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Japan Successfully Launches Lunar Explorer "Kaguya"
 

Tokyo, Sept 14, 2007 (Jiji Press) - Japan successfully launched lunar orbit explorer "Kaguya" on an H-2A rocket Friday morning, in the largest such mission since the Apollo program of the United States.

The H-2A launch vehicle No. 13 carrying the Kaguya lifted off at 10:31 a.m. (1:31 a.m. GMT) from the Tanegashima Space Center of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, in Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan.

The Kaguya, the world's biggest lunar explorer since the Apollo program, which ended in 1972, is the second such satellite for Japan after small-sized MUSES-A, or "Hiten," launched in 1990 by a predecessor of JAXA.

The Kaguya, which consists of the main orbiter, two small satellites and other observation equipment, is on a full-scale mission to collect data to assist research on the moon's origin and revolution.

The explorer was separated from the H-2A rocket about 45 minutes after the launch, and is set to enter into a lunar orbit on around Oct. 4.

After separating the two small satellites, the main orbiter around Oct. 20 will enter into a circular orbit about 100 kilometers above the moon in order to study the moon's surface for about one year from November.

A total of 55 billion yen has been invested in the Kaguya project, including the manufacture of the rocket, since the development of the explorer started in 1999.

This is the first H-2A launch by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. <7011>, which took over the business from JAXA earlier in the current fiscal year.

Mitsubishi Heavy aims to capitalize on the successful H-2A blastoff and step up efforts to win contracts for commercial satellite launches in the global market.

Following Japan, China will launch a lunar explorer in autumn, and India and the United Sates next year.

In 2018 or later, the United States, European countries, Russia and China are planning manned lunar exploration missions or base construction on the moon.

By Jiji Press, (c) Jiji Press

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