Time?? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126910)

Presumably the idea is that this will lead to better designs for reentry craft.

Re:Too Much Time?? (2, Funny)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127032)

Good point. Paper has got to be cheaper than our current heat tiles.

Re:Too Much Time?? (3, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127082)

... i can think of much better ways to spend money.

Better ways for *you* to spend money. I personally would spend quite a lot of money to be able to drop a paper plane out of a space station.

Re:Too Much Time?? (1)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127464)

I'd pay a lot of money to be able to catch it here on earth

Re:Too Much Time?? (1)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127914)

... i can think of much better ways to spend money. Better ways for *you* to spend money. I personally would spend quite a lot of money to be able to drop a paper plane out of a space station.
That's well and good if it's your money, but if it's taxpayer money, then *you* are using *his/her* money to drop the paper plane.

Re:Too Much Time?? (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128070)

That's well and good if it's your money, but if it's taxpayer money, then *you* are using *his/her* money to drop the paper plane.
Actually, it's *us* using *our* money. If he objects to it, he should make a bigger stink and go get someone elected who will shut down all scientific research.

(And that's ignoring that the whole thing might be Japan spending ITS money.)

Re:Too Much Time?? (2)

hairykrishna (740240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127254)

Because it's a fun, geeky thing to do. Why do you post on slashdot? It's essentilly a waste of time and (indirectly) money.

Re:Too Much Time?? (1)

Fourier404 (1129107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127580)

How much time and money could this possibly take?

Re:Too Much Time?? (1)

x1n933k (966581) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128160)

This coming from someone reading and commenting on Slashdot.


Quiet the intresting situation. (1)

moogied (1175879) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126854)

After years of paper airplane building avoidance, maybe top-tier scientist are not stuck asking there lazier peers exactly what is the best way to make one.

How lucky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22126864)

I can read Japanese! Unfortunately, this doesn't allow me to comprehend their language.

flip? (4, Interesting)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126870)

won't the paper flip when it starts to hit air, and burn up? How do you get a paper airplane to get to mach anything? I know how to make a very fast paper airplane for hand throwing, but it only goes maybe into the low 100 range... I never clocked it, though. Still, I think it would flip before getting that fast.

Re:flip? (4, Funny)

ericlondaits (32714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126904)

Simple... use carbon nanotube paper!

Re:flip? (1)

zoefff (61970) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127010)

How do you get a paper airplane to get to mach anything?

gravity and the lack of air....

Re:flip? (4, Informative)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127034)

Remember that the speed of sound changes with the properties of the air through which an object is travelling. The absolute speed of an object (i.e. in m/s) corresponding to a high Mach number deep in our atmosphere (say in the troposphere or stratosphere) would actually be much, much slower than the speed of sound in the mid-thermosphere (where the ISS is located).

Its a similar reason to why de-orbiting objects can travel faster than terminal velocity; they accelerated to that speed before the air resistance built up.


Re:flip? (1)

a_claudiu (814111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127746)

Are you sure about the fact that speed of sound is higher with the altitude? Acording to this [] the relation altitude/speed of sound is not straight forward. Speed of sound at sea level > v at 11000/20000 m altitude and < v at 29000 m.
The similarity example given will explain the high speed of objects entering the atmosphere but will not explain the fact that speed of sound in water (1497 m/s) is much higher than in air (344 m/s).

Re:flip? (2, Interesting)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127072)

The summary says the mini model was able to withstand 300 degrees C. And what's wrong with flipping? Paper airplanes that I make usually orient themselves that way, and they do quite well.

Re:flip? (4, Interesting)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127214)

But your paper airplaines don't encounter strong temperature gradients or supersonic shock waves. In such conditions, even having the sun illuminate one side of the plane and not the other one could significantly alter the trajectory of the plane, and I believe is what makes the experiment interesting: will the real course match the planned one?

