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Japan launches satellite to study human causes of climate change

Staff Writer |
A Japanese H-2A rocket deployed a satellite in orbit October 29 to measure greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere and help scientists better quantify the role of human activity in climate change.

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Nicknamed Ibuki 2, Japan’s second Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite rode a H-2A rocket into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. Five other satellites from Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines accompanied Ibuki 2 on the flight.

The 187-foot-tall (57-meter) H-2A rocket fired off its launch pad on Tanegashima Island at 0408 GMT (12:08 a.m. EDT; 1:08 p.m. Japan Standard Time), marking the 40th launch of Japan’s workhorse H-2A booster.

Propelled by a hydrogen-fueled LE-7A main engine and two strap-on solid rocket motors, the H-2A raced through a partly cloudy afternoon sky with 1.4 million pounds of thrust.

The solid rocket boosters burned out and dropped away from the H-2A rocket around two minutes after liftoff, and the rocket’s guidance computer commanded its engine to swivel, steering the launcher toward the south after an initial trajectory toward the east, a “dogleg” maneuver to ensure parts of the vehicle do not fall on land downrange.

The H-2A’s payload fairing jettisoned in the fifth minute of the mission, and the first stage shut down and jettisoned around six-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. An upper stage LE-5B engine, also consuming super-cold liquid hydrogen, ignited for eight-and-a-half minutes to accelerate into a target orbit ranging between 369 miles and 380 miles (595 to 613 kilometers) in altitude.

The rocket achieved the correct orbit, with an inclination of 97.8 degrees to the equator, a path that will take Ibuki 2 and its co-passengers over the poles on each lap around the planet.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the H-2A rocket’s prime contractor, confirmed the deployment of Ibuki 2 from the launcher around 16 minutes into the flight. But the rocket passed out of range of a tracking station, as expected, before officials could verify the mission’s other satellites successfully deployed.

More than an hour later, the rocket flew back over a ground station, and officials announced the separation of KhalifaSat, the first Earth observation satellite built in the United Arab Emirates.

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