Spaceflight Insider

Japanese reconnaissance satellite set for Thursday launch atop H-IIA rocket

Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Mission H-IIA rocket at Tanegashima Space Center in Japan NASA photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Archive photo of an H-IIA 202 being prepared for launch from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Photo Credit: NASA

Preparations are underway at JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center for the launch of the IGS-RADAR-5 radar reconnaissance satellite. The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket, in the 202 configuration, is set to launch within a 2-hour window opening at 9:00 p.m. EDT March 15 (01:00 GMT March 16), 2017.

Sitting atop the 174-foot (53-meter) tall rocket is IGS-RADAR-5. The satellite is part of a fleet operated by the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center (CSICE) and will provide information in support of both Japan’s national defense and natural disaster operations.

CSICE is responsible for several state and military intelligence organizations, and IGS-RADAR-5 will increase the agency’s data-gathering abilities.

Not much information about the satellite is publicly available, as would be expected. However, inferences can be made about it from its predecessors.

Information suggests the satellite will be inserted into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) inclined roughly 97 degrees to the equator in a nearly circular 310-mile (500-kilometer) orbit. The solar-powered spacecraft is likely built on a commercially-available Mitsubishi Electric Company satellite bus. Its radar resolution is likely to be approximately 3.3 feet (1 meter).

The satellite’s ride, the H-IIA, is Japan’s workhorse launch vehicle and has once again been tapped to deliver a national security payload to orbit. The rocket, in the 202 configuration two stages, no liquid-fueled boosters, and two solid-fueled boosters – can loft approximately 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms) to SSO.

The H-IIA will lift off the pad with the core stage’s single LE-7A engine, supplemented by two strap-on SRB-A solid-fueled boosters. The trio has a combined 1.49 million pounds (6,618 kilonewtons) of thrust at liftoff, with the boosters operating for the first 100 seconds of flight and accounting for more than 83 percent of the output.

The rocket’s second stage is powered by a lone LE-5B liquid-fueled engine. Like its first stage sibling, the engine is also fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen (often shortened as “hydrolox”) and provides 30,800 pounds (137 kilonewtons) of thrust in vacuum.

The H-IIA, in all of its configurations, has been a reliable vehicle for Japan. It has a launch success rate of nearly 97 percent. This flight will be the country’s third orbital launch attempt of 2017 and the second from an H-IIA 202.




Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting - and safer - career field. He's worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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