Japan successfully launched a solar observation satellite with an M-V rocket from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima prefecture in southern Japan early Saturday, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.
Solar-B, which was lifted off at 6:36 a.m. local time (2136 GMT, Friday), was separated with the M-V rocket and injected into orbit shortly before 8 a.m. (2300 GMT, Friday) as scheduled, the agency said.
Solar B, Japan's third solar observation satellite, is designed to study the mechanisms which power the solar atmosphere and look for the causes of violent solar eruptions. The mission is an international effort with the participation of the United States and the United Kingdom.
The satellite will operate in a 96-minute polar sun-synchronous orbit around the Earth, which allows the spacecraft to be in continuous sunlight for at least eight months a year during the planned mission of three years.
The goal of the mission is to provide precise quantitative measurements of the Sun's magnetic field, which is the major source to trigger violent solar activity. If succeeded, it will provide a better understanding of the Sun-Earth environment.
JAXA summarized Solar-B's observation objectives into four: creation and destruction of the Sun's magnetic field, modulation of the Sun's luminosity, generation of UV and X radiation, as well as eruption and expansion of the Sun's atmosphere.
Weighing 900 kilograms, Solar-B consists of a coordinated set of optical, EUV, and X-ray telescopes. JAXA's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science is responsible for the spacecraft and the optical telescope, while the other two science instruments were assembled under Japanese supervision by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from the United States and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) from the United Kingdom.
The total development cost of Solar-B amounted to about 22 billion yen (189.66 million U.S. dollars), according to Jiji Press, of which Japan shared about 13 billion yen (112.07 million dollars) .
Before Solar-B, a number of scientific spacecraft have been launched by a series of M rocket. The M-V rocket was developed as a successor of M-3SII type, the 4th generation of the M rocket.
Earlier this year, JAXA decided to stop producing M-V rockets in the fiscal 2006 and replace them with cheaper rockets beginning in the next fiscal year. The M-V rocket launched Saturday is the last one.