On 3 February 2018, at 2:03 p.m. JST (GMT+9), Japan’s space agency JAXA successfully launched its SS-520 No. 5 carrying 3U CubeSat TRICOM-1R. The launch, which took place from Uchinoura Space Center, saw TRICOM-1R separating successfully from the vehicle at approximately 7 minutes 30 seconds into flight.
The launch was a re-flight of a failed attempt carried out on 14 January 2017, which saw the SS-520 No. 4 fail to insert TRICOM-1 into orbit. During last year’s launch attempt, telemetry was lost approximately 20 seconds into flight.
The successful launch of SS-520 No. 5 is significant for three reasons: first, it set a record for being the lightest ever orbital launch vehicle, with a mass of only 2,900kg. Second, it carried the smallest primary payload ever launched, with TRICOM-1R having a mass of only 3kg. And third, the SS-520 No. 5 is a modified sounding rocket, with a third stage added to the original 2-stage sounding rocket.
TRICOM-1R, also known as Tasuki, is the successor of the lost TRICOM-1, and was developed by the University of Tokyo’s Intelligent Space Systems Laboratory. The CubeSat, whose missions are to conduct store and forward data relay and earth observation using 5 cameras, was supported by Japan’s Ministry of Economy as part of Japan’s plan to internationalize its commercial space industry.
This is second JAXA launch in a row to feature a small launcher. The agency’s previous launch, and its first of 2018, took place on 18 January and saw its Epsilon-3 loft radar satellite ASNARO-2 into orbit.