The United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe took off at 2:58 p.m. PDT on July 19 from a launch site in Japan, headed for Mars to study its atmosphere. (Credit: MHI Launch Services via YouTube) by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
It was a typical year for Japan with four successful launches and no failures. Japan has averaged 3.8 launches annually over the past decade. Last year also saw a Japanese astronaut become the first foreigner to fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
A H-2A rocket launched Japan’s first Optical Data Relay Satellite with laser communications capabilities on Sunday from the Tanegashima Space Center.
The civilian-military spacecraft will relay data from Japan’s optical and radar-imaging Information Gathering Satellites as well as JAXA’s scientific spacecraft.
JAXA’s Laser Utilsing Communication System (LUCAS) will use infrared technology to transmit data between the spacecraft and the ground.
The H-2A rocket lifted off at 4:25 p.m. local time from the southern Japanese island. The spacecraft separated at an altitude of 300 km and is using on-board propulsion to reach geosynchronous orbit.