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JAXA names new orbiting X-ray astronomy satellite ‘the Eye’

Kyodo

Japan’s space agency has named an X-ray astronomy satellite that was successfully launched into space Wednesday the Hitomi (Eye), with scientists hoping the new equipment will help their quest to observe distant black holes and galaxies.

The satellite, also called the Astro-H, was put into space on an H-IIA rocket that lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The two-stage booster 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.

With the successful launch, JAXA gave the new name to the satellite Wednesday evening.

The satellite is 14 meters long and weighs 2.7 tons, and is equipped with four X-ray telescopes and two gamma-ray detectors.

Starting this summer after preparations are completed, JAXA will fully operate the Hitomi satellite over the next three years. The joint project with NASA has cost some ¥39 billion, with JAXA shouldering ¥31 billion.

The launch was initially scheduled for last Friday but was postponed to Wednesday due to bad weather.