Technology

Technology 01

HOW MAN-MADE SHOOTING STARS ARE CREATED

How man-made shooting stars are created

Shooting stars mechanisms

Natural shooting stars emit light due to the aerodynamic heating of small dust particles when they travel through Earth's atmosphere at very high speed. At ALE, we recreate this phenomenon by accurately releasing particles that become shooting stars from our satellites when they enter Earth's atmosphere.

*Aerodynamic heating: This is the process of converting kinetic energy into heat. The phenomenon only occurs when an object travels through the atmosphere at high speed.

Difference between natural shooting stars (meteors) and man-made shooting stars

Compared to natural meteors, the particles, which ALE releases to create shooting stars, are rather larger and enter Earth's atmosphere at slower speed. This enables ALE's shooting stars to emit light longer compared to natural meteors.

Technological solutions to ensure mission safety and mitigate environmental impact

ALE's operation system and procedures ensure the shooting stars trajectory crosses Earth's atmosphere. Our meteor particles are released after confirming that there are no other spacecraft on the designated path, which prevents space debris generation.

When entering Earth's atmosphere from an altitude of about 80km, the particles will completely decelerate and disappear due to air resistance and aerodynamic heating. Therefore, they will not fall on the ground.

The shooting star particles are 1cm spheres and their non-toxic materials are inspired from the same materials that fall on Earth from space every day.

Technology 02

World's first man-made shooting star satellite

World's first man-made shooting star satellite

ALE's man-made shooting star satellites were developed together with Tohoku University.

Our satellites, ALE-1 and ALE-2 are both equipped with multiple sensors that measure attitude and position along with three independent controls making it extremely reliable. As a result, our satellites can release particles to emit light precisely at a designated location, can prevent collisions with other satellites and avoid producing space debris.

The meteor release device is a payload (mission system) built with Japanese craftmanship such as highly precise processing technologies and high-quality components. Though the particles are released at a very high speed (maximum 400m/s), the error remains below 1%, which enables a safe and highly accurate generation of shooting stars on demand.

ALE-1 satellite launched by JAXA Epsilon rocket
(Launched on January 18, 2019)
Performance test of the particle release device in the vacuum chamber

Technology 03

OUR PLASMA & MATERIAL TECHNOLOGY

Our plasma & material technology

When the meteor particles enter Earth's atmosphere, they become high-temperature plasma that emits light and will eventually vanish.

ALE has developed a compact plasma wind tunnel to simulate this phenomenon and to test different materials for the meteor particles. We are researching mechanisms for material ablation caused by aerodynamic heating. This can enable further development of materials for spacecraft, and contribution to meteor sciences.

ALE's plasma wind tunnel
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Technology 04

OUR EFFORTS TO PREVENT SPACE DEBRIS

Our efforts to prevent space debris

Today's active space developments are increasing the number of objects in outer space. It is said that in the near future, these objects will collide with one another and cause a cascade that increases the probability of further collisions, resulting in more space debris (Kessler Syndrome).

ALE, together with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) has developed an EDT (Electro Dynamic Tether) for small satellites PMD (Post-Mission Disposal) by leveraging Earth's magnetic field.

By equipping satellites and rocket upper stages with this device, it forces them to rapidly lower their altitude and enter Earth's atmosphere even if they do not have power supply, preventing space debris accumulation. For instance, we could avoid damaged or end-of-life satellites to become space debris. As a result, space can become a safer place for future business, and space development can become more sustainable.

Concept image of EDT