The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched world’s smallest satellite-carrying rocket on Saturday and the micro-satellite is now in the orbit, finally, a successful launch after a year of trials.
Usually, rockets carrying satellites are huge with gigantic thrust to pick it up, but the story was different when JAXA made its latest launch. The rocket almost the size of a utility pole, measuring 10 meters in length and 50 centimetres in diameter, lifted off from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture just after 2 p.m. The rocket named as No. 5 vehicle of the SS-520 carried the microsatellite weighing just 3 kilograms and launched the payload into its intended Earth orbit, as per reports from JAXA. The microsatellite was developed by University of Tokyo and is sent into lower-orbit and will capture images of Earth’s surface.
The successful launch of tiny little Japanese rocket was significant because it was SS-520’s fourth flight. The rocket first flew 5 February 1998, before carrying out an ionospheric research mission from Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, in December 2000. Following that mission, SS-520 would not fly again until last year’s orbital mission. Last year, JAXA launched the No. 4 vehicle but terminated its flight shortly after liftoff due to a telecommunication problem and loss of data transmitter. After so many failures, JAXA had made more than 40 improvements to prevent a recurrence for the launch of No. 5 vehicle and used components found in home electronics and smartphones for the rocket.
However, the main purpose of launching the world’s tiniest satellite-carrying rocket is to check the capabilities of Japanese space agency JAXA to manufacture and launch low-cost rockets which can carry microsatellites into space, much more affordably. Microsatellites can serve a wide number of purposes like weather observations, climate change observations, geographical mapping and even defence monitoring. Currently, large satellites with even larger rockets are used to serve all these purposes, making a huge dents in pockets. These microsatellites would be preferred by private sector companies for use in traffic control or geographical studies. In short, microsatellites have huge potential and they might as well be the next big tiny thing.