Japan conducted the launch of a miniature satellite via a modified SS-520 sounding rocket Saturday, a little over a year after its first attempt failed to achieve orbit. Liftoff, from the Uchinoura Space Centre, occurred at the opening of a ten-minute window at 14:03 local time (05:03 UTC).
Saturday’s experimental launch has now been classed as successful, meaning the SS-520 has become the smallest rocket ever to place a satellite into orbit. Its payload, TRICOM-1R, is a three-unit CubeSat with a mass of just three kilograms (7 lb). The satellite was a re-flight of the TRICOM-1 mission, which was lost in SS-520’s failure last year.
The SS-520 was designed to be used as a sounding rocket, carrying research payloads into space on suborbital missions to altitudes of over 800 kilometers (500 miles, 430 nautical miles). It is a two-stage vehicle, consisting of an S-520 booster and a smaller second stage, but for Saturday’s launch – as it did for its first orbital launch attempt last year – the rocket flew with a small additional third stage mounted inside its nose cone.
Saturday’s launch was the SS-520’s fourth flight. It first flew on 5 February 1998, before carrying out an ionospheric ...