Japanese company develops artificial meteor showers on demand

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/01/18/japanese-company-develops-arti.html

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The physics of this is interesting. The satellites must have a fair bit of propellant in them to not only maneuver into the right orbit to release at the correct time and place, but also to maintain orbit given how they must be very low LEOs. Also, they need to eject those balls with quite a bit of reverse thrust to get them to deorbit reliably and on time.

So what you have is a satellite that can maneuver to pretty much any orbit and fire high speed projectiles. What any slightly paranoid observer would classify as a potential hunter-killer satellite. Communication satellites (with the exception of SpaceX’s new system) wouldn’t be potential targets (they’re mostly too high up), but spy satellites have to operate a pretty low altitude to get good resolution. I’m a bit surprised that foreign spy agencies didn’t object to this launch.

Even more suspicious is that the business plan seems kind of insane. The meteor shower is impressive, but in the end is just a trumped up firework, but given that the company must recoup the development, launch, and maintenance costs of this whole system in a fairly short timeframe (LEOs burn up their reserve fuel just maintaining orbit) they’re going to need a bunch of deep pocketed customers in the next couple of years just to break even.


They really only need one customer: the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As a government-sponsored showcase of Japanese gee-whizzery, complete with all the corruption, cost overruns, and poor financial oversight that comes along with any Olympics, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Japanese government/Japanese Olympic Committee basically pays for this company’s initial outlay in that single fell swoop.


China grew plants on the moon.
Japan is making meteor showers.


Does being LEO mean this isn’t a hideous example of space junk?


The brilliant thing about this is: when the last ball is launched, they just wish for 400 new ones.


How about this: you don’t need to actually achieve orbit. A few kilometers should do the job, and then you’re dealing with a slightly upgraded firework. I understand the Japanese know a thing or two about fireworks.

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In the long term it won’t be a problem. As I mentioned before anything in LEO that isn’t regularly boosting itself back up will fall back to Earth in a reasonable timeframe (months or a few years depending on a variety of factors).

The ISS for example requires regular boosts to maintain orbit.

One caveat however is the failure mode where they launch the balls in the direction of orbit instead of opposite. In that case the satellite would effectively boost them into a higher orbit where they could take some time to decay. I don’t know how much delta-V they put on those balls to deorbit them but if it’s a lot you could end up with junk in a pretty high orbit.


Yeah, this could definitely be achieved with a suborbital hop, however such a thing would also be or be close to an ICBM depending on the range. If the company in Japan wanted to put on a show for people in the UK using their local launch facilities for example. And of course they need pretty accurate targeting to make sure they aren’t lighting up the sky over Northern Ireland instead.

Overall the scheme is less worrisome than their current one, but still problematic. From a logistical point of view the current one is probably a bit better. They only have to get launch authorization once, and don’t need to worry about weather conditions at the launch site on the day of the event. Also, prepping a launch vehicle can take some time, so they would probably need a longer lead time for this approach. That said this is going to be so expensive that the lead times are already likely to be inflated.


You guys are all missing the story here! After a few test runs with teeny little balls, they’re going to start rodding us! Call all Centenarians and Millenarians.


Just don’t watch. Be in your basement.


Yeah, this could definitely be achieved with a suborbital hop, however such a thing would also be or be close to an ICBM depending on the range.

The Japanese should just contract with the North Koreans. They have been wanting to do this sort of thing for years.


Who the hell would pay for that? Making shooting stars over a concert or a festival makes sense, but over an entire nation? If somebody really wanted to light up thousands of miles of British sky, I suppose it’s possible. But why?

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The entire staff of NORAD and DHS are probably having aneurysms right now. This is basically a watered-down civilian version of Project Thor. And it wouldn’t take much for either a terrorist group or a nutjob to bring it up to full strength.


Its not going to do any harm. The satellite is likely to be in a lower orbit than anything critical, and shooting down. The objects it launches can’t reach the ground.

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The problem comes when it’s always someone’s birthday, and we get “white sky” and the Earth bakes.


With the definitely-no-kinetic-kill-plans-here intro of:

ALE Co. Ltd (Astro Live Experiences) says it is targeting “the whole world” with its products and plans to build a stockpile of shooting stars in space that can be delivered across the world.

It’s hard to keep your paranoia lobe from twitching a bit at these guys. Yes, “target” has a well established meaning in commerce; but it also has other well established meanings; and seriously context people.

On the plus side, you can’t fit a decent sized tungsten rod in a microsat; so no Project Thor shenanigans.


You obviously missed my point. THIS thing can’t do any harm. At least as far as we know. We are told that the objects it launches can’t reach the ground. But this technology can quickly and easily be adapted to be something that is very harmful indeed. All it would take is to change the material used to make the things it spits out. Google “Project Thor” or “Rods from God”.

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Define “decent sized.” And tell us how you know the “microsat” can’t be scaled up.


Probably because it would require something far larger to launch than a booster that can put microsats up. Build one of those, put that shit on it, and watch other space-capable powers sit up and Take Notice.