Japan satellite to provide ‘shooting stars on demand’

640 views
The Epsilon-4 rocket blasts off from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kimotsuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Friday, carrying satellites, including one developed by a Tokyo venture company to create an artificial meteor shower. — Courtesy photo

TOKYO — A rocket carrying a satellite on a mission to deliver the world’s first artificial meteor shower blasted into space on Friday, Japanese scientists said.

A start-up based in Tokyo developed the micro-satellite for the celestial show over Hiroshima early next year as the initial experiment for what it calls a “shooting stars on demand” service.

The satellite is to release tiny balls that glow brightly as they hurtle through the atmosphere, simulating a meteor shower.

It hitched a ride on the small-size Epsilon-4 rocket that was launched from the Uchinoura space centre by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Friday morning.

The rocket carried a total of seven ultra-small satellites that will demonstrate various “innovative” technologies, JAXA spokesman Nobuyoshi Fujimoto told AFP.

By early afternoon, JAXA confirmed all seven satellites had successfully been launched into orbit.

“I was too moved for words,” Lena Okajima, president of the company behind the artificial meteor showers, told the Jiji Press agency. “I feel like now the hard work is ahead.”

The company ALE Co. Ltd plans to deliver its first out-of-this-world show over Hiroshima in the spring of 2020.

The satellite launched Friday carries 400 tiny balls whose chemical formula is a closely-guarded secret.

That should be enough for 20-30 events, as one shower will involve up to 20 stars, according to the company.

ALE’s satellite, released 500 kilometers (310 miles) above the Earth, will gradually descend to 400 kilometers over the coming year as it orbits the Earth.

The company plans to launch a second satellite on a private-sector rocket in mid-2019.

ALE says it is targeting “the whole world” with its products and plans to build a stockpile of shooting stars in space that can be delivered across the world.

When its two satellites are in orbit, they can be used separately or in tandem, and will be programmed to eject the balls at the right location, speed and direction to put on a show for viewers on the ground.

Tinkering with the ingredients in the balls should mean that it is possible to change the colors they glow, offering the possibility of a multicolored flotilla of shooting stars.

Each star is expected to shine for several seconds before being completely burned up — well before they fall low enough to pose any danger to anything on Earth. — AFP


640 views