Launch 2020: A Year of Transition for Japan

The United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe took off at 2:58 p.m. PDT on July 19 from a launch site in Japan, headed for Mars to study its atmosphere. (Credit: MHI Launch Services via YouTube)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a typical year for Japan with four successful launches and no failures. Japan has averaged 3.8 launches annually over the past decade. Last year also saw a Japanese astronaut become the first foreigner to fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

(more…)

Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

(more…)

UAE Hope Spacecraft Built in Colorado Enters Mars Orbit

The Emirates Mars Mission Hope Spacecraft prior to shipment to Dubai and the Tanegashima Launch site, with fully deployed solar panels and instruments visible (facing the floor) measuring nearly 5 meters across. (Credit: MBRSC/Ken Hutchison)

The United Arab Emirates is celebrating today as the nation’s first planetary spacecraft, Hope, has entered orbit around Mars as scheduled.

The UAE Space Agency tweeted:

Congratulations to our leadership, our nation and the Emirates Mars Mission’s heroes that have achieved the impossible! The #HopeProbe’s historic journey to the Red Planet doubles our joy as it adds to a year of celebrations in the country to mark the Golden Jubilee of the #UAE.

Launched on a Japanese H-IIA rocket last July, Hope will study Martian weather cycles and make other observations of the Red Planet. It will gather data on why the planet is losing hydrogen and oxygen into space.

Hope is the first planetary mission undertaken by an Arab nation and comes as the UAE is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding. The project is seen as a major advance for the nation’s science, technology and engineering sectors.

While that is true, Hope was actually built in Colorado with the participation of engineers from three American universities with substantial expertise in space missions. The Hope page in Wikipedia has a succinct summary:

The mission design, development, and operations are led by the  Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). The spacecraft was developed by MBRSC and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, with support from Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of California, Berkeley….It was built by a joint Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP)/Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) team at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Although UAE paid for the $200 million mission, it wouldn’t have been possible without substantial American assistance.

This is not to rain on anyone’s parade, but simply to give credit where credit is due. Under other circumstances, Hope would likely be labeled a joint UAE-American mission to Mars.

Space BD Contracted with JAXA to Undertake Integration Work Package for Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-3

Reform its board member and move to the next phase with the new service and team

TOKYO — Space BD Inc., the leading Japanese space startup providing access to space with the International Space Station (ISS) “Kibo” module and piggyback launch on Japan’s flagship launch vehicle “H3”, announced that they contracted with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to undertake the integration work package for Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-3 Small Satellites and Cubesats.

The satellites will be launched using Japan’s solid-propellant launcher, Epsilon. With the integration work package contract, Space BD approached the various launch method in Japan, which Space BD has aimed.

(more…)

Japan Launches Optical Data Relay Satellite

A H-2A rocket launched Japan’s first Optical Data Relay Satellite with laser communications capabilities on Sunday from the Tanegashima Space Center.

The civilian-military spacecraft will relay data from Japan’s optical and radar-imaging Information Gathering Satellites as well as JAXA’s scientific spacecraft.

JAXA’s Laser Utilsing Communication System (LUCAS) will use infrared technology to transmit data between the spacecraft and the ground.

The H-2A rocket lifted off at 4:25 p.m. local time from the southern Japanese island. The spacecraft separated at an altitude of 300 km and is using on-board propulsion to reach geosynchronous orbit.

Emirates Launch First Mars Probe with Help from UC Berkeley

The Emirates Mars Mission Hope Spacecraft prior to shipment to Dubai and the Tanegashima Launch site, with fully deployed solar panels and instruments visible (facing the floor) measuring nearly 5 meters across. (Credit: MBRSC/Ken Hutchison)

by Robert Sanders
UC Berkeley

At 2:58 p.m. PDT today (Sunday, July 19), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) successfully launched an interplanetary probe — the first by any country in the Arab world — thanks, in part, to science collaboration, training and instrument components provided by the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL).

(more…)

China Launches Tianwen-1 Mission to Mars

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A Long March 5 booster roared off the launch pad from Wenchang on Thursday morning, sending an orbiter, lander and rover to Mars in China’s most ambitious robotic space mission to date.

(more…)

UAE’s Hope Mission Launched to Mars

An artist’s impression of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft in orbit around Mars, where it will arrive in February 2021 after launching in July from Japan. (Credit: MBRSC)

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Hope spacecraft is on its way to Mars after a successful launch from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.

A H-IIA rocket lifted off on Monday morning at 6:58 a.m. JST (5:58 p.m. EDT on Sunday). Hope separated from the second stage about an hour later and sent its first signal to controllers.

(more…)

Emirates Mars Mission to Launch with ASU-designed Instrument

An artist’s impression of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft in orbit around Mars, where it will arrive in February 2021 after launching in July from Japan. (Credit: MBRSC)

TEMPE, Ariz. (ASU PR) — The Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, is expected to lift off in July (exact launch date depends on weather conditions) on an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima, Japan, and arrive at Mars in February 2021, where it will spend two years orbiting the red planet gathering crucial science data.

(more…)

Launch of UAE Hope Mission to Mars Scheduled for Monday From Japan

The Emirates Mars Mission Hope Spacecraft prior to shipment to Dubai and the Tanegashima Launch site, with fully deployed solar panels and instruments visible (facing the floor) measuring nearly 5 meters across. (Credit: MBRSC/Ken Hutchison)

The launch of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope mission to Mars aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket has been reset from Monday morning. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:58:14 a.m. JST (9:58:14 p.m. GMT/5:58:14 p.m. EDT) from the Tanegashima Space Center.

The Emirates Mars Mission was developed by the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in collaboration with a number of US research institutions, including the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The orbiter will use three instruments to study the martian atmosphere and weather.

Hope’s original launch date of July 15 was scrubbed due to weather.

Emirates Mars Mission Launching in Partnership with LASP at CU Boulder

The Emirates Mars Mission Hope Spacecraft prior to shipment to Dubai and the Tanegashima Launch site, with fully deployed solar panels and instruments visible (facing the floor) measuring nearly 5 meters across. (Credit: MBRSC/Ken Hutchison)

BOULDER, Colo. (LASP PR) — The Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, is scheduled to launch this month on Mitsubishi H-IIA launch platform from Tanegashima, Japan and arrive at Mars in February 2021, coinciding with The Emirates’ 50th anniversary as a nation. 

The mission is being carried out by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the UAE in collaboration with a number of US research institutions, including the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

(more…)

New HTV-X Resupply Ship to Be More Capable, Affordable

HTV-X cargo ship. (Credit; JAXA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On May 21, a Japanese H-IIB rocket roared off the launch pad with the ninth and final H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) (Kounotori) resupply ship to the International Space Station (ISS).

But, the launch was not the end of the line for Japanese cargo delivery. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is developing an improved variant known as HTV-X to supply the space station and possibly the lunar Gateway.

(more…)

Japan Test Fires Engine for New H3 Launch Vehicle

H3 launch vehicle variants (Credit: JAXA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Japan continues to make progress toward the first flight of its new H3 launch vehicle with a successful test firing of the booster’s LE-9 first-stage engine on April 30.

JAXA reports that the engine fired for the planned duration of 240 seconds (4 minutes) at the space agency’s Tanegashima Space Center. It was the seventh hot fire of the new engine, which is powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

(more…)

JAXA Signs Agreement for Piggyback Launch Opportunities for Small Satellites

H-III launch vehicle variants (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has selected, following public solicitation, and signed an agreement with Space BD Inc. who provides private companies and universities with piggyback launch opportunities for their small satellites when JAXA launches its own satellites using H-IIA and H3 launch vehicles.

(more…)

Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)