Japan Launches New Observatory for Infrared Sky Survey
A new space-based observatory is circling the Earth after a successful launch from Japan's Uchinoura Space Center.
The ASTRO-F infrared observatory rocketed into space atop an M-5 booster that launched on time at about 4:28 p.m. EST (2128 GMT), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reported.
The launch marked JAXA's second attempt to launch ASTRO-F this week after poor weather prevented a Monday space shot. It is also the second successful space shot for Japan in four days following the Feb. 18 launch of the Multi-functional Transport Satellite-2 (MTSAT-2) atop an H-2A rocket.
"ASTRO-F is flying quite well," JAXA officials said in a launch update, adding that the observatory successfully popped free from its booster's upper stage.
Previously known as the InfraRed Imaging Surveyor (IRIS), the ASTRO-F observatory is a space-based infrared telescope designed to conduct a comprehensive survey of the sky from a synchronous polar orbit. The mission is a joint effort of JAXA and researchers from Korea and the European Space Agency (ESA), JAXA officials said.
The 2,098-pound (952-kilogram) ASTRO-F observatory is the first dedicated infrared instrument for JAXA's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). Today's launch comes after a design flaw revealed in December 2003 delayed ASTRO-F from a 2004 liftoff.
The observatory is designed to circle the Earth every 100 minutes in a polar orbit with an altitude of about 462 miles (745 kilometers), according to its flight plan.
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