A rocket carrying a satellite on a mission to deliver the world’s first artificial meteor shower blasted into space on 18 January 2019. 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).
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 18 January 2019 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 above the Earth, will gradually descend to 400 kilometers over the coming year as it orbits the Earth.
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. 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.