Japanese Satellites Work in Orbit Above Earth



Nearly 100 satellites have been launched by and for Japan since the island country became the fourth nation ever to launch its own satellite to Earth orbit back in 1970.

Japan does not launch all of its own satellites. On the other hand, Japan sometimes launches satellites for others.

The nation launches space flights from Tanegashima Island spaceport 700 miles southwest of Tokyo. Here are some recent highlights...

First H2a rocket launch...
Disco Ball Launched by New Rocket

H-2A launch August 29, 2001

A test satellite known as the Laser Reflecting Equipment (LRE) was launched from the Tsukuba Space Center on Tanegashima Island by Japan's new H-2A rocket on August 29, 2001.

The 174-ft.-tall, two-stage, H-2A was launched successfully. H-2A rockets use liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel. An earlier version of the rocket, the H-2, had suffered a sequence of launch failures in 1998 and 1999.

The H-2A is a modified H-2 with many components purchased from other countries. An H-2A has 20 percent fewer parts than the older H-2 and costs half as much. Japan had tried to enter the commercial launch industry in 1994, but H-2 engine problems led japan to scrap the project in 1999.

Disco ball. The 192-lb. LRE was a passive mirror-covered ball in space. It was 20 inches in diameter. The small spacecraft was covered with 24 glass sheets and 126 prisms. Scientists on Earth measured light echoes from the LRE.

The satellite was dropped off in an elliptical "transfer" orbit ranging from a low of 155 miles altitude out to 22,500 miles. Japan's goal for the H-2A rocket is to carry satellites to stationary (geosynchronous) orbit. That capability would compare with the rockets of Europe, Russia, China and the United States.

The National Space Development Agency launchpad on Tanegashima Island is 625 miles south of Tokyo. The black-and-orange H-2A rocket was built at a Mitsubishi factory in the city of Nagoya and moved 443 miles to Tanegashima by ship. Japan plans eleven "operational" flights through 2005.

Second, third and fourth H-2A launches...
Rocket Ferried Multiple Satellites to Orbit

Tsubasa - click to enlarge

Kodama - click to reduce

USERS - click to enlarge

Midori - click to enlarge

all images above: NASDA

Tsubasa. The second H-2A flight, on February 4, 2002, successfully ferried a four-ton Mission Demonstration Satellite (MDS-1) known as Tsubasa to a 167-mile-high orbit. The rocket also carried aloft the Demonstrator of Atmospheric Reentry System with Hyper Velocity (DASH), but that experiment ended in failure.

Kodama. The third H-2A flight, on September 11, 2002, carried the Data Relay Test Satellite (DRTS), also known as Kodama, to orbit. It also carried the Unmanned Space Experiment Recovery System (USERS).

Midori. The fourth H-2A flight, on December 14, 2002, lofted the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS-2), also known as Midori-2, to orbit. Three small payloads — Micro-Lab Sat, WEOSS, Fed Sat &mdash rode along piggy-back on the H-2A rocket.

Midori-2 monitors Earth for frequent climate changes, expansion of the ozone holes in the atmosphere, and global environmental changes. The satellite records highly sophisticated observations of sea surface temperature, snow, ice, clouds, aerosols, vegetation, ocean photo plankton, and other phenomena.

Midori-2 has two main sensors:
  • AMSR observes water cycles day and night
  • GLI observes ocean, land and clouds in combination of instruments aboard other satellites such as Seawinds(NASA/JPL), POLDER(CNES), DCS(CNES), and ILAS-II(EA).
Midori-2 will send down to researchers the scientific data they need to understand the circulation of water and energy, and the circulation of carbon in the global environment.

FedSat. The Australian scientific microsatellite, FedSat, is a 23-in. cube weighing 110 lbs.

Fifth H-2A launch...
Japanese Spy Sats Watch Over the Region

The first two of four Japanese spy satellites to be sent to orbit in 2003 were launched on March 28 on an H2-A rocket from the Tanegashima Island spaceport.

The second pair is scheduled for launch on September 10, 2003, from Tanegashima on an H2-A rocket.

Optical-1 and Radar-1, the first set, and Optical-2 and Radar-2, the second set, are the first ever spysats for Japan.

