Japan launches new spy satellite

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.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxqRQ2NmxO8

Venus probe’s engine damage may kill mission

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.

via Venus probe’s engine damage may kill mission.

Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki Retiring

Japan’s second female astronaut, Naoko Yamazaki, will retire Wednesday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

Yamazaki, 40, was one of the seven crew members who left for the International Space Station aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 5, 2010. She returned to Earth 15 days later.

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Japanese Spaceship Loaded With Garbage Burns Up in Earth’s Atmosphere

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.

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Hayabusa Asteroid Samples Reveal Evidence of heat 4.6 billion yrs ago

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.

Read the rest of the story: Evidence of heat 4.6 billion yrs ago found in asteroid samples+.

US astronauts to ‘bottle’ space for Japan

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.

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Astronaut Wakata to be 1st Japanese Captain of ISS

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.

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Japan’s JAXA to Keep Astronauts Company with Robot

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.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s JAXA to Send Robot to Keep Astronauts Company in Space — and Tweet Back to Earth.

Japanese satellite Hinode uncovers two massive coronal holes in sun’s magnetic field

A Japanese satellite has captured images showing two huge holes in the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the solar corona, which are blasting solar material into space.

Known as “coronal holes”  these openings in the Sun’s magnetic field allow gas to escape into space through the star’s super-hot outer atmosphere where they become the "solar wind".

Solar winds stream from the holes hitting the earth at an average speed of 400 kilometres per second contributing to auroral displays and in more extreme cases creating solar storms.

But don’t worry, experts say the holes don’t pose a threat to the Earth.

Associate Professor Mike Wheatland from the University of Sydney said effects we see back on Earth are caused more by other solar activity.

"While these are quite beautiful pictures we are unlikely to see any effects from the holes back on Earth," Dr Wheatland said.

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JAXA to team up with fishing net maker to collect space junk

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.

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