Hello spacetweeps, I’m a junior high school student living in Japan. This is my first time uploading a post here, and I’ve decided to cross-post an entry from my blog about space explorations. (if you’re interested here’s the link to my blog- OdysseyPod)
Japan’s involvement with rockets started in 1954 with the “pencil rocket”, which is really tiny.The development of the rocket was supervised by Hideo Itokawa.(remember that name, it will pop out later on!)
It was launched horizontally most of the time, because it was made just for tests. Not very exciting.
Then came the “baby rocket” which was slightly long than a meter.
After that, the rockets got bigger and bigger, and with the L-4S rocket, Japan’s first satellite, Osumi, was launched and put in orbit.The weirdest thing about the L-4S rocket is that it doesn’t have guidance, navigation and control (GNC) built in! It was because some people in Japan said that the technology like GNC could be put into missiles, which they couldn’t accept. (the Japanese constitution prohibits the act of war.)
And the engineers did come up with a way. The 1st and 2nd stages used the aerodynamic effects of the tail assembly to hold it steady. The 2nd(comes out again) and 3rd stages used a motor to spin the rocket like a giant gyroscope, thus holding the rocket steady. The 4th stage stopped the spinning, and before it lit the engine did a little bit of maneuvering to align it,(and the boosters weren’t firing at that time so it wasn’t really GNC.) then made the rocket spin again, and finally, put it to orbit.
All this hard work paid off, and Japan became the 4th country(following Russia, America and France) to put a satellite into orbit.
Decades after Japan’s first satellite, it came by a long way.
Last year, the space probe Hayabusa returned a sample of the rock in an asteroid, Itokawa (told you it would come up later 🙂 It was named after the scientist.) and brought that back to Earth! It was a first in the history of mankind, to bring back sand from another asteroid. Not only did it complete a nearly impossible task, it also put to use the newly-developed ion engine and tested its capabilities. They’re even making movies about Hayabusa, so it was a nationwide sensation.
There is also the HTV(H-2 Transfer Vehicle) launched from Japan with the H-2B rocket, which is an unmanned resupply spacecraft to the ISS. For now, all the HTVs have performed flawlessly in space. (well, not to mention they have launched only 2 of them yet…)
I think JAXA, the space agency in japan, is ready to develop manned capsules. They have most of the technology needed already at hand. I hope Japan will keep its position as one of the leading nations in space exploration for decades, maybe centuries.