JAXA Current Affairs

Japan launches fourth Michibiki satellite for hi-tech GPS

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched Michibiki-4 satellite (QZSS-4) onboard of H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Centre.

It was fourth satellite in Michibiki series i.e. Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), which is a satellite-based high-precision global positioning system similar to US operated GPS. Moreover, it was 36th H-IIA vehicle to be launched so far and fifth launch of an H-IIA rocket in 2017.

QZS-4 (Michibiki-4)

Michibiki-4 is third QZSS satellite to be launched in 2017 and once operational it will bring the constellation of QZSS to its operating capacity of four until a planned expansion to 8 satellites occurs around 2023.

Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS)

It is own version of GPS and is dubbed as Michibiki system. Michibiki means guidance in Japanese. It is intended for civilian use, with a claimed positioning accuracy down to mere centimetres. The QZSS constellation of 8 satellites will trace out a figure-8 pattern over Japan, the Western Pacific, and Australia.

The Michibiki system can cover the Asia-Oceania region and works with the US-operated GPS to provide higher level of precision than previously possible with fewer satellites in visible range. It will become operation in 2018 with four satellites focusing on country and wider region. It will provide global positioning and timing services across frequencies ranging from 1575.42 MHz to 2 GHz.

H-IIA rocket

The H-IIA rocket is Japanese large-scale launch vehicle. It was manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The vehicle stands 53 meters tall and generates 1.7 million pounds-force (7,628 kilonewtons) of thrust at liftoff.

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Japan successfully launches solid fuel rocket

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has successfully launched a solid fuel rocket named Epsilon-2 from the Uchinoura Space Center in southern Japan.

The 26-metre-long rocket released Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) satellite for studying radiation belts around the earth soon after the lift-off. 

Key Facts
  • ERG satellite will orbit in a highly elliptical orbit, getting as close to Earth as 350 kilometers and as far away as 30,000 km.
  • This path will take the satellite through the Van Allen radiation belts, where the earth’s magnetic field traps huge numbers of fast-moving electrons and other particles.
  • These particles mainly damage the computer systems aboard satellites and pose a radiation danger to astronauts.
  • The satellite will use nine different instruments for studying radiation belts over the course of a mission designed to last at least one year.
Comment

Epsilon-2 rocket is part of a new generation of solid propellant rockets which can reduce launch costs up to one-third. The reduction in cost can allow it to put more communication and weather satellites in space. Thus, it can give JAXA a competitive edge in space launch industry which has robust growth potential and strong security implications.

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