Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit Friday, officials said, in its latest effort to beef up surveillance against the threat of North Korean missiles.
The Japanese H-2A rocket carrying a new information-gathering optical satellite lifted off at 1:36 pm (0436 GMT) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.
"The rocket was launched successfully and the satellite was separated into an orbit around the earth later," Naoki Takarada, an official of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said by telephone from Tanegashima.
The Akatsuki space probe’s mission to Venus is close to failure because its engine is too damaged to maneuver it into an orbit close enough to observe the planet’s atmosphere accurately, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.
JAXA tested the probe’s main engine Wednesday to prepare for another attempt to achieve its mission of entering Venus orbit in 2015, but the thrust was only one-eighth the amount anticipated, the space agency said the same day.
An unmanned Japanese space cargo ship met its fiery demise overnight when it intentionally re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere late Tuesday one day after its departure from the International Space Station.
The robotic spacecraft, an H-2 Transfer Vehicle called Kounotori 2 (which means "White Stork" 2), was destroyed to dispose of itself and its cargo of space station trash after a successful two-month mission to the orbiting laboratory.
Along with the station trash aboard Kounotori 2, a high-tech sensor onboard the cargo ship successfully monitored the hot and fiery details of the spacecraft’s plunge to destruction into the South Pacific Ocean. It related its data via satellite to researchers for later analysis. The spacecraft also carried three paper cranes folded by the space station’s three-person crew as a symbol of hope for the victims of the massive Japanese earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on March 11.
The sensor on Kounotori 2 – a small and autonomous device called the Re-entry Breakup Recorder, or REBR for short – recorded temperature, acceleration, rotational rate and other data during the spacecraft’s high dive into Earth’s atmosphere.
Particles brought back by Japan’s Hayabusa unmanned space probe, which returned to Earth from the asteroid Itokawa last June, show signs that the material constituting the asteroid may have been formed in high temperatures at the time the solar system was created 4.6 billion years ago, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said in a preliminary analysis report Thursday.
The agency also said organic substances, which could help explain the origins of life, have not been found in the samples.
JAXA has been examining the particles in cooperation with scientists across the country, with the hope of shedding light on the origin of the solar system, as Itokawa is said to have maintained its form from the time the solar system was created.
Two American astronauts began on Monday the first of two spacewalks to install a permanent spare closet on the orbiting International Space Station and also to bottle some outer space for Japan.
The unusual project is part of a team effort with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, to open up a metal cylinder that has been signed by other astronauts, and bring it back for public display.
The so-called "Message in a Bottle" experiment, in which they will "expose a metal canister to capture the vacuum of space," is planned for the end of the six-hour spacewalk, NASA said.
In the meantime, astronauts Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew set about taking care of some more technical matters, by attaching a new extension power cable for backup purposes between the Unity node and the Tranquility module.
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will stay at the International Space Station for six months starting at the end of 2013 and will serve as the first Japanese captain of the ISS in the last two months of the mission, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Wednesday. It will be the fourth space mission for Wakata, 47, and also be his second long-term assignment, the organization known as JAXA said. Wakata will be shuttled to the ISS aboard Russia’s Soyuz, it said.
"I am fully realizing the importance of the mission," Wakata said in a statement.
Japan’s humanoid robots smile, laugh, and sing. But what if they could read your facial expression, converse in words, and scale the latest peak in communication—tweet on the microblogging service Twitter? All this from space?
A humanoid robot developed by Japan’s Advanced Industrial Science and Technology sings and dances with performers in Tokyo in October 2010.
That’s exactly what Japan’s national aerospace agency is aiming to develop by 2013. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said earlier this week that it has begun reviewing a possible joint venture with Tokyo University and advertising and communications company Dentsu Inc. to develop a humanoid robot that will join astronauts in space as a permanent resident on the International Space Station, or ISS.
The robot wouldn’t be the first aboard the ISS: NASA is launching a humanoid robot of its own later this month. But the NASA machine has been engineered to assist astronauts with various operational tasks on the ISS, while the Japanese robot’s main task would essentially be in the service sector—to keep astronauts company.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Nitto Seimo Co aim to tackle the increasingly hazardous problem of debris damaging space shuttles and satellites.
The new system involves launching a satellite attached to a thin metal net spanning several kilometers into space, before the net is detached and begins to capture space waste while orbiting earth.
During its rubbish collecting journey, the net will become charged with electricity and eventually be drawn back towards earth by magnetic fields – before both the net and its contents will burn upon entering the atmosphere.
Inspired by a basic fishing net concept, the super-strong space nets have been the subject of extensive research by Nitto Seimo for the past six years and consist of three layered metal threads, each measuring 1mm diameter and intertwined with fibres as thin as human hair.