Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Japan launches H-2A rocket carrying astronomy satellite. Scientists hope to observe distant black holes and galaxies ...

An H-2A rocket carrying an X-ray astronomy satellite was successfully launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan on Wednesday.

The two-stage carrier vehicle lifted off at 5:45 p.m. and released the "Astro-H" satellite about 15 minutes later to put it into orbit around the Earth, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The launch was initially planned last Friday but was postponed until Wednesday due to bad weather. JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the builder and operator of H-2A rockets, have successfully launched H-2A rockets 24 consecutive times, including Wednesday's mission.

The satellite is a space observatory equipped with four X-ray telescopes and two gamma-ray detectors. Scientists hope to observe distant black holes and galaxies with it to study the mysteries surrounding the evolution of the universe.

If the satellite is successfully put into orbit about 580 kilometers from the surface of the Earth, scientists are expected to begin full-fledged observations as early as the summer.

The cylinder-like satellite is 14 meters long and weighs 2.7 tons, the heaviest among the scientific satellites Japan has worked on. It was jointly developed by JAXA, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other concerns.

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