Re:flip? (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127128)

If you drop the plane out of orbit it'll accelerate at 9.8 m/s/s or so until it hits atmosphere dense enough to appreciably slow it by friction. By then it'll probably be going pretty fast. After reaching this point in the atmosphere it will quickly deccelerate to terminal velocity for a paper airplane. So ten seconds at mach 7 is probably good enough.

Orbital mechanics, not magic... (2, Insightful)

icebrain (944107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127640)

No, it won't. You're assuming it'll somehow magically come to a dead stop when released, then start to fall straight down. What will really happen is that it'll just get shoved into a slightly lower orbit, so it will hit the atmosphere at pretty much orbital velocity, just like the shuttle does.

Re:flip? (1)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128428)

Its only 9.8 m/s/s at the earths surface. Inverse square law.

I'm chargin' mah lazer! (4, Funny)

djasbestos (1035410) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126872)

China will probably vaporize it, just out of spite.

On the contrary... (4, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127044)

This is the Librarian wing of the JSA testing new paper for books. This paper, obviously with embedded copy protection coatings, will prove that books are better than websites, and gloriously launch the Japanese people to a state of technological superiority over western libraries. This is just stage one of the Paper Ninja Warriors contest.

Stage two involves plasma thrusters and a "paper moon" orbiter. When you can afford to launch 14 million orbital vehicles, one of them is bound to accomplish the job. Besides, what better building material to use if you want to send a message to aliens in other galaxies?

Re:I'm chargin' mah lazer! (1)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127220)

Oh god, please don't tell me that /i/ is about to target Slashdot.

Re:I'm chargin' mah lazer! (1)

Jagen (30952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128392)


Translated (3, Informative)

realwx (1121843) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126906)

Even though it's in Japanese, just use Google Translate [] to read it.

Re:Translated (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22126976)

Suzuki professor at Tokyo University (aerospace engineering) is a "message of peace from the space station to skip it. Land in the world where you do not know the fairy who could deliver" a dream said.

uh, Fascinating!

Re:Translated (5, Funny)

IndieKid (1061106) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126998)

Hmm, I think something was lost in the translation:

Down to Earth from space station by this vision of creating a paper airplane, Japan Origami Association HIKOKI and Tokyo are working on a large group. 17, the university's wind tunnel using a validated test.

8 centimeters in length experiment, the space shuttle heat-resistant form of folded paper airplane use by the process. Tokyo campus Ookashiwa (Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture), a super high-speed wind tunnel tests of the high-speed stream of Mach 7 in the heat resistance and strength to find out.

When the space shuttle and other spacecraft will return to the speed of Mach 20, and the friction in the air and high temperatures for the heat-resistant surface is a special twist. Paper airplane is so light, slowing down from the thin air, landing in slow. Coming back without burnout might be.

Suzuki professor at Tokyo University (aerospace engineering) is a "message of peace from the space station to skip it. Land in the world where you do not know the fairy who could deliver" a dream said.

Re:Translated (3, Funny)

andphi (899406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127122)

I have to wonder: is this better or worse than the cell phone text message novels?

Make your time! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127184)

You should have tossed an "All your base are belong to us!" in the middle of that just to see if anyone catches it.

Re:Make your time! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127394)

He did.
Didn't you notice?

Looks like we are missing a word somewhere (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22126908)

The University of Tokyo and the Japan

Unless we are now using the definite article with countries....

Re:Looks like we are missing a word somewhere (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127020)

the Japan folded paper (origami) plane society

Nah, you just fail at reading comprehension.

origami book (3, Funny)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126922)

Somebody gave me an origami book once. I never read it - I couldn't, it was all creased seven ways to Sunday.

Why not a.... (1)

teeloo (766817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126940)

...paper boat? That way it could just float to earth and fall in the sea and drift to land?

