Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency made their first commercial satellite launch today in a challenge to European and Russian services.
A Korea Aerospace Research Institute satellite was onboard an H-2A rocket that blasted off at 1:39 a.m. from the Tanegashima Space Center, which is on a Pacific Ocean island off the southern coast of mainland Japan, according to a statement from JAXA on its website. The rocket also carried a Japanese satellite.
Japan has begun to compete with Evry, France-based Arianespace, the world’s largest commercial satellite launcher, and Russia’s Proton to find new revenue for its space program. The nation launches as many as three H-2A rockets a year under a program run by Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Heavy since 2007.
“We’re very happy with the launch of a South Korean satellite as Japan’s first commercial payload,” Motohisa Furukawa, Japan’s minister for space development, said in a faxed statement. “We support securing more opportunities for our satellite-launch service.”
Today’s takeoff was Japan’s 52nd rocket launch since the program began in 1975. It was the 15th H-2A launch in a row not to suffer a fault, giving the model a 95.2 percent success rate, according to the statement. An H-2A rocket failed in 2002.