Tag Archives: SS-520

Japan’s newest rocket puts tiny satellite in orbit

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.

Share

Japan to make second launch attempt of world’s smallest orbital rocket

JAXA, Japan’s space agency, has announced that it will make a second launch attempt in December of what would be the world’s smallest orbital rocket.

The rocket, measuring 10 meters long and 50 cm in diameter, will carry a “micro-mini” satellite weighing about 3 kg developed by the University of Tokyo to collect imagery of the Earth’s surface.

The launch scheduled for Dec. 25 will feature the fifth rocket in the SS-520 series. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is hoping small rockets made with commercially available components at low cost will help fuel the growing global demand for micro-mini satellites. JAXA used components found in home electronics and smartphones for the rocket, which is about the size of a utility pole.

The previous launch failed when vibrations during liftoff caused a short-circuit that cut off communications, forcing them to terminate the flight.

Share

Short circuit caused launch failure of Japanese mini-rocket

Japanese engineers now believe that the cause of the failure of that country’s test launch of a mini-rocket on January 15 was because of the failure of wiring insulation.

The agency said it believes the cladding of electric cables was damaged by the vibration and heat of nearby metal parts, leading the cables to directly touch the metal parts. As a result, a short circuit occurred and a data transmission device lost power, it said.

It is remarkable how much the language of this story reminds me of Soviet era press releases. Everything about it is designed to obscure the problem so that it will be difficult for outsiders to understand what happened.

From what I gather, the cables were not properly secured so that during launch they rubbed violently against some nearby sharp metal parts, which then cut the insulation and caused the short circuit. That they were not properly secured, a basic engineering requirement for any rocket, and that this announcement is written to obscure this fact, suggests once again that Japan’s space agency has some serious quality control problems that it is still not facing.

Share

Japanese SS-520 rocket launch scrubbed due to weather

The launch of Japan’s new small rocket, SS-520, was scrubbed today due to bad weather.

Japanese officials announced a few minutes before the launch that the flight would be postponed due to bad weather at the space base. Authorities did not immediately set a new launch date.

The SS-520-4 will try to become the smallest rocket to ever put an object in orbit. Its sole payload is the six-pound (three-kilogram) TRICOM 1 spacecraft, a CubeSat from the University of Tokyo designed for communications and Earth observation experiments. Standing 31 feet (9.5 meters) tall and spanning around 20 inches (52 centimeters) in diameter, the SS-520-4 will blast off from a rail launch system and head east over the Pacific Ocean, dropping its lower two stages and payload enclosure into the sea in the first few minutes of the flight.

Primarily funded by a $3.5 million budget provided by the the Japanese government’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the SS-520-4 program is a one-off demonstration by Japan’s space agency, which aims to validate low-cost technology and launch operations procedures for a future “nano-launcher” to deploy tiny satellites in orbit on dedicated rides.

The last paragraph is disappointing, but not surprising considering that this rocket is entirely owned and built by the government, which like NASA, routinely builds things and then abandons them, no matter how useful they are. I hope that some private company grabs the design here and runs with it.

Share

Japan unveils new small rocket

The competition heats up: Japan will this week inaugurate a new rocket, the SS-520, designed to launch smallsats quickly and cheaply.

The rocket is small, only 10 meters tall and 30 centimeters in diameter, and was developed for less than $3.5 million. It was developed by JAXA, Japan’s space agency, as a vehicle to encourage the growth of that nation’s smallsat industry.

Share