Japan launches world’s smallest rocket

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Bengaluru, Feb 5 (IANS) In what has been described as “a fantastic achievement”, Japan successfully launched a satellite on Saturday using the worlds lightest rocket

outsmarting nations trying to develop cheaper light-weight rockets to cash in on the booming market for micro-satellites.

The SS-520 rocket, about the size of a lamp post and 50 centimeters in diameter, lifted off from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima and placed its payload in the intended orbit, according to Japan’s space agency JAXA.

The three-stage rocket carried a micro-satellite weighing about three kilograms developed by the University of Tokyo to collect imagery of the Earth’s surface.

JAXA’s record-setting flight of the smallest satellite-carrying rocket follows an aborted launch last year when the flight of an SS-520 had to be terminated shortly after liftoff due to a communications problem leading to loss of power in the data transmitter.

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Raghavan Gopalaswami, a retired aerospace systems analyst and former Chairman of Bharat Dynamics Ltd., under the defense ministry, said the Japanese use of a lightweight rocket for satellite launch is “fantastic”.

He said the Japanese may have used “extraordinarily high propellant specific impulse, extraordinarily high strength-to-weight ratio materials and micro-miniaturization of electronics which they are known for”.

According to Japanese news reports, the agency used commercially available components found in home electronics and smart phones for the rocket to lower the launch cost.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has also announced plans to develop small rockets to meet the growing demand for vehicles to take small satellites into space.

Its Chairman, K. Sivan, has reportedly said that ISRO is planning to develop a small launch vehicle that could be assembled in just three days, will cost one-tenth the cost of conventional launch vehicles, and will be much lighter.

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(K.S. Jayaraman is a veteran science journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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