At 1.25 p.m. on Wednesday February 11, Japan joined the space race with the successful?
At 1.25 p.m. on Wednesday February 11, Japan joined the space race with the successful launching of a LAMBA 4S5 rocket.
The success made Japan only the fourth country - and the first in Asia after the United States, Russia and France, to put a satellite into orbit on its own.
Four previous attempts since September 1966 ended in failure. The most recent, last September, failed when the third and fourth stages collided, Modifications to the Lamba 4S5 four-stage rocket resulted in a perfect launch.
As a satellite, the fourth stage of a solid fuel rocket with a small instrument payload completed its first orbit, delighted Japanese scientists were planning a launch later this year of the nation's first full-scale scientific satellite.
After a faultless launch from the Uchinoura Space Centre on Japan's Southern island of Kyushu the satellite was in an orbit ranging from 525 to 2,400 kilometres (328 to 1,500 miles), and completed its first revolution two hours 31 minutes after launch.
Tracking stations stopped picking up signals from the rocket early on February 12th when the 23-kilo (50 lb) satellite was on its sixth and seventh orbit. It was believed that either the battery or transmitter had broken down. The transmitter had been expected to send signals for 36 hours from the time of launch.
The rocket was designed by Tokyo University's Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science. Now the Institute hopes to launch its first unsophisticated scientific satellite in September, after testing the new 4S6 rocket. As early as March next year the Institute hopes to have two full-dress scientific satellites in orbit.
Unlike their Russian and American counterparts, Japanese rockets have no guidance system to correct speed and direction, relying instead entirely on an attitude control device. The state-run Tokyo University has so far spent 19,000 million yen (GBP 22 million sterling) over 15 years in launching more than 220 test rockets.
The Institute failed in successive attempts since September 1966 to orbit a satellite from its Uchinoura range. The last failure, in September last year, resulted from the third and fourth stages colliding after separation. To prevent a recurrence, scientists attached four retro-motors to the third stage to ensure it fell behind the fourth stage and its payload. The successful fourth stage went into orbit with an instrument payload of 9.4 kilogrammes (21 lbs).
Tokyo University has pioneered the nation's space exploration programme since its Institute of Industrial Science began developing primitive rockets in 1955 - two years before Russia's Sputnik-1 led the way into space.