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
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace