H-IIA 202 launch. Credits: JAXA

H-IIA rocket Successfully Launches a New Japanese IGS-Optical Satellite

JAXA successfully launched a H-IIA 202 rocket. The mission deployed into orbit the IGS-Optical 8 Japanese optical reconnaissance satellite

On January 12, 2024, the first H-IIA 202 rocket of the year was launched from Tanegashima Space Center, Japan. It is operated by the collaboration between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the launcher provider Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The purpose of this mission is to send into orbit the IGS-Optical 8 (Intelligence Gathering Satellite), a Japanese optical reconnaissance satellite operated by the customer Cabinet Satellite Information Center.

The payload mass does not exceed 4500 kg given that the reference orbit is circular Sun-synchronous (SSO) at approximately 500 km in altitude, with 97,5 degrees of inclination. Neither the first stage nor the new fairings are designed to be reusable and they crashed into the ocean.


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IGS-Optical 8

The IGS Optical 8 is a satellite specifically designed for capturing images of the Earth’s surface. It serves as a reconnaissance and spy satellite and one of the reasons why Japan initiated this program is a direct response to North Korea’s testing of a Taepodong-1 missile over Japanese territory in 1988.

Rendering of IGS Radar and Optical Satellites of 2ns generation. Credits: S.Matsuura/p-island
Rendering of IGS Radar and Optical Satellites of 2ns generation. Credits: S.Matsuura/p-island

Managed by the Cabinet Satellite Information Center of Japan, the IGS satellites fulfill a dual role by supporting both national defense initiatives and monitoring civil activities related to natural disasters. Some of these satellites function as optical sensing devices, while others utilize the radar to analyze targeted areas on the surface. They possess the capability to achieve a ground resolution superior to 40 cm.


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H-IIA Rocket

The H-IIA is a two-stage launch vehicle used by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to launch satellites into orbit and manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, accomplishing its first flight in 2001.

In the sequent tab is it possible to read the launch capabilities of the H-IIA series of rockets:

Payload capabilities of the H-IIA series of rockets. Credits: JAXA
Payload capabilities of the H-IIA series of rockets. Credits: JAXA

The H-IIA is part of the H-II (H-2) series of rockets. This launcher comes in several variants to accommodate different payload sizes and mission requirements. Common variants include H-IIA 202, H-IIA 2022, H-IIA 204, H-IIA 2042, and others.

Explanatory table of the characteristics of the different launcher versions. Credits: JAXA
Explanatory table of the characteristics of the different launcher versions.
Credits: JAXA

The first stage is equipped with the LE-7A cryogenic engine, providing 870-1098 kN of thrust with 440 seconds of specific impulse (Isp) and 390 seconds of operation. During launch, the thrust of this engine can be reduced to 72% nominal. In addition, there are two or four (version H2A202 or version H2A204) strap-on boosters named SRB-A. These solid fuel rockets are manufactured by IHI Corporation and made of hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB). They operate during the first 120 seconds of flight and provide a thrust of 2520 kN (H2A 202) or 2300 kN (H2A 204) each, with an Isp of 283 seconds.

The second stage, also cryogenic, is equipped with an LE-5B engine that develops a thrust of 137.2 kN, modifiable up to 5%, and has an Isp of 448 seconds. 

H-IIA_Launchers. Credits:JAXA
H-IIA_Launchers. Credits: JAXA

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Beatrice Romeo

Beatrice Romeo

Master student in Aerospace Engineering.
Ocean activist and kitesurfing athlete.

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