JAXA launches radiation belt research satellite on enhanced Epsilon rocket.
Marking its first operational launch, an enhanced version of Japan’s Epsilon rocket blasted off carrying a mission to study how Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts could affect future astronauts and robotic missions.
The Exploration of Energization and Radiation in Geospace launched from the Uchinoura space center at 8pm Japan Standard Time (6am EDT), beginning a 13-minute climb to a highly elliptical orbit. Epsilon’s three stages performed flawlessly, clearing the vehicle towards operational status.
Operated by JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, ERG will work in conjunction with NASA’s dual Radiation Belt Solar Probes, which were launched in 2012. Together, the three spacecraft will study high-energy electrons and their interactions with space weather. ERG, in an elliptical orbit, will measure conditions downstream from the RBSP probes, which are closer to Earth’s equator.
RBSP was approved by NASA for an extended mission in 2014 with the intent of working jointly with ERG; JAXA received funding from the Japanese government for ERG largely in part to the two agencies plans to incorporate the two missions.
Once ERG successfully reached orbit, JAXA renamed the satellite Arase, after a dynamic river flowing near the Uchinoura launch base.
UPDATE: Official JAXA highlight video from the Arase mission: