Research Director Dr. Hironori Sahara

Dr. Hironori Sahara

Faculty of System Design, Tokyo Metropolitan University
Professor, Division of Aerospace Engineering

How did you become interested in your field?
Ever since I was a child, I had an interest in space. I loved star gazing, reading illustrated encyclopedias, and watching TV shows on space. Although in middle school, I thought that I might be better off studying economics and business.
What brought me back to space was a dream that I had in freshman year of high school. I was being chased down by an alien in a foreign planet, and I ran into a book store. The walls of the book store are full with encyclopedias that I have never seen before. I do not remember what was written on the encyclopedias, but when I woke up I rerealized that I have a strong passion to learn about space.

That is a very vivid dream.
Yes, I even remember the exact date: Oct. 23, 1987. The page of the diary that I kept back then is full of details from that dream. I think it was a revelation. At that point I gained a passion to work with rockets and spaceships, so that one day, I can reach the star with the book store.

What happened after high school?
Despite the fact that most people pursuing research on space would attend the University of Tokyo, having been raised in the country side, I was reluctant to study there. Instead, I attended the Faculty of Engineering at Kyoto University. I was also attracted by their liberal school culture. At Kyoto University, I received my Masters in a laboratory researching nuclear fusion. However, I wanted to make a spaceship itself, and transferred to the University of Tokyo in the latter half of my doctorate program. I joined a laboratory that created the ion engine system for Hayabusa, and performed basic research on electronic propulsion system. I joined JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) after receiving my doctorate degree, and worked on a propulsion system using solar wind and when I was around 30 yrs old, I started working on micro satellites, designing on-board electrical circuits and running simulations using orbital physics.

How did you find out about ALE?
In 2009, I was asked if I could help out with a group trying to make artificial shooting stars, from the guys at Axelspace.
I had known that there are people taking atmospheric measurements based on shooting stars, but when it comes to artificial shooting stars, not only does it involve expanding the horizons for science and engineering, but it also contains factors of entertainment. I had never known a collaborative effort of this scale existed. I immediately decided to take part in this project after learning that if this business gets on track, we'd be able to financially help researchers continue their studies without being dependent on public grants. This project also had common obstacles that lie within micro satellite research as well, so I thought I would be a great fit.