JAXA launches Himawari 9 weather satellite
After waiting out rainy weather to roll their H-IIA rocket to the launch pad, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched their latest weather satellite, Himawari 9. The rocket lifted off from Tanegashima Space Center at 3:20 p.m. Japan Standard Time (2:20 a.m. EDT / 06:20 GMT), sending the spacecraft on its way to geostationary orbit above East Asia and the Western Pacific.
Onward and upward
The upgraded H-IIA rocket began its 31st flight with the ignition of its single LE-7 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine, followed soon by its twin solid rocket boosters (SRBs). The two SRBs pushed H-IIA skyward for 100 seconds before jettisoning into the Pacific. The first stage kept burning for about another 300 seconds before main engine cutoff.
After first stage separation, the payload fairing split away from the top of the rocket as the L-5B powered upper stage sent Himawari 9 the rest of its way toward a geostationary transfer orbit. At spacecraft separation, Himawari 9 was in a 155-mile (250-kilometer) by 16,140-mile (35,980-kilometer) orbit inclined about 22.4 degrees to the equator.
What happens next
Himawari 9 will now begin maneuvering itself into a circular geostationary orbit, joining Himawari 8 near 140 degrees east along the equator at an altitude of 22,245 miles (35,800 kilometers). The two satellites will provide visible, infrared, and near-infrared imagery of clouds, sea temperatures, and volcanic dust as part of World Weather Watch (WWW), a core World Meteorological Organization program.
This was the final H-IIA rocket launch of 2016. However, the launch vehicle will be kept busy in 2017, launching the DSN-2 military satellite, the Shizuki Global Change Observation Mission (GCOM-W), and the Ibuki Greenhouse gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT).
Video courtesy of JAXA
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.