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Japan launches smallest rocket ever to carry tiny satellite into orbit

It carried a microsatellite TRICOM-1R, a three-unit CubeSat weighing about 3 kilograms. The satellite was developed by the University of Tokyo to capture images of the Earth’s surface. This satellite launch was a re-flight of the TRICOM-1 mission, which was lost in SS-520’s failure in 2017.

Feb 5, 2018 10:31 IST
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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on February 3, 2018 launched the world’s smallest rocket with the ability to put a tiny satellite into orbit. The rocket lifted off from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima prefecture, south-western Japan.

It carried a microsatellite TRICOM-1R, a three-unit CubeSat weighing about 3 kilograms. The satellite was developed by the University of Tokyo to capture images of the Earth’s surface. This satellite launch was a re-flight of the TRICOM-1 mission, which was lost in SS-520’s failure in 2017.

The launch was aimed at testing the ability of JAXA to launch low-cost rockets that can put micro satellites into space at affordable rates.

SS-520 Series Rocket
• The rocket, measuring 10 meters in length, 50 centimetres in diameter and some 2.6 tons in weight, was the smallest satellite-carrying rocket in the world.

• It is No 5 vehicle of the SS-520 series and  improved version of JAXA’s SS—520.

• It is a two-stage vehicle, consisting of an S-520 booster and a smaller second stage.

• It was the SS-520’s fourth flight. It first flew on February 5, 1998, before carrying out an ionospheric research mission from Ny-Alesund, Svalbard in December 2000.

• SS-520 series is based upon the S-520, which has made thirty launches since it was introduced in 1980, the most recent in 2015.

Background
The launch of this micro-satellite carrying rocket came following a failed attempt and several postponements over the last year. It was the first time for the SS-520 series rocket to successfully send a microsatellite into orbit.

JAXA launched No 4 vehicle of the SS-520 series rocket in January 2017, which fell into the sea after launch due to short-circuit caused by vibrations during take-off.

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