Japanese military satellite damaged during shipping

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Japan’s troubled space effort suffered a bad setback when a Japanese military communications satellite was damaged in shipment to its launch site in French Guiana.

The launch of Japan’s first dedicated military communications satellite will be delayed by two years after a mishap with a blue tarpaulin damaged sensitive antennas during transportation to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, two government sources told Reuters. The mishap has set back plans by Japan’s military to unify its fractured and overburdened communications network, and could hinder efforts to reinforce defenses in the East China Sea as Chinese military activity in the region escalates.


  • Localfluff

    When I first heard of shipping containers having fallen over board across the Atlantic, I assumed it was a fraud. But it seems to be normal! It mishappens regularly. The lost containers where stacked on the top and the ship went through a storm. Not that this satellite was in a container, but something broke and played flipper with it regardless of its packaging. A few containers falling over board is acceptable losses in the shipping business. Google “ships in storm” for some videos to show what it is like out there sometimes.

    So, launching from Guyana adds that risk to the space launch risk. I’m surprised it has worked so very well thus far. But Japanese payloads are more rare from Guyana, maybe the Pacific is too wild to make that a regular business.

  • Edward

    In this case, the satellite was shipped by aircraft, which routinely are flown at a reduced pressure (e.g. 8,000 ft — 2,400-ish meters — equivalent pressure).

    It sounds to me as though someone had placed a tarpaulin over the shipping container after it was loaded onto the aircraft, and the equalization valves became blocked as the airplane descended from altitude, at which time the container would have needed air to flow back into the container in order to prevent the sides from becoming concave due to the pressure difference. The pressure difference is only about 4 psi (1/4 atmosphere), but over the area of each side of a large shipping container, that can add up to a few tons of force.

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