Tag Archives: Tanegashima Space Center

Michibiki-2 launch successful!

Japan has successfully launched the second Michibiki spacecraft to build a new satellite navigation satellite.  Skip ahead to about 32 minutes to watch schoolchildren adorably shout out the countdown, and then watch the H-2A rocket from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries roar to life:

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Japan launches its first military commsat, DSN-2

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.

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Cargo to the ISS resumes, with HTV “Kounotori-6”

An H-2B rocket blasted off from Tanegashima Launch Center in Japan early this morning, carrying the sixth H-2 Transfer Vehicle on its climb to the International Space Station.  Alas, there was not much time to add cargo following the loss of the last Progress, and HTV cannot make up for the lost propellant (as with the retirement of ATV, Progress is the only means of refueling Zvezda), but it adds a lot of comfortable margin into the stores on board ISS.

The principle payload of this mission is a six new lithium-ion batteries carried in Kounotori-6’s unpressurized payload bay.  These large batteries are intended to replace the batteries in the power supply of the US segment. A s they are lighter and more efficient, one battery is able to do the job of two of the old batteries.  Later on, they will be extracted from Kounotori-6 and subsequently installed in the S4 truss via Dextre, the “Canada Hand” Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator.  Dextre will also pull nine of the old batteries and stow them aboard Kounotori-6 for disposal when the spacecraft deliberately deorbits after its mission.  Additional batteries will go up on the next three HTV flights.

The pressurized compartment will deliver food, water, clothing, tools, spare parts, research payloads, computer equipment, spacesuit components, a small amount of Russian cargo, a new radiation monitoring experiment, some new cameras to be mounted outside the Kibo module later on for JAXA, fresh CO2 scrubber components, and a dozen CubeSats, which will be deployed over the next few months via the Kibo module’s airlock and NanoRack dispenser.

After the spacecraft is finished with its ISS mission, it will continue to perform science; just like Cygnus, scientists have found ways to make use of the spacecraft after its primary mission is complete.  In this case, JAXA will be testing deployment of an electrodynamic tether to see how practical this could be for cheaply altering a spacecraft’s orbit.  If it works, such a system could be placed on future spacecraft to ensure their disposal at the end of their missions.  Right now, most dead spacecraft simply remain in orbit until they fall naturally, and this presents a debris hazard.

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X-Ray Astronomy and Oceanography get boosts to space

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.

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H-IIA enters the commercial launch business

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.)

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Hayabusa 2 is on its way!

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.

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Japan’s H-2A rocket launches ALOS 2 (Daichi2)

Another great launch video, but this one an amateur one from across the water from Tanegashima Space Center:

The rocket placed the ALOS 2 radar monitoring satellite into orbit yesterday, along with four university-built nanosatellites.  Japan’s domestic rocket, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has a relatively low flight rate, but an enviable success rate — only one failure out of 24 flights.  (That single failure was a staging issue that rendered the vehicle too heavy to reach orbit.)  This flight was completely successful.  Congratulations, Japan, on another fine flight.

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