Sunday, February 18, 2018
World's Smallest Rocket, from Japan, Orbits a CubeSat
2/8/2018 5:11:36 PM
Arthur J. Villasanta - Fourth Estate Contributor

Tokyo, Japan (4E) - The world's smallest launch vehicle -- Japan's SS-520-5 -- successfully delivered a Japanese-made CubeSat developed for Earth observation into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

SS-520-5 lifted-off from the Uchinoura Space Center on Feb. 3 at 05:03 UTC to successfully deploy the TRICOM-1R CubeSat into LEO. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the launch was a demonstration experiment.

It described TRICOM-1R as a three-unit cubesat (3U) that is now observing the Earth with a set of cameras. JAXA says the status of TRICOM-1R in orbit is "nominal."

Developed by the University of Tokyo Intelligent Space Systems Laboratory, TRICOM-1R is a low-cost 3U CubeSat which is also serving as a test bed for future cost-competitive nanosatellites by using domestic commercial products.

TRICOM-1R is a "store and forward mission" in which the satellite will store weak signal data from terrestrial terminals, and forward the data when the satellite flies above ground stations. It will also conduct Earth observation using its main camera and five sub cameras.

The mission is part of a movement in the space industry towards using smaller vehicles to deliver tiny payloads. Rocket Lab, a New Zealand firm, successfully launched its first small rocket called Electron in January. It delivered four satellites into orbit, including the disco ball-shaped Humanity's Star.

Small rockets designed to carry small payloads into LEO will help reduce the enormous cost of getting payloads into orbit.

SS-520-5 has a height of 9.54 meters; weighs 2.6 metric tons and has a diameter of 52 centimeters. It can deliver a four kilogram payload into LEO.

SS-520-5 is a member of the S-Series of sounding rockets funded by JAXA. The S-Series has been in service since the late 1960s.

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