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.

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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.

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An Overview of NASA’s Technology Educational Satellites

NASA’s Technology Educational Satellite 8, or TechEdSat-8, deploying from the International Space Station Jan. 31, 2019. (Credits: NASA)

NASA’s TechEdSat series of technology demonstrations aims to bring small payloads back to Earth or to the surface of Mars – while pushing the state of the art in a variety of CubeSat technologies and experiments.

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — TechEdSat is a series of collaborative projects and missions that pairs college and university students with NASA researchers to evaluate new technologies for use in small satellites, or CubeSats. Students do the hands-on work – designing, building, and testing CubeSat spacecraft systems and analyzing the results – for each flight mission, under mentorship of engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

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Japan’s Office of National Space Policy Signs MOU with U.S. Space Force

ARLINGTON, Va. (U.S. Space Force PR) — The U.S. Space Force and Japan’s Office of National Space Policy signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding this week to launch two U.S. payloads on Japan’s Quasi Zenith Satellite System. 

The Department of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center is developing the payloads, which feature Space Domain Awareness optical sensors and will launch from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center in 2023 and 2024, respectively. Enhancing Space Domain Awareness is essential to protect the space operations of the U.S, Japan, and other partners. A secure, stable, and accessible space domain is critical to our national security, the health of our respective economies, and enables scientific endeavors which provide environmental benefits. 

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett hailed the agreement. 

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Japan Launches Resupply Ship to International Space Station

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — At exactly 31 minutes and 00 seconds past 2 o’clock on the morning of May 21, 2020, the H-II Transfer Vehicle known as “KOUNOTORI9” (HTV9), the cargo transporter to the International Space Station (ISS), was launched aboard H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 9 (H-IIB F9) from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center.

The H-IIB F9 flight proceeded nominally. Approximately 15 minutes and 7 seconds after launch, the payload separated from the launch vehicle as planned.

JAXA expresses its sincere appreciation for the support provided by all involved.

NASA TV to Air Launch, Capture of Cargo Ship to International Space Station

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is pictured in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm before it was attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module. The orbiting complex was soaring 259 miles above the African nation of Cameroon just after crossing the Atlantic Ocean. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA will broadcast the launch of a Japanese cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station beginning at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 20, live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are scheduled to launch the unpiloted H-II Transport Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) on a Japanese H-IIB rocket at 1:30 p.m. (2:30 a.m. Thursday, May 21, Japan time) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

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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.

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Japan Launches Reconnaissance Satellite

A H-2A rocket launched $272 million reconnaissance satellite for the Japanese government on Sunday.

The booster lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan carrying the Information Gathering Satellite Optical 7 (IGS-Optical 7) spacecraft.

The satellite will replace IGS-Optical 5, whose five-year on-orbit lifetime is expiring this year. The spacecraft was launched in 2015.

It was Japan’s first launch of 2020 and the 35th success in a row for the H-2A booster.

Renovation of Launch Facilities for H3 Launch Vehicle

The ML has two umbilical masts (posts) colored in white and light blue. Reaching the total height of 66.5 meters and having the 7-meter high upper deck, this massive structure is extremely impressive. (Credit: JAXA)

KOGOSHIMA SPACE CENTER, Japan (JAXA PR) — The development of JAXA’s new rocket, the H3 Launch Vehicle, is steadily advancing toward the first launch in FY2020. Here at the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC), renovation and construction work is also under way to prepare the launch facilities for the H3 rocket.

Its highlights are a new Movable Launcher (ML) and its transporters Dollies. The ML is a platform on which parts transported from factories are assembled into a rocket in the Vehicle Assemble Building. Before launch, a rocket on the ML is carried by the Dollies to the launch pad.

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Japanese Cargo Ship Set to Launch to ISS

H-II Transfer Vehicle KOUNOTORI8, the cargo transporter to the International Space Station (ISS), will launch aboard the H-IIB Vehicle No. 8 from JAXA Tanegashima Space Center as follows:

Date: Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Time: 6:33 a.m. JST (2133 GMT /5:33 p.m. EDT Tuesday, September 10)
Reserved Launch Period: September 12 through October 31, 2019
Arrival at ISS: Evening of September 14, 2019

JAXA Spacecraft to Carry Science, Technology to the Space Station

HTV in flight (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) cargo ship H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is scheduled to lift off Sept. 10 at 5:33 p.m. EDT (6:33 a.m. Japan Standard Time) to the International Space Station from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center, 10 years after JAXA launched its first HTV mission. HTV-8 arrives at the space station on Sept. 14.

Here are details about some of the scientific investigations and facilities heading to the orbiting lab on HTV-8.

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