Even cooler than Super Blood Wolf Moon
February 6, 2019 7:50 PM   Subscribe

The ALE-1 commercial microsatellite (previously)—designed to create on-demand artificial meteor showers (story begins at about 30:30 in the video), essentially setting off fireworks from above the atmosphere—arced towards its destiny in the heavens with the late January launch of the Epsilon-4 solid-fuel rocket by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) from the historic Uchinoura Space Center at the southern tip of the archipelago. The company's CEO and founder, Lena Okajima ( 岡島 礼奈  ( おかじま れな ) ) says she expects, if initial testing is successful next spring, to officially debut the fully operational satellite's capabilities at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Four colors of meteor are available.
posted by XMLicious (35 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I bet that the dinosaurs thought that this would be a great idea, too.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:28 PM on February 6, 2019 [13 favorites]


Hey, when it comes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it's important to be prepared.


daaahn daaahn dahn dahn...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:32 PM on February 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


Please don’t. This moves us closer to advertising projected on the moon.
posted by Silvery Fish at 8:43 PM on February 6, 2019 [5 favorites]


Just because it's possible doesn't mean it's a good idea. I (do not) look forward to various nations trying to psy-op weaponize this.

See?! Even the stars are red white and blue!

Not any more! Now the sky is communist-with-chinese-characteristics red from horizon to horizon!
posted by aramaic at 8:49 PM on February 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


Please don’t. This moves us closer to advertising projected on the moon.

Projected?


CHA
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:51 PM on February 6, 2019 [27 favorites]


Fascinating to hear that the same company has also engineered a motile species of venomous plant. Can’t wait to take a good long look at this “meteor shower”!
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:58 PM on February 6, 2019 [15 favorites]


Given that you can already see other satellites moving across the sky, reappearing again and again and again for years or decades before (intentionally) crashing back to Earth in a similarly firey display, this seems like an ephemeral sand painting in comparison. I would personally prefer something like this rather than the light poison in the sky that comes from every city or all the smoke and noise pollution from a terrestrial fireworks display.

But luckily for anyone to whom this seems egregious in contrast to those other things we already do, this is one of the rare cases where you can legitimately complain that the sky is falling. I put the Death Star allusion in the OP for you guys!
posted by XMLicious at 9:15 PM on February 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


this seems like an ephemeral sand painting in comparison.

Even a grain of sand (mass ~ 0.00000005 kg) has about one and a half joules of kinetic energy while in low earth orbit (velocity ~ 7,800 ms^-1). So a grain of sand - think of a glint of mica on your fingertip after a day on the beach - up there has the same amount of energy as an apple dropped onto your head from a metre up (ouch!) would have, down here on the surface of earth. Even really tiiiiiny things, not much larger than a grain of sand, can do serious damage at those speeds. And we can’t see anything much below 10 cm in size from earth-based telescopes, which is how debris is detected and avoided. So ephemeral samd paintings might not be such a great idea in orbit!

More information here: Kessler Syndrome [wikipedia]; Why would a box of 1 cm ball bearings be so scary to an engineer supporting the ISS? [stackexchange]
posted by chappell, ambrose at 9:44 PM on February 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


Someone can correct me if I'm wrong but I believe a more common way to avoid accidents with space junk is to direct any object we're in control of along a decaying orbit. Even crashing things that are much larger than grains of sand or pebbles into the atmosphere is something military and civilian space programs do all the time, because the risk involved is so much smaller than leaving things in stable orbits despite those orbits moving through a region many times the volume of the entire Earth.

...in the course of trying to figure out the split between objects that are de-orbited versus ones which are moved to a graveyard orbit, Wikipedia led me to the U.S. Government Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices.

I didn't find my answer but I was introduced to the delightful phrase “drag enhancement devices.” I think I may have a few of those in my closet.
posted by XMLicious at 10:33 PM on February 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


What could go wrong?
posted by Amplify at 10:45 PM on February 6, 2019


What could go wrong?

chappel's above-linked Kessler syndrome. Seriously, that's no-more-satellites serious.
posted by MikeKD at 12:15 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Given that you can already see other satellites moving across the sky, reappearing again and again and again for years or decades before (intentionally) crashing back to Earth in a similarly firey display, this seems like an ephemeral sand painting in comparison.

Satellites are incidentally visible. This thing is intentionally visible. I don't want Apple to put an Apple logo constellation in space.
posted by pracowity at 1:44 AM on February 7, 2019


If your secret spy satellite gets damaged by debris because it's a secret spy one and no-one knew it was there, I have no sympathy.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 2:12 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


A couple of videos from the company itself: animation of the satellite's operation, plus one narrated in Japanese but with more varied content like brief clips of design, construction, and testing.
posted by XMLicious at 2:30 AM on February 7, 2019


This thing is intentionally visible. I don't want Apple to put an Apple logo constellation in space.

Oh man, I never thought about this. You could totally fly a flock of satellites in formation like a dog matrix display and use reflectors and mirrors to turn pixels on and off. The logo displayed could readily change over each targeted city.
posted by loquacious at 2:32 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


They could also use the mirrors to focus the sun on people using non-Apple devices. Like burning ants.
posted by pracowity at 4:21 AM on February 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


A dog matrix in space doesn't sound very nice for the puppers.

