Launch 2020: A Year of Transition for Japan

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.

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Japan Launches Optical Data Relay Satellite

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.