Re:Why not a.... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127784)

Aha, I see you share my discipleship in the world of parachuteless-kayak-base-jumping! Everyone else thinks that dropping from 1km up into large reservoirs of water is lunacy, but I tend to think.. there's water down there.. why not use it? The fact that it would be better to make use of aerodynamic principals to help my glide down and make landfall in a safely controlled manner is completely m00t to those like us. When I tried utilising my origami kayak it didn't work very well though, water has this strange propensity to alter the structural integrity of my marine projects. The paper floating barbeque was an especially noteworthy disaster - popular fantasy fiction would have us believe that fire and water are opposites in nature, and therefor should cancel each other out, the paper drying out in the heat as fast as the water can soak in, but after my own experiments I just can't lend any credence to the concept. Anyway, time to go home, that's quite enough work for today.

More likely ... (5, Funny)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126966)

"We hope the space station crew will write a message of peace on the plane before they launch it," says Suzuki.
As it enter the atmosphere above the United States and promptly got "neutralised" by some missiles.

Re:More likely ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22128326)

This thing is giong to hit someone in the eye.

why not metal foil? (4, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22126968)

I would think that a metal foil would provide a better "paper" for the plane. Not only would it resist higher temperatures, but it would conduct heat from the hot side to radiate heat on the upper side. Chemically etching the foil on the upper surface to make it black would also help radiate heat. Finally, a metal foil plane would have a higher radar cross-section so it might be possible to track the trajectory and recover the plane.

If purists insist on paper, the one could deposit a thin foil veneer on the leading edges or deposit a trace-work of metal to create a reflector of radar waves (extra credit for adding an RFID chip to the mix).

Re:why not metal foil? (4, Interesting)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127230)

People immediately wonder "why" they would do something like this. As far as has been reported, there won't even be an attempt to track the actual landing, and as we could expect, it would even be difficult to pinpoint which continent (if any) would receive the landing.

The point isn't what happens to the plane in ACTUAL freefall, the point is to do the materials and aerodynamics studies on the ground. Why not use foil? Because they have already tested foil in space and know quite a bit about it. Whether foil would work or not is not what this particular group wants to study. They haven't tested this kind of treated paper. Maybe there are some surprising benefits in heat-treated papers that could change the way we do satellites.

Of course, the final "experiment" is more like playing golf on the moon, if they even bother to do it at all. It's just a part of joie de vivre, which I think is sorely lacking in western society today. Stop griping needlessly. They won't spend a billion dollars to take a piece of scrap paper to space and chuck it into the big blue swirly spherical rubbish heap. However, thanks to this outlandish conversation-starter concept, they might be allowed to spend a significantly smaller budget on traditional material and aerodynamic science.

joie de vivre + useful asteroid mining tech (1)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127826)

I don't begrudge them the fun of launching a "paper" airplane in space but want to think long-term. How can we use "paper" airplanes in space?

I'd bet that foil airplanes might be an interesting way to de-orbit a stream from materials from LEO. Rather than build big expensive return vehicles (that require fuel for de-orbiting), one could build origami return vehicles that deorbit automatically due to thin atmosphere at LEO. Robotic machinery would create sheet metal (from nickel-iron asteroids), fold it, attach some minimal control package (like a micro UAV), add a payload (more nickel-iron, He3, pharmaceuticals, etc.), and kick the "plane" into space (I could imaging an efficient electromagnetic launcher that kicks the plane below the orbits of any satellites to avoid the planes become space junk). If it takes a year or two deorbit, so what. Earth gets a "free" stream of space materials that hopefully land in a recovery area.

My point is to think how we can use origami in space to get both "fun" public relations news and interesting engineering data at the same time.

Re:why not metal foil? (4, Funny)

Xiph (723935) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127270)

They dropped making it of tin foil due to the risk of blocking mind control satelites.
At normal altitude, a tin foil hat can block the ray for a single person, dropped in space however, the tin foil plane might block mind control of enough people, to actually affect the outcome of the upcoming elections.

Remember, if we're provided a proper tinfoil cover, we will no longer welcome our <insert pathetica> overlords.

Re:why not metal foil? (2, Insightful)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127716)

Apparently you haven't read the study on tinfoil hats..... []

Tinfoil hats actually amplify frequencies controlled by the government (very likely the ones the government would choose to use for mind control). The tinfoil hat is a lie.

