The Shooting Star Challenge is the brainchild of ALE, a company that was established in 2011 with a mission to promote science through entertainment. The Tokyo-based company aims to deploy microsatellites to release special pellets that reenter the earth's atmosphere and burn up. This would create bright streaks of light visible on the ground across a diameter of 200 kilometers.
ALE plans to launch its first satellite in late 2018 or early 2019 from Australia. It would debut its spectacle in summer 2019 in an area of Hiroshima prefecture that company founder and CEO Dr Lena Okajima says is one of the sunniest areas in Japan.
Senior executives of official partners FamilyMart and Japan Airlines shared their objectives at the Shooting Star Challenge press conference in November in Ebisu, Tokyo.
Takashi Sawada, president of FamilyMart, said: "The project's shooting star shower will be visible from 300 of our convenience stores around Hiroshima. That will present an excellent opportunity for us to reinforce our ties with local communities and consumers. We also hope to develop a range of merchandise, including by collaborating with Japan Airlines, through our association with the project."
Junko Okawa, a senior managing executive officer at Japan Airlines, said: "For a start, we hope that some of the findings from the project can help us streamline flight operations or otherwise add value to our business. For example, observations of the artificial shooting stars could provide data on air temperatures, densities, and movements in the upper atmosphere, revealing insights into environmental changes over the medium and long terms."
Okawa added: "Our partnership in the project should help us to bolster a children's educational program that we run as part of our corporate social responsibility initiatives." The company is also apparently looking to operate a charter flight for those wanting to witness the shooting star shower from up in the ether.
Neither executive spoke about the financial benefits of partnering in the Shooting Star Challenge, perhaps fitting for a project that is ostensibly more about entertaining and educating the public than about selling.
(Translated from Japanese by Mark Darbyshire)