(Reuters) - Japan launched a satellite on Friday to monitor greenhouse gases along with seven smaller satellites in a mission that could boost business for the country’s cash-hungry space program.
Here are some facts about Japan’s satellite launch program, which the government has long hoped will become a profitable enterprise.
- Japan has conducted 15 satellite launches using its H-2A rocket, 14 of which have been successful. The rockets are launched from a site on Tanegashima island off the main southern island of Kyushu.
- In 2003, Japan’s space agency was forced to destroy a rocket carrying two intelligence-gathering satellites when it went off course shortly after take-off.
- In 2007, the government handed over the manufacture of Japan’s H-2A rockets from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
- The company this month received its first order from a client other than the Japanese government when the Korean space agency asked it to launch KOMPSAT-3, which is designed to take images of the Earth. The launch will be in 2011 or 2012.
- Japan’s space scientists have long complained that the country’s space program has been constrained by a self-imposed ban on military use of space under the pacifist constitution. The ban was lifted last year, and the defense ministry is considering what defense-related technologies it would like to introduce.
- Japan’s ambitions to gain a share of the commercial satellite launch business face competition from newer entrants such as China and India, as well as Europe, the United States and Russia.
- The latest H-2A launch will cost 8.5 billion yen ($95.57 million), the lowest ever for Japan. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has said launch costs have become competitive, with costs for Russia’s Proton rocket, considered low even with rising material prices, at around 9 billion yen ($101.2 million).
Reporting by Isabel Reynolds; Editing by Hugh Lawson