Japan Launches the Smallest Rocket Ever to Carry a Tiny Satellite

Sunday, 04 February 2018 - 12:08PM
Space
Sunday, 04 February 2018 - 12:08PM
Japan Launches the Smallest Rocket Ever to Carry a Tiny Satellite
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JAXA
While SpaceX might be preparing to launch their gigantic Falcon Heavy rocket, they fell a few days behind a very different milestone in rocket launches: a very tiny one. 

Japan's national space agency JAXA has just launched the SS-520-5, the smallest rocket to ever carry a satellite into orbit. At around 35 feet (10.5 meters) long and 20 inches (0.5 meters) wide, it's a fraction of the size of a typical 230 foot (70 meters) long Falcon 9 rocket, but it flew all the same.

As you can imagine, the satellite itself, called TRICOM-1R, is even smaller at just 13.6 inches (34.5 centimeters) in diameter. TRICOM-1R is mostly just a set of cameras to photograph the Earth - advanced cameras, but cameras all the same. It was compact enough to fit into the rocket's modified nose cone.

See the tiny launch below:



Rockets like these actually aren't so easy to prepare, as this launch came only a year after a much less successful attempt by JAXA to launch an SS-520 rocket, where the first stage ignited successfully but not the second stage. This year, the launch went smoothly, and JAXA has stated that the satellite is now safely in orbit.

While the microsatellite will certainly be useful, the launch was more of a demonstration than anything else, to show that it's possible to place satellites into orbit using much smaller crafts. And smaller rockets are gradually becoming more common, with the recent "disco ball" satellite being launched in a comparatively small craft.

But they're still far from the norm, so perhaps this launch will prove to NASA, SpaceX and other star-bound agencies/companies that "thinking big" isn't always necessary.

Unless you're SpaceX, and you're trying to fit an entire Tesla Roadster into your Falcon Heavy rocket.

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