Space Success Is a Relief in Japan | Space

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Japan’s flagship H3 rocket reached orbit and released two small observation satellites in a key second test following a failed debut launch last year, buoying hope for the country in the global space race. The H3 rocket blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center on time Saturday morning, two days after its liftoff was delayed by bad weather, the AP reports. The rocket successfully reached orbit at an altitude of about 420 miles and released two satellites, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said. “We feel so relieved to be able to announce the good results,” JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said.

The H3’s main missions are to secure independent access to space and be competitive as international demand for satellite launches grows. “We made a big first step today toward achieving that goal,” Yamakawa said. The launch is another in a recent string of successes for the space program, including a historic precision touchdown on the moon of an unmanned spacecraft last month. The liftoff was a test for Japan’s space development after H3, in its debut flight last March, failed to ignite the second-stage engine. JAXA and its main contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have been developing H3 as a successor to H-2A, which is to retire after two more flights.

As the rocket soared and released its first payload successfully, project members at the…

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