Japan satellite blasts into space to deliver artificial meteors

Author: 
Miwa SUZUKI | AFP
ID: 
1547782035899236400
Fri, 2019-01-18 03:17

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 center by the Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Friday morning.
The rocket is carrying a total of seven ultra-small satellites that
will demonstrate various “innovative” technologies, JAXA
spokesman Nobuyoshi Fujimoto told AFP.
By around noon on Friday, the first of the seven satellites had
been successfully sent into orbit, he added, with JAXA officials
waiting for signals to confirm the fate of the other six.
The company behind the artificial meteor shower plan, 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 multi-colored 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.
They would glow brightly enough to be seen even over the
light-polluted metropolis of Tokyo, ALE says.
If all goes well, and the skies are clear, the 2020 event could be
visible to millions of people, it says.
ALE chief executive Lena Okajima has said her company chose
Hiroshima for its first display because of its good weather,
landscape and cultural assets.
The western Japan city rose from the ashes after the 1945 US atomic
bombing and faces the Seto Inland sea where the floating gate of
Itsukushima Shrine is.
ALE is working in collaboration with scientists and engineers at
Japanese universities as well as local government officials and
corporate sponsors.
It has not disclosed the price for an artificial meteor shower.

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Japan satellite blasts into space to deliver artificial meteors