TOKYO (AP) - Japan fired the world's first greenhouse-gas
monitoring satellite into space Friday, a launch deemed crucial in
the country's quest to compete globally in putting commercial
satellites into orbit.
The black, white and orange H2A rocket took off from the space
center on Tanegashima, a remote island in southern Japan. The
launch - the 15th for an H2A - had been delayed for several days
because of bad weather.
Aboard the rocket was the world's first greenhouse-gas
monitoring satellite called "Ibuki," which means "breath," and
seven "baby satellites" - one developed by Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency, known as JAXA, and six created by university
research centers and private industry.
The development cost for the greenhouse-gas monitoring satellite
was 18.3 billion yen ($206 million), the government space agency
A successful launch was seen as crucial to Japan, which is
trying to demonstrate that it has the capabilities with its
domestically developed H2A rocket to compete in the global
commercial launching business.
Japan has long been one of the world's leading space-faring
nations and launched its first satellite in 1970. But it has been
struggling to get out from under China's shadow in recent years and
gain a niche in the global rocket-launching business, which is
dominated by Russia, the U.S. and Europe's Arianespace.
JAXA says the latest launch itself cost about 8.5 billion yen
($96 million), the lowest ever. The standard for a competitive
launch - set by Russia's Proton rocket - used to be around 7
billion yen, but has now risen to around 9 billion.
JAXA officials said the agency has already selected four other
piggybacks for a launch in 2011. They will be launched for free,
but JAXA is considering charging a launch fee in the future.
Earlier this month, Japan got its first commercial order to
launch a satellite on an H2A. The agreement - which targets a
liftoff date after April 2011 - is with South Korea.