Each pair of satellites includes:
  • one satellite with a visible light camera to see objects on Earth as small as three feet in length
  • one satellite with a radar to see through poor weather and at night
Military and civilian monitor. From 250-370 miles above Earth, these reconnaissance spacecraft conduct military surveillance of the northeast Asian geographic area around the Japanese islands.

Japan said the satellites also can be used to monitor weather, crop conditions and natural disasters.

Construction of the spy satellites started after North Korea test fired a Taepodong missile over Japan in 1998. The North Korean government in the capital of Pyongyang had said the rocket merely was launching a satellite to space. Whatever it was, that North Korean rocket flight served to alert Japan that Tokyo and other cities were within the 600-mile range of such a military missile.

After the March 28 spysat launch, official North Korean media said Japan was causing an arms race. However, the Japanese constitution adopted after World War II limits military activities to defensive operations.

Before it built its own spy satellites, the Asian nation had relied on the United States for satellite security information.

The spy satellites were built by Mitsubishi Electric Co. (Melco) for Japan's National Space Information Center.


Failed H-2A rocket launch...
Spy Satellites Lost in Explosion

Japan's heavy-lift H-2A rocket failed during launch in November 2003 when one of its solid boosters did not jettison as expected after it burned out. The rocket was blown up in mid-air.

An investigation later found the booster's nozzle had burned through, causing the failure of a piece of equipment that should have sent a separation signal to explosive bolts.

A second pair of spy satellites were lost in the H-2A launch failure. That left Japan with only one optical and one radar sounding satellite in orbit to watch North Korean missile tests.

The failed launch was the sixth attempt to send an H-2A to space. Previously, the first five H-2A missions, between 2001 and 2003, had been successful.

The previous H-2A flights:
  1. August 29, 2001, carrying Vehicle Evaluation Payload-2 (VEP-2). DRE, and Laser Reflecting Equipment (LRE).

  2. February 4, 2002 carrying the Tsubasa, Mission Demonstration test Satellite-1 (MDS-1), Demonstrator of Atmospheric Reentry System with Hyper Velocity (DASH), and Vehicle Evaluation Payload-3 (VEP-3).

  3. September 10, 2002 carrying the Kodama Data Relay Test Satellite (DRTS) and the Unmanned Space Experiment Recovery System (USERS).

  4. December 14, 2002, carrying Advanced Earth Observing Satellite-2 (ADEOS-2), Kanta-Kun (WEOSS), FedSat, and MicroLabSat.

  5. March 28, 2003, carrying two spy satellites.


Succesful H-2A rocket launch...
Vehicle Ferried Multi-Purpose Satellite to Orbit

Fifteen months after the 2003 launch failure, Japan successfully sent aloft an orange and white H-2A rocket with the word Nippon (Japan) painted on its side on February 26, 2005.

The 174-ft. rocket lifted off from the national space center on the southern Tanegashima Island carrying a combined weather and navigation satellite known as Multi-functional Transport Satellite-1R (MTSAT-1R). From geostationary orbit, the satellite assists weather forecasters and airplane pilots across Asia and the Pacific as a service of the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and Japan Meteorological Agency.

Air-traffic control. The satellite, which facilitates air-traffic management and collects satellite imagery for meteorologists, replaces MTSAT-1 lost back in November 1999 when the final H-2 rocket failed. The H-2 series preceded the H-2A rockets. Previously, a satellite known as GMS-5 had been serving the nation's meteorological needs. GMS-5 had been launched in 1995 with a design life of five years.

MTSAT-1R improves airspace management efficiency by linking voice and data communications among air-traffic controllers and pilots across east Asia and the Pacific. Aircraft that are beyond radar contact can send their positions to controllers via MTSAT-1R. The satellite has a GPS receiver that helps aircraft accurately deduce their positions as they fly across remote ocean regions away from ground stations. MTSAT-1R permits a reduction in the separation distance between planes, which allows more air-traffic capacity.

Radio transmitters aboard the 6,400-lb. MTSAT-1R reach as far as Alaska, Hawaii, India, Siberia and Australia. Their beams are concentrated on Japan, China and the heavily-traveled air routes across the Pacific Ocean.

