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Japanese H-2A rocket launches advanced new GPS satellite into orbit

Japan's H-2A rocket launched a new navigation satellite into orbit on Monday (Oct. 25).

The rocket lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 10:19 p.m. EDT Monday (0219 GMT, or 11:19 a.m. local time on Tuesday, Oct. 26), according to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which builds and operates H-2A rockets the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). "It was really beautiful launch," the company tweeted after a successful liftoff. 

The satellite, QZS-1R, is a replacement for the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System 1 satellite first launched in 2010. The official QZSS website lists four satellites in the constellation: QZS-1, QZS-2, QZS-3 and QZS-4.

Related: How GPS systems help people navigate

A Japanese H-2A rocket launches the QZS-R1 navigation satellite into orbit. (Image credit: MHI)

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries confirmed roughly 28 minutes after liftoff that the QZS-R1 satellite had successfully separated from the rocket's upper stage 

The QZSS constellation will eventually consist of a total of seven satellites that fly in an orbit passing through a near-zenith (or directly overhead) above Japan, and QZS-R1 is meant to share nearly the same transmission signals as recent GPS satellites, according to JAXA. It is specially optimized for mountainous and urban regions in Japan, JAXA said.

A Japanese H-2A rocket launches the QZS-R1 navigation satellite into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Center. (Image credit: MHI)

Mitsubishi Industries launched the satellite on an H-2A 202 rocket. The launch system has been operational since 2003 and has sent satellites to locations such as Venus (Akatsuki) and Mars (Emirates Mars Mission). This was the first launch of the H2-A since Nov. 29, 2020, when Japan launched an advanced relay satellite with laser communications tech into orbit.

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.