TOKYO – The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched on Saturday the world’s smallest rocket with the ability to put a micro-satellite into orbit, following a failed attempt and several postponements over the last year.
The launch of the low-cost rocket – with a height of 10 meters (around 33 feet) and 53 centimeters (20.5 inches) in diameter – took place at 14:03 local time (0503 GMT) from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima prefecture (southwest), and was aired live on YouTube by JAXA.
The rocket, an improved version of JAXA’s SS-520, was carrying a micro-satellite weighing three kilograms (6.6 pounds), and was developed by the University of Tokyo to capture images of the Earth’s surface.
JAXA had launched the first of these rockets on January 2017, which fell into the sea after launch due to short-circuit caused by vibrations during takeoff.
The current launch aimed to test the ability of the Japanese aerospace agency to launch low-cost rockets that can put micro satellites into space at affordable rates against a background of growing demand from the private sector.
Satellites for weather observation or defense that are in use are normally large and are commissioned by the authorities, but in recent years there has been increase in the development of smaller ones by private firms for use in traffic control or geographical studies.