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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

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.