Communication failure forces the Japanese space agency to abort the launch of its mini rocket

Japan’s space agency (Jaxa) has had to abort the launch of its mini rocket, the SS-520, yesterday.

The SS-520 is part of a class of miniature observation rockets that have been modified as an ultra-small satellite launch vehicle. The SS-520 is a two-stage rocket that’s just 9.65 metres long, making it about as long as an M1 Abrams battle tank. The rocket is capable of taking a 140kg payload to an altitude of 1,000km. The overall rocket weighs 2.6 tonnes.

The rocket was scheduled to launch a Tricom-1 observation satellite into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) from Uchinoura Space Centre in Kagoshima Prefecture, which makes up the southernmost end of Japan. The satellite weighed 3kg.

The initial launch date was set for 11 January, but was aborted due to strong wind conditions.

The rocket had to be aborted when ground control stopped receiving telemetry data 20 seconds after launch, reports Reuters.

The aborted rocket safely crashed within a designated safety area.

The SS-520 rocket is the largest rocket in its class and is capable of taking a small payload (under 20kg) up to an orbit of around 1,500km or more. That might not sound very far, but the International Space Station orbits at a distance of around 400km from the Earth.

Japan’s space program has been championing the cause of miniature rocket capable of launching micro-satellites into LEO. India’s recent record-breaking launch of 20 satellites in one launch vehicle included a number of sub-20kg satellites.

Jaxa has been experimenting with a modified version of the rocket that can be fired from a C-130 transport aircraft, as well as one with a 3-stage engine.

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