View Full Version : Satellite That Will Rain Down 'Meteor Showers' on Call Is About to Be Tested in Space

01-17-2019, 10:22 AM
This ranks high on the List of Really Bad Ideas™.

Are you sick of nature? Always doing beautiful things at inconvenient times? Well, a Japanese satellite may be just the thing for you.
Rather than forcing you to wait for one of Earth's 22 or so natural annual meteor showers, it discharges an artificial one, on command.
Well, in theory, anyway. But we're about to find out if it actually works.
The company that invented it, Astro Live Experiences (ALE), has just sent the first prototype to space aboard an Epsilon rocket for testing.
From low-Earth orbit, at an altitude of about 400 kilometres (248.6 miles), the 65-kilogram (143.3-lb) satellite will eject a load of small metallic pellets, around 1 centimetre (less than an inch) in diameter, towards Earth.
What they're made of is a trade secret, but they're designed to burn up on atmospheric re-entry (like real meteors do), producing a shower of colourful streaks of light in the sky visible within a 200-kilometre (124-mile) radius.
And each satellite would carry enough pellets for multiple shows.
The project has been dubbed Sky Canvas.

"Compared to natural ones, our meteors are more massive and travel through the atmosphere more slowly, which allows them to be observed for a longer time," Hiroki Kajihara of ALE told Wired.
But getting them to do so is technically quite difficult.
In order to burn up, they need sufficient velocity, so they need to be shot from the satellite, rather than simply released. And the mechanism to do so will need to have as little recoil as possible, to avoid sending the satellite shooting backwards into space.
The team has developed a pressure-driven gas tank that shoots the pellets out at 8 km per second, as reported by the BBC.
But, as ALE engineer Adrien Lemal told the BBC, "It's something that has never been developed here on Earth and we need to make sure it works in space."
The team wants to have the satellite operational by next year, when they hope to shower their artificial meteors over Hiroshima, 75 years after America dropped two atomic bombs to devastate the city in WWII.
But, just because you can do something, that doesn't mean you should, and scientists are concerned that the spectacle would create significant problems, with very little gain.
The space around Earth is already crowded, both with defunct junk and active systems, and if anything goes awry with ALE's satellite - such as spraying pellets at slightly the wrong angle - it could result in collisions with delicate satellite equipment.

Satellite That Will Rain Down 'Meteor Showers' on Call Is About to Be Tested in Space (LINK) (https://www.sciencealert.com/japan-is-about-to-test-its-artificial-meteor-shower-satellite)

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01-17-2019, 10:33 AM
I wonder how many times it can 'perform' before it runs out of material?

01-17-2019, 10:48 AM
There's some irony that the first place these artificial meteor showers are to take place is over Hiroshima, as part of a commemoration of the nuclear attack. I can't think of a more obvious use for the technology they're developing (satellite deployed objects which resist burning up in the atmosphere) than to launch nukes from a Space Force.

01-17-2019, 10:52 AM
Apparently humanity just can't restrain itself from spreading its junk everywhere it can reach.

01-17-2019, 11:52 AM
The funny thing is there might actually prove to be a market for this. It's getting much cheaper to hire a rocket to put a small satellite in space. It just has to shoot the pellets out the back of the satellite as it travels in its orbit so they go just a bit slower than the satellite and at the correct time. If it works and makes a nice enough light show it could be done on a budget not much larger than the outlay for a fireworks show.

01-17-2019, 12:12 PM
Humans suck. Space junk is a massive problem.