Unless, of course, this study was produced with government funding and is an attempt to dissuade people from wearing their hats........the conspiracy lives on.


Re:why not metal foil? (1)

BigDumbAnimal (532071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127304)

Not to mention the potential benefit of reusing the metal foil for headgear.

Re:why not metal foil? (1)

lhorn (528432) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127638)

Let's hope the plane is made to float on water as well,
else the chances for finding it will be smaller.

wow (1)

vajaradakini (1209944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127018)

That's exactly what we need! A paper airplane that comes from orbit and doesn't burn up on the way back. That's not going to hurt at all when it hits somebody.

Although the more likely outcome is that it will just land in the ocean, never to be seen again.

What if it crashes (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127026)

What if it crashes? All the boffins are gathered, scratching their heads, and then one of them will say "But it looked fine on paper!" Then all the others will groan, and proceed to calculate the optimum method for beating the crap out of him.

Re:What if it crashes (2, Funny)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127878)

We'll just have see how it all unfolds.

Only a bunch of geeks... (1)

imyy4u1 (1222436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127048)

...would spend millions of dollars to fly a paper airplane from an International Space Station to Earth.

I can see it now...

"W00t! I just threw a paper airplane towards Earth!"
"You idiot, that's not Earth, that's the Sun!"
"Goodbye, 10 million dollars."

Re:Only a bunch of geeks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127650)

That's a pretty expensive paper plane.

RTFA!! (2, Funny)

SailorSpork (1080153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127060)

Paper airplane? When I read the article, I read that the Japanese students wanted to recreate the finale from Final Fantasy VII where Sephiroth summons a meteor to destroy the planet! I've been taking Japanese class for almost 3 semesters, I should know what I'm talking about! :P

How would you know if it "worked"? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127100)

I mean, it is not like you can easily track a "30-40cm" piece of paper at any distance.

And how can they not know if it is 30cm or 40cm? that's quite a range, haven't they picked the paper yet?

Anyhow, if they do it, I'd claim success! You won't be able to prove it didn't make it all the way down OK, unless you find its charred remains, but just in case, I would litter "seed" charred remains about, so that I could claim any found "were just a test model", thus ensuring victory!

This is brilliant! (5, Insightful)

RecycledElectrons (695206) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127106)

This is brilliant! The use is obvious. We need cheaper reentry vehicles. These vehicles would not be designed to bring back passengers, but there are times when you have 50 (harmless) samples and would like to get one of them to a lab earth-side.

First, for those who say they've never seen a paper airplane break 100MPH, that's at 1 atmosphere. Mach 7 is definitely not at 1 atmosphere.

Second, for those who say it would flip, try writing a stability proof sometime. do you know how to apply inverse kinematics? can you write an equation for the Jacobian of a human elbow joint?

Third, the first step is to try one small paper plane. It'll probably not work, and we'll have to try again. Eventually, we might get a working 8" plane. Some day, we might even have a meter long plane that can bring 3 ounces back to earth.

Imagine an astronaut who is sick, and we need to get some lab tests run. Sending a shuttle or Soyouz down is incredibly wasteful. OTOH, a paper airplane could be equipped with a tracking device (think 1-2oz GPS & transmitter) and a small sample case. We drop the plane, and it's got a 1-in-3 chance of getting the sample into the right hands, in a usable condition. So we drop 5 or 10 and hope for the best.

Think of the potential when we start building larger stations & craft in space. A line of bolts could shear off, and we might not have the ability to analyze it in space. We drop one on each of 5 paper planes, and get a good idea from 2 that we recover of what happened. Were the bolts defective? Was it a fatigue issue? Were they improperly installed?

Imagine a very low cost mission to a near Earth crossing object. Half a dozen paper planes could let us get a few ounces of samples on the cheap.


Mod Parent Up (1)

oncehour (744756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128000)

Wow. That was incredibly insightful. I wish I had modpoints. At first I was kind of confused myself but now I really can see the potential of this. It's not exactly useful for anything that has to remain secret but there's still a wide range of applications if it's applied properly. Thanks for the explanation.

