Our next Rocket Lab mission (our third with them this year) is a very exciting one. We’re launching ALE’s Sky Canvas, the world’s first man-made shooting star project that also has a scientific research component. It’s with these first-of-their-kind missions that we bring all our experience to bear for our customers. This type of mission was years in the making and demonstrates the unique benefits of rideshare.
The Tokyo-based ALE spacecraft, named ALE-2, will create man-made shooting stars by safely releasing particles that will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up and creating the appearance of shooting stars. The mission will also study the path and mechanics of shooting star particles during re-entry from the upper atmosphere. The data collected will help predict the path of satellites and artificial objects as well as contributing to scientific understanding in several technology fields including meteorology and the study of climate change.
This mission took years of analysis and rigorous review. Josh Rodenbaugh, ALE’s launch campaign manager, worked closely with the Spaceflight team as a mission of this type had never been done before. ALE had already worked through the Japanese Space Agency who had conducted a rigorous review for the launch of ALE-1 earlier this year. ALE also met with other countries’ space agencies and even astronomers to work through any concerns around this unique mission. Spaceflight helped the company get the necessary permits through the New Zealand Space Agency, and worked with Rocket Lab to ensure a smooth integration process (which will begin in the next week or so). We are always happy to advocate for our customers and support new uses for satellites – opening up access to space for new business models is part of our corporate mission.
Spaceflight began working with ALE more than three years ago. They were originally slated to launch on an earlier mission … and then were rescheduled on a later mission. When they had readied their spacecraft, we were able to re-manifest them on an earlier launch opportunity with Rocket Lab. This mission, slated for late November, is named “RL-2” by Spaceflight and “Running Out of Fingers” by Rocket Lab as a nod to their tenth flight.
Tony Frego, the Spaceflight Mission Director who has been working with ALE since the beginning, commented, “For me, this is a hugely significant mission. I’m always looking forward to seeing our customers be successful, but ALE is one of those unique spacecraft, where I’ll actually get to see the success — the meteors — with my own eyes.”