Also the day when people turn the ancient and sacred night sky into yet another medium for fucking advertisements is the day I move into a cave.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:22 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


Grrrr, I am angry just thinking about it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:23 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


The worst thing is that I'm sure it would even work. The first time someone did it, it would be sure to get huge amounts of attention all over the world—I mean look at this thing, which is basically an abstract version of the same concept. Some would be negative but most would doubtless be of the fawning "Wow, cool!" variety that seems to accompany every new major advertising stunt, and anyway attention is attention as far as marketers are concerned. And then other companies would inevitably copy them, a regular service would arise which would lower the cost barriers, and the whole thing would become normalized and would turn into a regular occurrence.

And then the stars would never be the same again, and the last wilderness would be no more, and our primeval connection to the vastness of the universe would be reduced to just another squalid, garish display of naked manipulation in the service of the ultra-rich owners of major corporations. And life would go on, and children would no nothing of the way it was before, but the world would be a smaller, uglier, less sacred place than it was.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:37 AM on February 7, 2019 [7 favorites]


Dog matrix? What the fuck, autocorrect?
posted by loquacious at 4:50 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


DOG MATRIX
posted by automatronic at 5:13 AM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think anyone who regards the sky as a virgin wilderness definitely doesn't live near an airport.

But if people want to limit anthropogenic lights in the sky to "incidental" ones like the flashing aircraft signaling lights and the continuously visible satellites and the flaming astronaut poop burning up on reentry I wouldn't think it would be too hard. Wikipedia seems to suggest that farmers usually need dispensation just to fly crop dusters over their fields in most places and I'll bet the sorts of people who sue to preserve the view out of the windows of their mansions could quickly be organized into a mob carrying torches and pitchforks with a well-placed social media campaign.

Besides that though, it's understood that the subject of the OP is a milk crate sized peashooter firing a very limited supply of pyrotechnic pebbles at the Earth, to create the kind of shooting stars you'll miss if you blink, right? It's not the satellite itself which is visible and it will probably be there for a shorter duration than the ones which keep SiriusXM radio working, for example, and it has one of these “drag enhancement devices” so that it can bid goodbye to the cruel world and plunge to its doom the moment we tire of its burdensome existence.

Poor little fella. It probably wishes it had a dog matrix up there to keep it company.
posted by XMLicious at 6:06 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


You can't take the sky from me. Wanna bet?
posted by theora55 at 6:09 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is just not a good idea.
posted by mermayd at 6:10 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


It starts with just a small pyrotechnics show, but ti eventually get to the point of de-orbiting large tungsten rods to level cities without any nuclear fallout. Coupled with solar accumulators funneling the equivalent of one square kilometer of sunlight down to a square meter vapourising everything in its path.
posted by koolkat at 6:21 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


I suddenly feel like I'm living in a Ken MacLeod novel. Now I just need to work out which one...
posted by heatherlogan at 6:49 AM on February 7, 2019


...and the horse the orbited in on!
posted by neutralmojo at 7:06 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


The main video link seems to have expired.

The visualisation is pretty, but I'm really curious about the actual characteristics of the orbit and the decay. This test launch is apparently Sun synchronous at about 500km, which would be going at about 7.6km/s. I'm failing to reason out what the would look like empirically, but I know the ISS is going at a similar clip and that looks relatively sedate, rather than shooting star like.

The idea of marketing departments getting their hands on it is concerning. A cubesat costs what, about $100K? Coca-cola's budget is nearly $4 billion.

> Kessler Syndrome
Previously!
posted by lucidium at 7:12 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


Airports are localized. And yes, I prefer it when I can't see a plane. When I'm shooting landscapes out in the mountains, a contrail will basically ruin the shot. But in any case, the fact that sometimes we see a plane does not mean that we should be OK with the idea of half the entire planet looking up at night and seeing an ad for fucking Amazon Prime instead of the stars.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:27 AM on February 7, 2019


Besides, there are in fact large swaths of the planet where one generally does not see planes or other human influences in the sky, aside from satellites. It would be nice to keep it that way.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:30 AM on February 7, 2019


I live in the flight path of SFO, and was pleased to discover how visible the night sky is on cloudless nights.

Do not want LEO fireworks displays.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:09 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Well if anyone feels like doing anything about light poison too I'm all for eliminating street lights in cities and giving everyone free headlamps and night vision goggles instead. I wonder if self-driving cars even need headlights at night for purposes of their own navigation; I've never looked into that.
posted by XMLicious at 2:59 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


One reason I moved was to be able to see the night sky. Still plenty of light pollution, but I get home on a clear night, and there are stars. Once in a while, the Milky Way.
posted by theora55 at 4:16 PM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


This looks cool, I hope it works and we get to see some of them! (in moderation and regulated by the appropriate international organizations)
posted by haemanu at 5:20 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Still plenty of light pollution, but I get home on a clear night, and there are stars.

One of the few great things about winter in New England is the occasional cloudless night with bone-dry air that eliminates almost all the skyglow. But of course, that's just when backups in the landing queue from de-icing or treating the runways at the airport means that you end up with five or six planes visible at the same time as they all circle in holding patterns.

Okay, I think I finally found the isolated non-windowed/non-expired version of the NHK news report in the OP: Newsroom Tokyo—“Shooting stars on demand”
posted by XMLicious at 6:23 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


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