May 18, 2005

Japan Plans X-Ray Telescope Launch

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's space agency said Wednesday it plans to launch a satellite carrying X-ray telescopes into Earth's orbit as early as next month to study black holes and far-flung galaxies.

The launch of the Astro-EII satellite was planned between June 26 and July 15 but could be delayed until August, said the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, in a statement on its Web site.

JAXA said the satellite will carry five X-ray telescopes - which detect traces of light - to study the structures and movement of black holes and galaxies, find out when and where their chemical elements are created and what happens when matter falls into a black hole.

JAXA said it plans to use the satellite as an orbiting space observatory after the mission.

The announcement follows the February liftoff of a communications satellite into space aboard the country's workhorse H-2A rocket - its first successful launch since an accident in November 2003, when a rocket carrying two spy satellites malfunctioned after liftoff and was destroyed in mid-flight.

The Astro-Ell, developed with the United States, was originally scheduled to lift off earlier this year but was delayed as JAXA concentrated on successfully launching the H-2A.

Japan was the fourth country to launch a satellite, in 1972. Along with a major lunar exploration mission in the works, it now has a probe on its way to collect and retrieve samples from an asteroid, a mission that if successful would be a first.

The failure of the H-2A in 2003 had put Japan's space plans on hold, but the successful launch in February restored confidence to Japanese space program.

JAXA last month it would send astronauts into space and set up a base on the moon by 2025.


On the Net:

JAXA: http://www.jaxa.jp/index_e.html