Poor weather delays flight of H-IIA rocket with ASTRO-H
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has decided to delay the flight of a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA 204 rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center due to encroaching rough weather. A new launch date/time of the ASTRO-H space-based observatory has not been announced.
ASTRO-H was set to be launched on Friday, Feb. 12, with the 45-minute launch window scheduled to open at 5:45 p.m. JST (08:45 GMT). JAXA tweeted the following statement about the slip:
ASTRO-H / H-IIA F30 launch was postponed because bad weather is expected. The new launch day will be announced as soon as it is determined.
JAXA also issued a release:
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) decided to postpone the launch of the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 30 with the X-ray Astronomy Satellite (ASTRO-H) onboard from the Tanegashima Space Center, which was originally scheduled for February 12 (Fri.), 2016 (Japan Standard Time), as clouds including a freezing layer (please refer to the following figure) that exceed the restrictions for suitable weather are forecast to be generated at around the scheduled launch time. In addition, strong winds are also forecast and they are expected to hinder launch preparations.
When it does take to the skies, it will begin a three-year planned mission to study the formation and evolution of the universe. Dark matter, black holes, and other exotic phenomena will fall under the spacecraft’s watchful gaze. ASTRO-H has four science instruments and two telescopes on board.
Mission managers have the range through the end of this month (Feb. 2016), but they have plenty of time in which to get their precious cargo off of the launch pad at the Yoshinobu Launch Complex.
As it currently stands, ASTRO-H is one of only two missions slated to be sent aloft from Tanegashima in 2016; the other being the launch of an HTV cargo freighter bound for the International Space Station on an H-IIB booster.
JAXA has described the H-IIA as being the agency’s primary large scale booster. Standing some 174 feet (53 meters) tall, the booster was first launched on August 29, 2001, and has, to date, been launched 29 times – 28 of them successful.
ASTRO-H weighs nearly three metric tons and will reside in low-Earth orbit at an altitude of some 357 miles (575 kilometers). As noted, the spacecraft will study some of the more bizarre celestial bodies in the universe. ASTRO-H will survey the sky in the X-ray and gamma-ray parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
There is currently only one more launch scheduled for the Tanegashima Space Center for 2016 – the flight of an HTV cargo craft set to launch atop an H-IIB rocket.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.