Tokyo, Japan- ALE Co., Ltd. , the Tokyo-based space venture company which is led by its CEO and founder Lena Okajima, has recently announced that they will be launching their first satellite on January 17, 2019, after 7 years of research and development. This satellite will take a ride on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Epsilon Rocket #4 for the journey to space.
ALE aims to realize the world’s first man made meteor with its own satellites, including this one.
Image of the ALE’s first satellite
About ALE’s man made meteors
ALE is the world’s first company in the space entertainment sector, aiming to create man made meteors as its key business. ALE will send a meteor source from its satellite towards the earth’s atmosphere and when the source particle reaches the atmosphere, it becomes a shining meteor.
A movie highlighting this concept can be seen here:
ALE has finally completed its first satellite and plans also to launch second one around the summer of 2019. The second satellite is currently in the final stage of assembly.
ALE, selected for JAXA’s “Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Program”
The ALE’s satellite will be sent to space on Epsilon Rocket 4, as part of JAXA’s “Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Program”. The program is intended to provide components, instruments, microsatellites and cubesats designed by universities and businesses as a chance to demonstrate their functionalities in space. The Epsilon Rocket for this program will include 7 satellites, one being ALE’s first satellite.
ALE’s first satellites will (1) investigate feasibility of man made meteors and its marketability, (2) obtain data about the earth’s upper atmosphere such as density, wind direction, composition by observing the man made meteors, and (3) understand how the re-entry can change and affect the meteor’s trajectory. These 3 topics will further carve out new possibilities in space development.
The Epsilon Rocket 4 is scheduled to launch from JAXA’s Uchinoura Space Observatory in Kagoshima Japan on Jan. 17, 2019.
ALE ensured safe release of meteor source in collaboration with JAXA
The mission of the ALE’s first satellite is to release objects from the satellite to generate meteors. Because no one else has attempted this challenge before, there has been no safety guidelines implemented for a mission of this type. To tackle this challenge, ALE and JAXA held multiple safety discussions and workshops to determine an adequate safety standard for the mission which would minimize potential effects on other earth-orbiting satellites.
As a result of the discussions, the satellite has a triple redundant attitude determination system. The satellite’s attitude is a critical aspect of overall accuracy for meteor source release and a triple redundant system will be the primary safety measure to ensure that a release at an incorrect position/direction will not occur. As such, the system was designed so that the meteor release will occur only if three independent CPUs agree on the satellite’s attitude. Compared to the safety features of other microsatellites, the feature implemented in ALE’s satellite is significantly enhanced.
A group photo of the attendees of the second safety discussion
The particle release and the birth of man made meteor
Over the last years, ALE combined comprehensive material tests in in-house experimental facilities and high-fidelity simulations to provide a safe, multi-color meteor, on demand. This endeavor is enabled by 2 key technologies: (1) a meteor source particle release system, and (2) the particle itself. Of paramount importance is the control of the particle’s release velocity down to 3m/s, which is enabled by a custom-built high-pressure helium precision release system which guarantees the particle ejection at required speed and time. The 1cm particle is composed of confidential non-toxic materials and is the main driver of the entertainment experienced by the people. The particle leverages the significant aeroheating during reentry and converts its kinetic energy into brightness. The material interaction with air generates a wide range of bright colors and safely disintegrates before reaching 60km.
The launch is just the beginning
For ALE’s first satellite, the launch marks only the beginning of a path to a successful mission. After reaching space, the satellite has two key challenges which stand in its path.
The first challenge is to successfully reach its orbit using the DOM®:De-Orbit Mechanism1.
ALE’s satellite will only release meteor sources if the satellite is below an altitude of 400km. The satellite detaches from the Epsilon Rocket at an altitude of 500km, so must lower its altitude by 100km. To achieve this, the satellite will activate a DOM and open up a membrane in outer space. The membrane will increase atmospheric drag on the satellite and help the satellite slowly descend down to the target altitude of 400km. Once the satellite reaches the targetted altitude, the first major milestone in the mission will be completed.
The second challenge is to successfully generate a man made meteor in the night sky.
The world’s first man made meteor event
The world’s first man made meteor event will take place in the spring of 2020 in Japan at the vicinity of Hiroshima and Seto inland sea. The meteors can be observed by over 6 million people in an area up to 200km in diameter. Using this first satellite and the currently developing second satellite, ALE aims to make the unprecedented man made meteor events into a reality. We call this attempt, "SHOOTING STAR challenge"
The development of the satellite
ALE’s challenge started in 2009 when CEO Lena Okajima started recruiting members for the man made meteor project. The meteor source was developed with the expertise of Dr. Hironori Sahara from Tokyo Metropolis University and Dr. Shinsuke Abe from Nihon University. The highly robust main satellite systems were developed by Dr. Toshinori Kuwahara of Tohoku University, and the release mechanism was developed by Dr. Takeo Watanabe with the help of several domestic manufacturers and components makers. With these members at the heart of development, the unprecedented project was kicked off.
Comments from ALE’s CEO Lena Okajima
“Just a few days ago, I witnessed our completed satellite being mounted onto the rocket that will eventually take our satellite into space. The completed satellite was absolutely gorgeous, mounted majestically on the rocket and when I realized that would soon travel to space, it seemed surreal. We have come a long way, but there is still a long path ahead for us. My emotions are swaying between the accomplishment of completing our satellite, and a sense of responsibility for all the tasks that lie ahead of us.
Looking back, it strikes me how many people have assisted in achieving our goals, into making our dream a reality. From the bottom of my heart, I am truly grateful for everyone who has lent us a hand, and for our supporters who stand alongside us in ALE’s vision.
The launch of the Epsilon Rocket is the biggest milestone for ALE yet, and I sincerely hope that the launch will be a success.
Lastly, I hope that our man made meteors will help reveal new discoveries in science, and that it will gather and entertain people under the night sky.”
*1: DOM®:De-Orbit Mechanism is a commercial product sold by Nakashimada Engineering Works, Ltd.
[About ALE Co., Ltd.]
ALE’s mission is to “Fuse Science to Society and Bring Space into our Culture”. With our innovation and technology, ALE strives to fulfill the endless curiosity of us humans, and to build the technological foundation that will enriches our daily lives.
Company Name: ALE Co., Ltd
HQ Address: Kawamoto Building 2nd Floor 2-21-1 Akasaka, Minato-Ku Tokyo Japan
CEO: Lena Okajima
Established: September 1, 2011.
- Space Entertainment Business with man made meteors,”Sky Canvas”
- Development of Satellite Technologies.
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ALE Media Contact