March 29, 2023

9 satellites launching on Japanese rocket tonight

9 satellites launching on Japanese rocket tonight
9 satellites launching on Japanese rocket tonight9 satellites launching on Japanese rocket tonight

Nine small satellites will launch to Earth orbit atop a Japanese rocket tonight (Sept. 30).

An Epsilon rocket is scheduled to lift off from Japan’s Uchinoura Space Center tonight during a 4-minute window that opens at 8:51 p.m. EDT (0051 GMT on Oct. 1). If a livestream of the launch becomes available, will carry it live.

The Epsilon will haul to orbit the Rapid Innovative Payload Demonstration Satellite 2, or RAISE 2 for short, and eight tagalong spacecraft for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

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As its full name suggests, the 240-pound (110 kilograms) RAISE 2 is a technology demonstrator. The spacecraft, which was built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp., will test six different space technologies, including a small sensor called MARIN designed to gauge the position, altitude and velocity of orbiting satellites, JAXA officials said.

The other eight satellites, which were manufactured by a variety of Japanese companies and universities, are even smaller than the 3.3-foot-wide (1 meter) RAISE 2. Four of the rideshare spacecraft weigh 8.8 pounds (4 kg) or less, and the other four tip the scales at between 101 pounds and 137 pounds (46 to 62 kg). (Those satellites will become weightless in orbit, of course, but they’ll still have mass.) 

The heftiest of the tagalongs is DRUMS (“Debris Removal Unprecedented Micro-satellite”), a craft built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Once in orbit, the 2.75-foot-wide (84 centimeters) DRUMS will release a small object and then capture it, demonstrating tech that could eventually help humanity clean up space junk.

This will be the fifth mission for the 78-foot-tall (24 m) Epsilon, which JAXA began developing in 2007. The solid-fueled rocket is capable of delivering to low Earth orbit payloads as heavy as 2,646 pounds (1,200 kg), according to its JAXA specifications page.

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The four previous Epsilon launches — which took place in September 2013, December 2016, January 2018 and January 2019 — were all successful. 

The 2019 launch lofted RAPIS 1 (“Rapid Innovative Payload Demonstration Satellite 1”), the primary payload on the first mission developed via JAXA’s Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Program. RAISE 2 is the second mission in that program, which seeks to encourage the development of innovative space tech, especially by universities and the private sector.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.