ICBMs have been recycled for peaceful purposes before, but only the Russians still fly them out of silos when they’re launching satellites. Yesterday, a Dnepr rocket lifted five Japanese Earth-oberving satellites into orbit. And happily, they’ve posted the video to YouTube! So check this out: you don’t see many launches like this. (Which is probably a good thing, on balance.)
The rocket launched from Dombarovsky military base under the auspices of Kosmotras, a joint Russian-Ukrainian company that operates the Cold War surplus rockets commercially.
The primary payload is ASNARO-1, an optical observation satellite built by NEC with 20-cm resolution under ideal conditions. It’s intended to compete with commercial imagery providers such as DigitalGlobe, and is expected to be merely the first in a series. Secondary payloads include:
- Hodoyoshi 1, a smaller imaging satellite from the University of Tokyo
- ChubuSat 1, from Nagoya University, a space debris tracking experiment
- Tsubame, a technology demonstrator from Tokyo Institute of Technology, carrying an advanced gyroscope and a new imaging system
- QSAT-EOS, from Kyushu University, is intended to track disasters and also vegetation