Meteorology. MTSAT-1R replaced GMS-5, which stopped transmitting in 2004. MTSAT-1R photographs clouds and the weather below in visible and infrared light 24 hours a day. It will send down information on sea surface temperatures, cloud top temperatures, upper level winds, and typhoons. The satellite serves forecasters in 27 countries.

MTSAT-1R was designed to operate at least five years in support of meteorologists and ten years in support of air-traffic control. A similar satellite, MTSAT-2, is to be launched by 2006.

High hopes. JAXA, Japan's space agency, had been hoping for the successful launch to rebuild the H-2A's reputation. As the centerpiece of Japan's space program, the H-2A was needed to show that the nation is a player in the Asian space race with China, India and Pakistan.

The February 2005 launch was the seventh H-2A flight. The first five H-2A missions, between 2001 and 2003, were successful. Then there was the November 2003 failure. The successful 2005 launch was the first flight of a model known as 2022 because of its two pair of large and small solid-fueled boosters.

At least six more H-2A flights carrying government satellites are planned for the coming years.
  • The next planned H-2A launch is expected to carry the remote-sensing Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS) in Summer 2005.

  • Then, MTSAT-2 is scheduled for launch by December 2005.

  • Two spy satellites, replacing those lost in the 2003 failure, may be launched on an H-2A in 2006.
In addition, Japan wants to offer the H-2A for commercial space launches. That places Japan in competition with the United States, Europe, Russia and China. So far, it has only a few international contracts for secondary payloads.

Hikoboshi and Orihime Chase and Target Sats

Japan's ETS-7 Satellite
Japan's ETS-7 satellite is a chase satellite named Hikoboshi and a target satellite named Orihime. Together, the pair are an experiment in rendezvous, docking and space robotics.

Tracking Senior Citizens by Satellites

The Japanese company Mitsui & Co. had a satellite device for finding old people unable to take care of themselves, according to a news report in 2000. The gadget used a global positioning system (GPS) satellite receiver and a cellular phone network.

A transmitter attached to clothing continuously beams the coordinates of a straying senior citizen to a local cellular phone network server. Concerned relatives can use a small portable terminal to send an information request anytime. In response, the network displays the elderly person's location on a computerized map in the portable terminal.

The news report estimated there were 1.88 million elderly in Japan suffering senility. The devise was tested in Kikuchi City and Tokyo.

Japan's Space Station Lab is a JEM

Japan has built the Japanese Experimental Module (JEM) to be attached permanently to the International Space Station. It includes a pressurized module named Kibo, which means Hope.

JEM is a package of three enclosed modules and an exposed platform to be attached to the station outside truss for space environment experiments. JEM includes a robotic manipulator system and two logistics modules.
  • One module is a pressurized laboratory
  • Two of the components are logistics modules
  • The exposed facility will allow experiments to be carried out in a place open to the space environment
The JEM components will be assembled in space over the course of three shuttle missions, probably in 2004-2005.

Astronauts from Japan, Europe, Canada, Russia and the United States will process materials and do life sciences research in the pressurized JEM laboratory. Materials will be ferried between the station and Earth in one of the logistics modules. The other logistics module will store specimens, gases and consumables.

The National Space Development Agency of Japan developed the JEM/Kibo/Hope laboratory at the Tsukuba Space Center near Tokyo. An ocean cargo ship departed Yokohama Harbor in Japan on May 2, 2003, carrying Kibo, and arrived at Cape Canaveral on June 4, 2003.

The Japanese laboratory elements are awaiting launch at the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

More about the JEM space station lab »

Japanese Experimental Satellite Servis-1

Japan does not launch all of its own satellites. An example is the experimental satellite, Servis-1, to be lofted to space on October 8, 2003, on a Eurockot launcher from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

The spacecraft carries eleven different commercial semiconductors and computer microprocessors to test how well they work in the harsh environment of outer space.

Servis-1 was built by Japan's Unmanned Space Experiment System Research and Development Organization.

The satellite is to fly at an altitude of 620 miles for two years. Servis-2 is to be launched in 2006.

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