Translation (4, Informative)

hoshino (790390) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127114)

My quick translation:

Space -> Earth, Flying paper aeroplane. Hobbyists and Tokyo University to conduct tests.

A Tokyo University group and the Japan Origami Airplane Association are cooperating to create a paper aeroplane that can return to Earth from a space station. The wind tunnel tests will be conducted on the 17th. (This article is dated 14th.)

The tests will use an 8cm-long paper plane folded in the shape of the space shuttle that was given heat-resistance treatment. The tests include heat resistance and strength and will be conducted in Mach 7 wind speed in a wind tunnel located at Tokyo University's Kashiwa Campus. (Kashiwa City in Chiba Prefecture)

Due to the fact that space shuttles return to Earth at Mach 20, experiencing high temperature levels due to air friction, special heat-resisting measures have to be taken to protect their surface. Because paper aeroplanes are light, they can begin deceleration even in thin air, thus landing at a slower speed. It is speculated that the plane may be able to reach the ground safely without burning up.

An aeronautics professor at Tokyo University, Professor Shinji Suzuki, says, "I hope that this plane will be released from the space station with a message of peace attached to it. We don't know where it will land, but we hope that the person who finds it will send it back to us."

Pink Tentacle? (2, Funny)

hellfire (86129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127136)

I mean... I can't say any more than that. A news source, dedicated to the more unusual aspects of Japanese culture... called Pink Tentacle.

I'm a total perv myself but I'm just having a hard time dealing with a news source with that name that has nothing to do with Hentai... maybe that's my problem... I must be too much of a perv.

But then again, I am on slashdot, there must be tons of us unable to process this ;)

De-Orbit? (4, Interesting)

twifosp (532320) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127182)

Since I can't read japanese and therefore can't RTFA, I have a few questions.

The ISS Orbits the Earth at around 7.400k/s at an altitude of 365k. You can't just throw something out of the ISS and hit the Earth's atmosphere for Re-entry. If you "throw" it out of the ISS, it'll orbit, just like the ISS. In order to intersect with the Earth's atmosphere for areo-braking, you are going to need to lower he perigee of your orbit to at least 50-60k. You'll need a delta V of about 100 m/sec to do this.

What gives? Have they built an oragami retrograde rocket as well?

Re:De-Orbit? (2, Funny)

Bazman (4849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127242)

Surely if you throw it *down* it'll then have a velocity component in the earthward direction, and since Isaac Newton is in the pilot's seat, it'll carry on downwards...

Re:De-Orbit? (4, Informative)

alyosha1 (581809) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127402)

No. If you throw something from a satellite in a circular orbit, giving it a small 'downward' velocity component, the object will just end up in a slightly elliptical orbit.

One way of thinking about orbits is that a satellite is perpetually falling towards the earth, because of gravity, but also perpetually missing, because of the lateral velocity component.

To make the paper plane de-orbit, you could throw it in the opposite direction to the ISS at the same velocity as the ISS is travelling: 27 500 km/h. Then the plane won't have any lateral velocity component, and will fall straight down.

Re:De-Orbit? (1)

Squapper (787068) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127592)

The ISS experiences friction from the atmosphere and requires regular "pushes" from spacecraft to maintain orbit. Even if you placed the paper airplane next to ISS, it would eventually de-orbit.

Re:De-Orbit? (1)

joh (27088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127732)

No. If you throw something from a satellite in a circular orbit, giving it a small 'downward' velocity component, the object will just end up in a slightly elliptical orbit.

If the object has a very low mass for its cross-section (as a paper plane certainly has) it will de-orbit very soon on its own. The reason is that there's still a bit of an atmosphere up there and low-mass objects experience significant drag that slows them down. The carbon fiber segment of the wing leading edge that drifted away on-orbit from Columbia in 2003 was tracked and it deorbited within 48 hours. You could probably just shove a paper plane out of the airlock and within 24 hours it would've slowed down enough to reentry. The problem would be to track it and if it really survives reentry, to find it...

