Two microsatellites will release tiny balls into space which will glow brightly on entering the atmosphere.
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“Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars? I could really use a wish right now, wish right now, wish right now.” Hayley Williams of Paramore may not have sung these lines in B.o.B.’s popular rap track Airplanes if she were just ten years into the future. That’s because a Japanese startup named ALE Co. is preparing itself to provide paying customers with “shooting stars on demand”.
According to a report by Japan Times, this Tokyo-based startup is in the final stages of developing two microsatellites, which, when deployed in space, will release tiny balls that glow brightly as they enter the atmosphere and simulate a meteor shower. The first microsatellite is expected to go up into space on a rocket launched by the country’s space agency by March 2019, and the second, on a private-sector rocket in mid-2019.
“We are targeting the whole world, as our stockpile of shooting stars will be in space and can be delivered across the world,” said Lena Okajima, ALE’s Chief Executive. According to the company, each microsatellite will be capable of carrying 400 tiny balls, which should be enough for 20–30 events. The microsatellites themselves are expected to have a life of 2 years in space. The chemical used to make them glow brightly is a company secret.
ALE Co. is also flirting with the idea of reusing satellites that are already in space and are non-operational to create “giant” shooting stars. “We are planning to push a used satellite into the atmosphere on a targeted orbit to create a giant artificial shooting star,” said ALE Chief Engineer Ko Kamachi, adding that the idea was still very much in research phase.
The first test of the original “shooting stars on demand” plan is scheduled to happen over the city of Hiroshima, a place chosen by ALE Co. specifically for its ideal weather, landscape, and cultural background. The initial tests are estimated to have a budget of $20 million.
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