After weeks of postponements due to mechanical problems, Japan launched a rocket carrying two satellites into space Saturday.
The launch from Tanegashima Island, 615 miles southwest of Tokyo, was a relief for officials of Japan’s space program, which has been plagued by setbacks.
“We are very happy,” said Shingo Nakamura, a spokesman for the National Space Development Agency. Elated space agency scientists in white smocks smiled and shook hands.
The rocket carried a space exploration satellite and a weather satellite, both of which successfully separated from the rocket and went into orbit Saturday around Earth.
The exploration satellite, named the Space Flyer Unit, is to conduct tests in space for six months then be retrieved by a U.S. space shuttle.
The other satellite was the Geostationary Meteorological Satellite No. 5, which replaces a weather satellite currently encircling the Earth.
The launch was originally scheduled for Feb. 1 but was postponed three times, the most recent last Tuesday because of a fault in the inertial guidance and control system.
The space agency’s 10-year, $3 billion drive to enter the satellite launching business has been plagued by ignition problems, computer malfunctions and even engine fires.
A two-ton telecommunications satellite developed for the government by Toshiba Corp. was launched aboard an HII rocket last August. But engineers were unable to park it in geostationary orbit.In January, a $60 million scientific satellite launched with Germany wobbled off course and fell into the Pacific.