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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 10:36 GMT
Japan celebrates rocket success
The H-2A F2 lifted into a clear blue sky
Japan launched another of its new-generation space rockets on Monday, but not without problems.

Although the H-2A vehicle blasted off from the Tanegashima spaceport without incident, it later emerged that communication had been lost with one of its mission payloads.

The DASH probe was designed to test an atmospheric re-entry system. It is not clear yet what went wrong.

The 57-metre-long, two-stage H-2A should have flown on Friday but was held back because of technical and weather problems. It eventually lifted clear of the launch pad at 1145 local time (0245 GMT).

Expensive loss

Despite the setback, the National Space Development Agency (NASDA) was keen to trumpet the second consecutive launch of the H-2A vehicle.

"I'm very happy," Tsukasa Mito, executive director at NASDA, said. "I hope this launch will be the start of a succession of successful launches."

NASDA has a lot riding on the H-2A, NASDA
NASDA has a lot riding on the H-2A
The intention is for the third launch to put a commercial payload in orbit.

NASDA has been under pressure to succeed since it lost prototype rockets in 1998 and 1999 costing billions of yen.

The first successful launch of the H-2A two-stage rocket occurred in August last year.

Dominant presence

The latest version, technically known as H-2A F2, was sent into orbit with more power - eight engines instead of four.

It was also slightly taller because of the bigger fairing needed to house its mission payload.

As well as the re-entry capsule, the rocket was delivering the 450-kg SDS-1 demonstrator satellite into orbit. Over the course of the next year, it will test components for future missions. All reports indicate the SDS-1 was inserted properly.

Nasda was set up in 1969 and launched Japan's first, totally self-developed rocket, the H-2, in 1994.

The H-2A rocket is intended to establish a Japanese presence in the commercial satellite launch market, now dominated by the United States and Europe.

Time will tell how the apparent loss of the DASH probe will impact on the Japanese space programme.

The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"The launch had been delayed twice"
See also:

29 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Japanese rocket blasts off
29 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Japan's uncertain space future
22 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Typhoon adds to Japanese space woes
15 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Japan's rocket hopes explode
04 Jul 98 | Asia-Pacific
Japan launches mission to Mars
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