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Japan successfully launches advanced Earth observation satellite on its new flagship H3 rocket

Japan successfully launches advanced Earth observation satellite on its new flagship H3 rocket
Japan successfully launches advanced Earth observation satellite on its new flagship H3 rocket

TOKYO (AP) — Japan has successfully deployed an upgraded Earth-observing satellite for disaster relief and security after launching it Monday on a new flagship H3 rocket.

The H3 No. 3 rocket lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center on a southwestern Japanese island and released its payload about 16 minutes later, putting it into targeted orbit as planned, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said during a live stream.

The Advanced Land Observation Satellite, or ALOS-4, is primarily charged with Earth observation and data collection for disaster response and mapping, including for volcanic and seismic activity and other land movements. It is also capable of monitoring military activities, such as missile launches, with an infrared sensor developed by the Ministry of Defense.

JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa hailed Monday’s successful launch as “a big first step” toward securing Japan’s access to space and international competitiveness. “I believe that the two successful flights in a row would help gain the trust of the country both inside and outside.”

JAXA’s H3 project manager Makoto Arita said the mission was “almost a perfect success.”

The ALOS-4 is a successor to the current ALOS-2 and can observe a much larger area. Japan will operate both for the time being.

The launch was the third of the H3 system, following the successful launch on February 17 and the shocking failed debut flight a year earlier, when the rocket had to be destroyed with its payload: a satellite that was to have been ALOS-3.

Japan considers a stable, commercially competitive space transportation capability to be essential to its space program and national security.

JAXA and its prime contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries developed the H3 launch system as a successor to its current mainstay, H-2A, which is being retired after another two flights. MHI will eventually take over H3 production and launches from JAXA and hopes to make it commercially viable by reducing launch costs to about half that of the H-2A.

“We will continue to improve our success record and earn the trust of our customers,” said Koji Shimura, H3 project manager at MHI’s defense and aerospace segment.

Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press