JAXA to launch Himawari 9 weather satellite
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is set to launch the second of two Himawari (“Sunflower”) weather satellites on Nov. 2 from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) – a delay from Nov. 1. Himawari 9 is a next-generation Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) satellite that will observe clouds, sea surface temperatures, volcanic ash, and other phenomena.
The launch was delayed 24 hours due to unfavorable weather that was forecasted for the rocket’s rollout. Liftoff is currently set for 3:20 p.m. Japan Standard Time (2:20 a.m. EDT / 06:20 GMT) Nov. 2. The launch window will be 2 hours, 58 minutes in length.
Providing visible, infrared, and near-infrared images, Himawari will assume a geostationary orbit (GEO) at 140 degrees east longitude. The spacecraft will join Himawari 8, which is stationed nearby at 140.7 degrees, to observe East Asia and the Western Pacific and provide full coverage of Japan every 2.5 minutes.
The satellite’s 2.6-kilowatt solar array will power the Advanced Himawari Imager (AHI), the Space Environment Data Acquisition (SEDA) monitor, and a Data Collection Subsystem (DCS). The AHI was developed by Exelis, Inc. (now part of Harris) and is similar to the imager that will be launched aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-R).
Himawari 9 will head for GEO aboard JAXA’s 174-foot (53-meter) tall H-IIA 202 launch vehicle. The H-IIA’s first stage is powered by an LE-7 liquid oxygen / liquid hydrogen engine capable of generating some 242,501 pounds (1,098 kilonewtons) of thrust. The 202 variant also includes two polybutadiene composite solid rocket boosters, each generating a 507,056.6 pounds (2,255.5 kilonewtons) thrust. The second stage is powered by a restartable liquid hydrogen / liquid oxygen LE-5B-2 engine with 30,798.8 pounds (137 kilonewtons) thrust.
The H-IIA has been upgraded to incorporate improved payload separation systems, an onboard navigation tracking system, and increased loiter time on the upper stage. Himawari 9, at 7,716 pounds (3,500 kilograms), is near the upper limit of H-IIA’s maximum payload capability to GEO.
When it does take to the skies of Japan, it will mark the second of three planned launches for JAXA’s 2016 launch manifest.
The year got off to a rocky start for JAXA after the loss of the ASTRO-H X-ray astronomy satellite on March 26. While the launch of the space-based observatory proceeded without incident, communications with ASTRO-H (also known as Hitomi) was lost. Radar tracks later showed that the spacecraft had broken up into several pieces.
The last flight of the year, currently set for December 9, will be the sixth launch of an HTV cargo freighter bound for the International Space Station.
Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.