Re:De-Orbit? (1)

ceeam (39911) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127766)

Eliptical or not it will surely have its lowest point (of orbit) lower than ISS. Since ISS flys as low as reasonably possible without touching the detectable athmosphere it should be enough for the glider to touch the thin air and "spiral" down to surface from there.

Re:De-Orbit? (1)

twifosp (532320) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127422)

No, not quite. Newton is in the pilot's seat, but he still has ~7.400 k/sec of tangent velocity along the orbital prograde vector to contend with. Yes if you throw it "down" it will move away from the ISS and towards the Earth. But all you've done is put the airplane in a slightly lower orbit than the ISS. You'd also put the ISS in a very slightly, almost imeasurable, higher orbit.

Remember that orbiting a planet is carrying a velocity that moves you tangent to the planet at a rate equal to the gravitional pull that is making you "fall" towards it. You are just falling "around" the planet.

The only way to de-orbit a body is to slow the velocity so your orbit is lowered.

Re:De-Orbit? (1)

ilovepolymorphism (642188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127570)

If you throw the paper plane down far enough won't it still fall(just not straight down)? It would seem that the tangent velocity would not be high enough to sustain a lower orbit.

Re:De-Orbit? (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127468)

I wondered the same thing. There are 2 pieces to an answer to this, though probably this isn't the answer.

The ISS isn't really above the atmosphere, it's above *most* of the atmosphere. Periodic reboosting is necessary. So if you just set the paper plane outside the lock (Perpendicular to the orbital direction) its orbit would decay faster, due to its higher surface-area/mass ratio. Beyond that, a retrograde through, while not 100m/s, would certainly decrease its orbital velocity. You still might have to wait some months for reentry, however.

I suspect the more correct answer is an origami retro-rocket:
Fold a paper sleeve enclosing the approximate cross-section of the paper plane, a few feet long.
Make it tight/loose so that the plane can slide back an forth in the sleeve, but there isn't a lot of extra space around it.
Tape shut one end of the sleeve, now called "the back".
Tape an air tube so it can introduce air into the back of the sleeve.
Hook the other end of the tube to an air cannister, a blast-gate type valve would be better.
Slide the paper airplane into the sleeve, all the way to the back. (I suggest that the plane point toward the back, also)
Take it all outside, point it retrograde.
Open the valve, letting air into the sleeve.

The paper plane blows out the end of the sleeve. I wouldn't think this rig would have trouble hitting 100 m/s with the right sleeve length and fit, and right air pressure, valve type, etc. Given the design lifetime in seconds, I don't think the tape would be a problem doing its job in seconds.

Re:De-Orbit? (1)

erpbridge (64037) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127668)

I'm really not up with my gravity understanding in space, so forgive me for sounding ignorant.

If you just placed the paper plane just outside the airlock of the space station, without any additional momentum added, would the space station's mass exert a small gravity well that would keep the plane alongside the station? Or is the Earth's gravity stronger at that point because of the space station's altitude that the plane would be pulled toward Earth?

Re:De-Orbit? (1)

twifosp (532320) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127700)

You still might have to wait some months for reentry, however.
The ISS can last months and even years in a semi-stable orbit without re-boosting. The ISS also has gyro's that help it shift it's gravitional gradient around in order to help keep the orbit stable. The orbit will eventually decay, yes. Each shuttle mission does clean up the ISS orbit, but the orbit wouldn't decay for a few years. It only drops around 3km per month. But that effect would be exponential as the orbit decreases.

The ISS has a bit more mass than a paper airplane.

The static pressure at that altitude is about 1 pa. The dynamic pressure of something that small and weighing only a few grams is going fairly small. A back of the eyelide calculation would suggest the paper airplane would decelerate at around .05 m/s and drop about 2 meter a year taking it some 60 years to deorbit.

Re:De-Orbit? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127712)

Hmm - accellerating a paper plane to 250 mph in probably 0.1 seconds might not be too good for it staying in one piece...

