• Kyodo

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Japan’s third H-IIA rocket successfully lifted off Tuesday afternoon from the Tanegashima space center operated by the National Space Development Agency of Japan, releasing its two satellites as scheduled half an hour after starting its journey.

The 57-meter H-IIA — which was transferred to its launch pad from a hangar before 5 a.m. — took off at 5:20 p.m. from the island of Tanegashima, southwestern Japan. Its satellites were released around 5:50 p.m.

The latest launch aims to prove the worth of Japanese rockets in the country’s space development initiative. If successful, it will be Japan’s first launch of a geostationary satellite in 7 1/2 years, since meteorological satellite Himawari 5 was launched aboard an H-II rocket in March 1995.

The H-IIA, which features two solid-fuel booster engines and four auxiliary solid-fuel engines, launched two satellites — a data relay satellite and an unmanned space experiment recovery system (USERS).

The data relay satellite, known by its acronym DRTS, or data relay test satellite, is designed to relay information to Japan from the International Space Station and other satellites orbiting below it.

During preparations the same day, the 8 a.m. countdown was temporarily halted after the DRTS showed an abnormal signal, NASDA officials said.

After liftoff and about 3,000 km southeast of Tokyo over the Pacific Ocean, the rocket released USERS into a circular orbit at an altitude of 454 km, while it put the DRTS into an elliptical orbit near the equator in the central Pacific Ocean.

The officials said USERS will re-enter the atmosphere in about 8 1/2 months and be retrieved off the Ogasawara Islands.

Over a four-day period, the DRTS will switch from an elliptical orbit to a stationary orbit at 36,000 km above the Indian Ocean.

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