A rocket specifically configured for putting so-called nanosatellites into orbit will be launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency as early as December in a move to cut launch costs to just several million dollars.
An existing space observation SS-520 sounding rocket will make it possible to slash launch expenses to a tenth of those for the agency’s major vehicles, the HII-A and the Epsilon. JAXA hopes to tap the growing international market for nanosatellites, which measure in the tens of centimeters and have such applications as crop management, urban planning and communications.
The IHI Aerospace rocket, 10 meters high with a diameter of around 50cm, will blast off from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. Success could provide a new means of launching the small orbital devices. The science ministry is expected to grant safety certification as early as October. The first payload is expected to be a 3kg satellite developed by the University of Tokyo that will be put into an elliptical orbit 200km above Earth.
The government seeks to expand the country’s space business and plans to strengthen satellite launch operations.