You'd need to be very gradual about the acceleration. That means some kind of guidance system (even if it is just a wire) and propulsion that lasts for at least a few seconds.

Re:De-Orbit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127684)

There's enough air friction on the ISS that they need to boost it higher fairly often. I imagine the friction on a piece of paper would slow it's orbit fairly quickly. I just wonder how they plan to track it. It needs a little wire or something so that it can bounce radar.

Re:De-Orbit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127954)

You can do two things.
1) Throw in backwards from the ISS. You don't need to get it down to a perigee of 50-60km as it will decelerate much much faster than spacecraft due to atmospheric drag. The tenuous upper atmosphere at 100-150km should be enough to slow it to a sub-orbital velocity and re-enter.
2) Leave it orbiting near the ISS on a similar ~360km orbit. The ISS decays its orbit over time and needs to be reboosted. If you don't reboost the plane, then it will naturally decay over a few months and re-enter the atmosphere.

A few more things... (5, Insightful)

RecycledElectrons (695206) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127194)

I'm not associated with the project, but I do have common sense.

For those who think this is a high-risk project, risk is the chance of failure multiplied by the cost. The cost of throwing a paper plane from the ISS is low compared to other experiments, and we will learn quite a bit, not matter what happens.

For those who think this is a waste of money, I understand. You would have never funded the research into better clocks that eventually led to better navigation, which led to Columbus' voyages. The idea of opening a new frontier does not excite you. You would have us turn inward like the Chinese did at one point, burn your own ships, and never venture out again. You will accept a stagnant society. Based on my understanding of you, I offer one suggestion: Please commit suicide. We're better off without you.


Re:A few more things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127564)

For those who think this is a waste of money, I understand. You would have never funded the research into better clocks that eventually led to better navigation, which led to Columbus' voyages. The idea of opening a new frontier does not excite you. You would have us turn inward like the Chinese did at one point, burn your own ships, and never venture out again. You will accept a stagnant society.
Straw man arguments are lies.

Racist Comment (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127204)

Unfortunately for most of us reading this, the original source is all in japanese.

I'm a Jap, you insensitive crod!

Re: origami deorbit (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127210)

Go creased lighting! Go creased lighting!

Er... what is the point? (2, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127280)

Even if it _doesn't_ burn up in the atmosphere, which I am willing to concede could possibly occur, as soon as this thing gets into the upper atmosphere of the earth, it will be whipped around by the high speed winds like a toothpick would be inside of a tornado. Heck, the winds could conceivably even shred the thing. I would be surprised if a paper plane that high up actually makes it to the ground at all any time within the next 5 years, assuming that it manages to stay in one piece the whole time.

So what is the point of this, exactly? I mean other than to launch a paper plane from what could be argued as a really cool place to throw one from?

Alien Visitors (1)

Mushdot (943219) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127346)

What would be funny is if the re-entry of the plane was missed and its final destination never found. Then, years later someone hacking through the jungle finds a tribe of people who appear to worship a small deity that fell from the sky.

Re:Alien Visitors (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127590)

Better yet - what if alien visitors deemed us worthy of sharing their technology with us, but as soon as they saw we were flying paper airplanes around the galaxy they just move on.

Re:Alien Visitors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22127760)

The gods must be crazy.

I've got a bad feeling about this... (1)

artdwpmt (1222908) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127370)

Am I the only one who is worried about NASA now announcing plans to investigate 'new' technology for super low cost re-entry vehicles. As a bonus, the vehicles can be folded flat to take up less room on the trip to space and can be stored for emergencies at the ISS.

I have a cunning plan (4, Funny)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127588)

So, here's the thing. I've got a plane. And I have a window in the plane. The rules say (FAR 91.15) that I can chuck stuff out of the plane if I take reasonable precautions to avoid hurting anyone on the ground. So the answer here is simple:

A bunch of paper airplanes with japanese writing on them, air brushed lightly at the nose to look like it's re-entered.

