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Japan joins commercial space race

Tokyo, Japan: Japan will put a commercial satellite into space on the 18th May 2012, in its first foray into the European- and Russian-dominated world of contract launches.

The H-IIA rocket, which was developed by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and has been launched 20 times since 2001, will carry a South Korean payload.

The H-IIA rocket will carry the KOMPSAT-3, a satellite developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute of South Korea to carry out earth observation.

The rocket has been operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) since its 2007 privatisation.

Its last six launches were Japanese government-related missions.

“With the success of this commercial launch, we hope to build customers’ trust and get the next order, entering a business dominated by European Ariane and Russian Platon rockets,” said MHI’s Kenichi Nakamura.

The South Korean institute paid several billions of yen (tens of millions of dollars), “the cheapest price in an international auction”, the Sankei Shimbun reported, citing the institute. MHI declined to confirm the report.
The rocket is scheduled to lift off at 1:39 am on the 18th May 2012 (1639 GMT Thursday) from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in western Japan.

The rocket will also carry JAXA’s Shizuku satellite, which will be used to monitor the circulation of global ocean currents, officials said.

Source: spacetravel.com