Japan has launched their newest radar spy satellite, the Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) Radar 5, aboard the H-2A rocket from Tanegashima Space Center. It joins an existing constellation of spy satellites which Japan began assembling in 1998 following a North Korean missile launch that flew over Japanese territory. Officially, the IGS program supports civilian needs, such as disaster awareness, but the unspoken main goal is to keep tabs on Japan’s enemies. This launch of course was not in response to last week’s North Korean missile tests; satellites and launch vehicles take years to plan and procure. But I am sure Japan hopes for it to send a message all the same: we are watching.
Japan has begun placement of its first military commsat constellation, which when complete will be a trio of geostationary commsats serving the Japan Self Defense Force and free them from dependency on commercial satellite operators, who currently lease bandwidth to them. DSN-2 is the first because DSN-1, originally slated to fly aboard an Ariane V in 2016, was damaged in shipment and is currently in Japan, undergoing repairs.
Unlike most countries’ military satellites, the DSN constellation will not be owned or operated by the Japanese government. Instead, they belong to a private corporation, DSN Corp, which itself is owned mostly by SKY Perfect JSAT Corp, a commercial commsat operator. So, in a sense, the JSDF will still be procuring bandwidth from a commercial operator, but now the satellites will be entirely dedicated to them. The satellites themselves are built by NEC, on a chassis manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric Company. They will provide Japan’s military with X-band satellite communications for the first time.
Tuesday, the European Sentinel 3A oceanographic satellite was placed into orbit by a Rockot launcher operating out of Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the Russian Arctic.
Then today, Japan’s H-IIA rocket placed the ASTRO-H X-ray observatory into orbit from Tanegashima Space Center.
Japan’s second sample return mission is on its way to an Apollo-class asteroid, an unnamed asteroid designated (162173) 1999 JU3. It uses ion thrusters for propulsion and carries four tiny landers equipped to scoop up samples for return to Earth, in addition to an impactor that is intended to excavate a deeper sampling location for the spacecraft. Three of the four landers are Japanese, and the fourth is MASCOT, built by the same ESA team that built Philae, putting them in the lovely position of celebrating the landing of one space craft less than a month before celebrating the launch of another.
Enjoy the launch! This is a H-2A rocket, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and launched from Tanegashima Space Center.
The NASA/JAXA joint mission, Global Precipitation Monitor (GPM) Core Observatory, blasted off successfully today aboard an H-2A rocket from Tanegashima Space Center off the coast of Japan.
The GPM Core Observatory will use radar to monitor rainfall and snowfall worldwide up to the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, the limits of the spacecraft’s orbit. It joins a network of a dozen other spacecraft operated by many nations to create a common baseline for monitoring global rainfall.
Seven nanosatellites were also carried aloft on this mission and successfully deployed.