February 1, 2015
H-IIA Rocket carrying IGS satellites at the launch-pad
Japan has conducted its first launch of 2015 Sunday with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries lofting a radar reconnaissance satellite with the aid of its H-IIA carrier rocket. Liftoff, from the Tanegashima Space Centre, was on schedule, at the beginning of a thirteen-minute window that opened at 10:21 local time (01:21 UTC).
H-IIA Rocket Launch first two IGS satellites
The Joho Shushu Eisei (JSE) series of satellites, commonly known in English as Information Gathering Satellite (IGS), is operated by Japan’s Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Centre.
The IGS programme consists of optical and radar imaging spacecraft; the satellite which will be deployed on Sunday is the sixth radar satellite and the thirteenth overall for IGS, including two prototype optical satellites.
H-IIA Rocket launch
Japan initiated the IGS programme following North Korea’s attempted launch of the Kwangmyongsong-1 satellite in August 1998; a launch which overflew Japan and demonstrated North Korea’s ability to develop a rocket capable of attacking Japan.
The satellites are constructed by Mitsubishi Electric and launched by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries using the H-IIA rocket.
The first two IGS satellites – one an optical imaging spacecraft and the other a radar imager – were launched together in March 2003 atop an H-IIA 2024. A second dual-launch, later in 2003, ended in failure after one of the H-IIA’s solid rocket motors failed to separate – the only failure the H-IIA has suffered in its twenty six flights to date.
First two IGS satellites
After the failure, IGS launches resumed in 2006 with the deployment of a lone optical satellite; a radar spacecraft followed in 2007, launching with a prototype second-generation optical satellite.
Launches of operational second-generation satellites began in November 2009 with the fourth IGS Optical spacecraft; another second-generation optical spacecraft followed in September 2011. The radar element of the constellation has also entered its second generation, with spacecraft launching in December 2011 and January 2013. The 2013 launch also carried a prototype for the third-generation optical IGS spacecraft.
Sunday’s payload is a further second-generation radar satellite which will provide the constellation with redundancy in the event that one of the two spacecraft already in orbit malfunctions. The additional satellite was constructed after both first-generation radar satellites failed within four years of launch to guard against such an occurrence with the second-generation spacecraft.
A further IGS launch is expected to occur later this year, with the first third-generation optical imaging satellite. Further launches to replenish and upgrade the constellation are expected to continue in the coming years.
For more information about JAXA, visit: http://global.jaxa.jp/
Images, Video, Text, Credits: JAXA/Nasaspaceflight.com/William Graham.