JAXA set to launch DAICHI-2 (ALOS-2) into orbit aboard H-IIA F24
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are set to launch the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 24 (H-IIA F24) with the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 – “DAICHI-2” – (ALOS-2) on May 24 at 12:05:14 p.m. (Japan Standard Time).
The ALOS-2 satellite is follow-on mission from theDAICHI-1, which contributed to cartography, regional observation, disaster monitoring, and resource surveys. ALOS-2 will succeed this mission with enhanced capabilities. Specifically, JAXA is conducting research and development activities to improve wide and high-resolution observation technologies developed for DAICHI in order to further fulfill social needs.
Once the DAICHI-2 is launched “DAICHI-2” (ALOS-2) is going to be used for:
1) Disaster monitoring of damage areas, both in considerable detail, and when these areas may be large
2) Continuous updating of data archives related to national land and infrastructure information
3) Effective monitoring of cultivated areas
4) Global monitoring of tropical rain forests to identify carbon sinks.
The state-of-the-art L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR-2) aboard ALOS-2, which is an active microwave radar using the 1.2GHz frequency range, will, in responding to society’s needs, have enhanced performance compared to DAICHI/PALSAR. The PALSAR-2 is capable of observing day and night, and in all weather conditions.
ALOS-2 will have a spotlight mode (1 to 3m) and a high resolution mode (3 to 10m), whilst PALSAR has a 10m resolution. It will allow comprehensive monitoring of disasters by providing users with more detailed data than DAICHI/PALSAR.
The observation frequency of ALOS-2 will be improved by greatly expanding the observable range of the satellite up to about 3 times, through an improvement in obserble areas (from 870km to 2,320km), as well as giving ALOS-2 a right-and-left looking function, currently not available on DAICHI/PALSAR.
Project manager Shinichi Suzuki, who has been involved in the project since the DAICHI, the predecessor of the DAICHI-2, commented:
“We have developed high-quality radar and data transmission technologies this time. Whenever our test results did not seem logical, we discussed the results in cooperation with the manufacturer and related workers to find a solution. Now, I would like to brace myself for the launch.”
Transportation of the ALOS-2 from the Mitsubishi Electric’s Kamakura Works, where its assembly and tests were conducted, to the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) began around noon on February 21. In the very early morning of the 22nd the satellite packed in a container, was loaded onto a large truck to go to Kawasaki Port. The container was then placed on a boat at the port to make a 56-hour trip by sea to Shimama Port on Tanegashima Island.
The ALOS-2 was then moved into the Spacecraft Test and Assembly Building 2 (STA2) at the TNSC and unpacked there. After final checks and fuelling of the ALOS-2, the satellite was placed on the H-IIA rocket. On May 23 after the weather conditions checked out, the green light was given for H-IIA F24 carrying ALOS-2 to leave the Vehicle Assembly Building for the launch pad. Mounted on a mobile launcher platform it took about 30 minutes to travel the approximately 500 meters from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad.
The H-II launch vehicle, the central rocket in Japan’s space program, with the capability to launch a two-ton class satellite into geostationary orbit, is a two-stage rocket that was developed with Japanese independent technology in all stages. In addition to geostationary satellite, it can also be used to launch payloads into low and medium-altitude orbits. For greater economy, it is possible to launch simultaneously two geostationary satellites weighing about one ton each. The overall length of the HII-A rocket is 50 meters. It has a total weight of 260 tones.
The first stage of the H-II launch vehicle consists of the first stage core vehicle equipped with the LE-7 engine and two solid rocket boosters (SRBs). The LE-7 engine is a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine with 86 tons of thrust (at sea level). The SRBs are polybutadiene composite solid propellant boosters with 158 tons of thrust each (at sea level). The guidance and control of the first stage is performed by the hydraulically steerable nozzles of the LE-7 engine and of the SRBs controlled by the Inertial Guidance Computer (IGC). Two auxiliary engines are also provided to control attitude.
The second stage of the H-II launch vehicle is equipped with the LE-5A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine. The LE-5A engine is an improved LE-5 engine (developed for the second stage of the H – I launch vehicle) and provides 12 tons of thrust (in vacuum). The guidance and control of the second stage is performed by the hydraulically steerable nozzle of the LE-5A engine and the reaction control system controlled by the IGC.
A native of the Netherlands, van Oene became ‘infected’ with the ‘space virus’ by an enthusiastic school teacher in 1981. Since 1994 he has been a freelance space photographer and writer for magazines and websites in Holland, Belgium and ‘Spaceflight’, the magazine of the British Interplanetary Society. van Oene is also the co-founder and CFO of SPACEPATCHES.NL. This Netherlands-based foundation currently produces all the official Soyuz crew patches for the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos.