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Japan launches satellite to study human causes of climate change

H-2A rocket
Asia   H-2A rocket

A Japanese H-2A rocket deployed a satellite in orbit October 29 to measure greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere and help scientists better quantify the role of human activity in climate change.


Nicknamed Ibuki 2, Japan’s second Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite rode a H-2A rocket into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. Five other satellites from Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines accompanied Ibuki 2 on the flight.

The 187-foot-tall (57-meter) H-2A rocket fired off its launch pad on Tanegashima Island at 0408 GMT (12:08 a.m. EDT; 1:08 p.m. Japan Standard Time), marking the 40th launch of Japan’s workhorse H-2A booster.

Propelled by a hydrogen-fueled LE-7A main engine and two strap-on solid rocket motors, the H-2A raced through a partly cloudy afternoon sky with 1.4 million pounds of thrust.

The solid rocket boosters burned out and dropped away from the H-2A rocket around two minutes after liftoff, and the rocket’s guidance computer commanded its engine to swivel, steering the launcher toward the south after an initial trajectory toward the east, a “dogleg” maneuver to ensure parts of the vehicle do not fall on land downrange.

The H-2A’s payload fairing jettisoned in the fifth minute of the mission, and the first stage shut down and jettisoned around six-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. An upper stage LE-5B engine, also consuming super-cold liquid hydrogen, ignited for eight-and-a-half minutes to accelerate into a target orbit ranging between 369 miles and 380 miles (595 to 613 kilometers) in altitude.

The rocket achieved the correct orbit, with an inclination of 97.8 degrees to the equator, a path that will take Ibuki 2 and its co-passengers over the poles on each lap around the planet.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the H-2A rocket’s prime contractor, confirmed the deployment of Ibuki 2 from the launcher around 16 minutes into the flight. But the rocket passed out of range of a tracking station, as expected, before officials could verify the mission’s other satellites successfully deployed.

More than an hour later, the rocket flew back over a ground station, and officials announced the separation of KhalifaSat, the first Earth observation satellite built in the United Arab Emirates.

 

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