H-IIA rocket carries astronomy satellite into space


An H-IIA rocket carrying an X-ray astronomy satellite was successfully launched Wednesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The two-stage carrier vehicle lifted off at 5:45 p.m., delivering the Astro-H satellite about 15 minutes later into orbit, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The launch was initially scheduled for last Friday but was postponed due to bad weather. JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. are the builders and operators of the H-IIA rockets. Wednesday’s mission was the 24th consecutive successful launch of the model.

The H-IIA’s payload was a space observatory satellite equipped with four X-ray telescopes and two gamma-ray detectors. Scientists will use it to observe distant black holes and galaxies in their quest to unlock the mysteries surrounding the evolution of the universe.

The satellite’s final orbit will see it circling the Earth at an altitude of 580 km, from where it will observe the heavens. If all goes as planned and it reaches that altitude, it is expected to begin operations as early as summer.

The cylindrically shaped satellite is 14 meters long and weighs 2.7 tons, and is the heaviest scientific satellite Japan has worked on. It was jointly developed by JAXA, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other entities.