18 January 2019 Community news

Made-to-order meteor shower satellite now in space

Sateliite carrying multi-coloured 'shooting stars on demand' blasts into space

ALE Co. Ltd plan to light up the sky in multi-colours with the artificial meteor shower.
ALE Co. Ltd plan to light up the sky in multi-colours with the artificial meteor shower.

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 kilometres (310 miles) above the Earth, will gradually descend to 400 kilometres 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.

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