Local residents in Kimotsuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, watch the Jan. 18 launch of the Epsilon-4 rocket from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Uchinoura Space Center. (Video footage by Satoshi Juyanagi and Tetsuya Ishikura)

The Epsilon-4 rocket that blasted off on Jan. 18 carried the dreams of a Tokyo start-up that wants to light up the night sky with a new form of entertainment.

One of the seven satellites on board belonged to ALE Co., which is planning an experiment to produce artificial shooting stars.

The second successful launch of the low-cost, solid-fuel rocket came at 9:50 a.m. from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kimotsuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The ALE satellite weighs about 68 kilograms and measures 60 centimeters by 60 cm by 80 cm.

It successfully separated from the rocket at an altitude of about 500 kilometers along with six other satellites and entered their planned orbit.

The ALE satellite will slowly descend while tests including position control are done over the course of a year.

The experimental firing of artificial shooting stars is planned for the spring of 2020 over the Seto Inland Sea off the coast of Hiroshima Prefecture.

Particles about 1 cm in diameter will be released and heated in the atmosphere, leading them to glow like shooting stars at an altitude of between 60 to 80 km.

The artificial stars are designed to fall slower than natural shooting stars and are expected to shine for up to 10 seconds.

The glow was produced in experiments done on land, leading Lena Okajima, ALE chief executive officer, to say, "Three wishes can be made on a shooting star."

One problem ALE officials had to contend with was safety because of the possibility the released particles might collide with other satellites or even the International Space Station.

After consultations with JAXA officials, ALE researchers developed a control system with a high degree of accuracy allowing for precise control of the direction, speed and position at which the particles are released.

The particles will also be released at an altitude of 390 km, lower than the ISS orbit of about 400 km.

If the test succeeds, ALE officials have plans for an expanded show in outer space that would involve shooting stars emitting different colors as well as better control over where and for how long the particles can shine.

If between five to 20 particles can be released at once, it might be possible to produce an artificial meteor shower that lasts for about a minute, ALE officials said.

"I'm very excited because this will be an excellent opportunity for even people who may not be interested in space to look up at the sky," Okajima said. "Our first challenge will be to first illuminate the particles in the sky."

The first Epsilon launch was in January 2018, but the latest was the first in which the payload contained multiple satellites. The launch cost was about 5.5 billion yen, which is about half of JAXA's mainstream H-2A rocket.