Japan’s newest rocket puts tiny satellite in orbit


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Japan today successfully launched a cubesat into orbit using a redesigned suborbital rocket flying its second test flight.

Standing just 31 feet (9.5 meters) tall and spanning around 20 inches (52 centimeters) in diameter, the SS-520-5 rocket was modest by launcher standards. With Saturday’s successful flight, the solid-fueled booster became the smallest rocket to ever put an object in orbit around Earth. A student-built shoebox-sized CubeSat named TRICOM 1R — weighing in at about 10 pounds (3 kilograms) — was mounted on top of the SS-520-5 rocket for liftoff from the Uchinoura Space Center in Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture.

This rocket, built by Japan’s space agency JAXA, is only a test vehicle. There are no plans to offer it as a commercial product, the agency hopes it will serve as a model that private companies can use to build their own. This approach might work, but it reminds me too much of many past and similar NASA projects, which once completed then vanished, with no real world utilization.

The 2018 launch standings:

6 China
2 SpaceX
2 ULA
2 Japan

I have dropped listing the countries that so far only have one launch.

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