Thrown out the window over the local university.

Playing the odds, at least one of them will be seen landing by someone who reads slashdot. "Holy crap!" he/she (just kidding, he) shouts.

Mua-ha-ha-ha.... I don't know what step 2 is, but #3 is profit.

Re:I have a cunning plan (0, Offtopic)

antdude (79039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127884)

Chairboy, rmember that time you made a paper plane and threw it at me during a meeting? And I threw it back? :)

New crew escape vehicle... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127658)

NASA budget cuts inspire the design of the On-site Assembled Crew Escape Vehicle (OSASSCREV): Take twelve sheets of 50-lb A4 paper from storage locker, crease the first lengthwise and fold...

This isn't the best kind of PR (1)

hubie (108345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127798)

Critics of the space station, and a significant manned program in general, point out that the space station serves no scientific or engineering purpose. Unfortunately things like this, rich tourists, and hitting golf balls don't provide the best endorsement, at least from the scientific community. Then again, the scientific and engineering community has basically no input for the station, because if they did the station would either be scrapped, or filled with actual scientific experiments.

Origami Meteor? (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 6 years ago | (#22127850)

Sounds like a new business opportunity for the Origami Boulder guy: []

Prior art (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128002)

I think I know where the Japanese got their inspiration. Anyone see that MacGyver episode where he was stuck on the Mir space station with a ream of paper to work with?

Dan East

Expensive paper airplane (2, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128060)

Back of the envelope time:

The cost to launch something to the ISS's orbit is something like $10,000/lb. Let's say they make it from typical 20-lb bonded paper - the kind you'd pull from a copier.A 500-sheet ream of 20-lb actually weighs about 5 lbs [] , or 1/100th of a pound per sheet. Do out the math, and it works out to about $100/sheet of paper.

Ouch! That's an expensive paper airplane!

Re:Expensive paper airplane (2, Insightful)

Cctoide (923843) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128390)

Avoid sending 1,377,000 of these sheets up there and you can buy an F-22 Raptor instead.

Ha! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22128082)

Fuck you, scissors and rock!

Space Odyssey 2008 (1)

amanamac (1049100) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128174)

I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that.

Some maths (2, Interesting)

ringman8567 (895757) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128184)

400km up 27700 km/h the energy loss required is about 117kJ potential and 888kJ kinetic to land. say 1MJ. This is slightly reduceded as to get to an eacth grazing orbit the plane must be thrown backwards fom the space station eith a relative velocity of about 700km/h.

If we assume a surface area of 1000 sq cm, not unreasonable for a length of 30-40 cm, then and a re-entry time of 1000 seconds the energy must be lost at about 1 watt/sq cm, which seems possible.

The launch from the space station would appear to require rocket assistance.

If flying slow enough, why should it burn? (2, Interesting)

ballestra (118297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128210)

We always think of re-entry of a spacecraft as this fiery process, but would it be possible for a paper airplane to approach the atmosphere slowly and enter it gently without any high temperatures? Perhaps someone can explain how this is impossible.

The coolest thing... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128310)

I have to say that this is an experiment actually worth doing, but I would like to see them do it with a bigger paper airplane than a few inches long. That way, if it does land on a continent, it would be easier to find (assuming that it remained intact). But, still, the thought of a paper airplane landing somewhere from orbit is just, cool.

How Do You Know It Worked? (1)

ilikepi314 (1217898) | more than 6 years ago | (#22128478)

If I was an astronaut, I probably would have done something like this by now, just because its funny. The space station is rather small, and I imagine its novelty wears off quickly. What else are you supposed to do?

However, I'm curious if they have a plan to know whether or not it worked? An origami paper plane should be pretty tiny and can easily be lost somewhere between space station and the ground.

Unless it has some sort of microscopic transmitter on it, are going to track it with a telescope, or they're just going to declare victory no matter what, I'm not sure how you can easily tell whether this design and special paper made any sort of difference. Which is terrible because I'm really curious to know if it does!!
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