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Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 10:33 GMT
Japan's rocket hopes take off
The rocket takes off from Tanegashima Space Center
This is the fourth H-2A launch by Japan
A Japanese H-2A rocket has blasted into space carrying an Australian satellite - the first time the rocket has been launched with an international payload.

The satellite should provide remote parts of Australia with broadband internet services.

The rocket was also carrying Japanese satellites to track the movements of whales and the effects of global warming.

Japan hopes the successful launch will help it gain a foothold in the commercial satellite business.

The H-2A made its first flight in August 2001 and this is its fourth mission.

Birthday gift

The rocket blasted off from the Tanegashima spaceport, a remote island about 1,000 kilometres (625 miles) south-west of Tokyo.

All four satellites on board were successfully placed into orbit.

"It went without a hitch. By building upon this track record, I would like to convey to the world the value of Japanese rockets," said Shuichiro Yamanouchi, the president of the National Space Development Agency.

The launch of the Australian FedSat was a gift promised last year to mark the 100th anniversary of Australia's Commonwealth government, the Associated Press reports.

FedSat is due to conduct experiments in communications, navigation and space science.

The H-2A is the centrepiece of Japan's space programme.

Japan's space industry lags far behind those of Europe and the United States.

However, the European space industry hit a serious setback earlier this week, when an upgraded version of its Ariane 5 rocket exploded shortly after take-off.

See also:

12 Dec 02 | Science/Nature
29 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
15 Nov 99 | Science/Nature
04 Jul 98 | Asia-Pacific
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