Himawari 9, Japan’s latest weather satellite, has been launched into orbit by the H-2 rocket from scenic Tanegashima:
Himawari 9 will head up to geosynchronous orbit, where it will sit as an on-orbit spare for Himawari 8.
Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, maker of the H-2 rocket, has announced their intention to offer the H-2 on the commercial launch market. It’s going to be interesting to see how things heat up over the next few years; it almost starts to seem as if we may have too many commercial providers. But if nothing else, it will create competition, and that’s usually good for business. It’s going to be a fun few years for space geeks!
Japan’s H-IIA rocket, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, primarily serves the Japanese government, lofting spy satellites, weather satellites, and scientific spacecraft, including SELENE/Kaguya, Ikaros, and the Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return mission, but as of today it is now also a commercial competitor, having launched Telstar 12 Vantage for Telesat of Ottawa, Canada.
The rocket’s core stage and upper stage both use liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen; note the sparkly pyrotechnics firing under the engines before ignition, just like the Space Shuttle, to burn off excess hydrogen released during the startup process. The four strap-on boosters (H-IIA flies with 2-4, depending on mission requirements) are solid propellant motors manufactured in Japan. (Some H-IIAs fly with Castor 4 motors built by ATK, but not this one. Like the motor count, it depends on mission requirements.)